Point Number Eight For Young Preachers

post date: August 25, 2010

Pastor H. B. Charles Jr.
In an article called Keeping It Interesting As A Young Preacher, Phillip Jensen notes that experienced preachers are often asked by younger colleagues for their advice about preaching. It happens to me on a fairly regular basis. Young preachers want to know how long it takes me to prepare a sermon, what process I follow, how I come up with my outlines, whether or not I preach with notes, and so on. Sometimes the question is asked more directly, as in “What’s the one thing you think young preachers need to know?” That’s actually a hard question because my “one thing” changes all the time. 

Jensen offers seven very practical guidelines for young preachers to remember:

   1. When you preach, be as good as you can.
   2. Fledgling preachers tend to be boring.
   3. Work out how long you can preach for and still be interesting.
   4. Avoid commentaries.
   5. Find the logic units of the book; don’t just preach on chapters or paragraphs.
   6. Young preachers should start with bigger sections.
   7. Expository preaching is worth fighting for (but a lot of other things are not).

If I had to add an eighth item to that list, it would be what I learned from my mentor in the ministry, Ed McCollum. When I was still in my teens, this pulpit master gave me the most helpful advice I received in those early years: 

“The only way to learn how to preach is to preach.”

You can only learn so much by studying homiletics or by listening to good sermons or by drawing up “practice” sermons. There was another preacher back then, Brother Kennedy, a true country preacher and a fine man, who told me, “If you want to preach, you’ve got to preach!”

So that’s my extra bit of advice for younger men studying for the ministry. Preach! Take every opportunity you get. Preach on Sunday night. Preach on Wednesday night. Preach at the mission. Preach to the youth group. Preach at the rest home. Preach on the street corner. If you can possibly help it, take every chance you get to preach. Nothing will test your calling or improve your ability like standing in front of an audience of maybe 10 people and saying, “Would you turn with me to Jonah 3.” Then we can all find out together if you’ve got something to say.

All the points Jensen makes ring true to me. So put them to work by seizing on every open door, big and small, to preach. Don’t wait for Rick Warren to invite you to speak to 20,000 people at Saddleback. The folks at the nursing home will do just fine, and they will probably like you better anyway. 

Just preach every chance you get. If you work at it, over time you’ll get better. And in the meantime God can use you in small venues to prepare you for other work he has in store somewhere down the road. 


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