The Challenges of Preaching

Preaching is not just the physical act of speaking publicly about the Word of God, but it is also a full-on battle in the spiritual realm. For this reason, preaching is hard work, and can often be mentally, spiritually and physically exhausting. Preaching also has many challenges which are not always obvious to the eye, so I would like to share what I have learnt about preaching so far. Please bear in mind that compared to seasoned pastors and ministers, I have relatively little experience in preaching, so what I have written here is by no means exhaustive, and as such I'll be updating this article as and when I learn new things about preaching.



Sermon Presentation

Presenting a sermon effectively is of prime importance. The content of your sermon may be brilliant, but if it is not presented / communicated in an effective manner, the message of the sermon may be lost. People may be bored, fall asleep, or even walk away and leave. Similarly, a sermon even with the simplest of content can have a powerful impact on people if presented in an effective manner. So presentation plays a big part. What then are the key things that make an effective presentation? Here are my thoughts on this so far:
  • Congregation connection. In all possible ways, try to connect with the congregation. Personally, I find that standing still, preaching behind the pulpit throughout the entire sermon creates a 'barrier' between you and the congregation. I much prefer to take the microphone, get in front of the pulpit and stand where the congregation can view my whole body. In this way they are better able to see me, read my body language, better read my expressions. This will help them focus and concentrate on what I am preaching about.
  • Start the sermon by teasing the congregation with some questions that they would have asked themselves at some point in their lives. This will get their attention and interest to listen to more of what you have to say.
  • Keep the congregation visually interested - walk around the stage, use your hands to express yourself. Beware not to repeat the same hand gestures too often as this can be visually annoying to the audience.
  • Do not fall into a habit of looking at the congregation like a sea of people, but rather make eye contact with one person at a time. Change direction - for example, look at one person to the left, then to the right, then to the back, and to the front, etc. Eye contact permeates confidence.
  • Voice projection - ensure that you speak clearly and that you project your voice to the congregation when you speak. Avoid looking down (for example, at your notes) when you are speaking as people may not be able to hear you as well.
  • Keep a good pace of speech. Do not talk too fast or too slow. If you talk too fast, people will have a hard time digesting what you say (and it is very important that they digest what you say at every step of the way). If you talk too slow, people will get frustrated and they will lose interest very quickly.
  • Ensure that you have periods of pauses, so that people can digest -- and even enjoy -- what you are saying.
  • Keep the tone of your voice interesting. Do not talk in a monotone voice, as people will be more likely to fall asleep.
  • Confidence: project confidence in your voice and in your sentences. Be sure of what you are saying, don't dither as you will lose credibility.
  • Stay humble whilst preaching. You do not want to fill the whole place with your head but rather with God's presence.
  • If you are able, inject humour into your sermon. If you can make people laugh, they will be more inclined to turn up to your next sermon. Laughter is attractive to people of all ages and all walks of life.
  • Inject passion into your sermon as this will generate interest in those listening.
  • Inject emotions into your sermon, by doing so, you are taking your listeners on a journey with you. You can take them through the highs and through the lows.
  • People will not notice if an interesting and enjoyable sermon overrun because they enjoy every minute of it, thus the length of the sermon becomes less of an issue. To be able to achieve this is a great thing.
  • Leave the congregation hungry for more. If you are able to do this, then you will find more and more people turning up to your sermons. People will persuade their friends and families to come.
  • Be aware that if you present the same sermon several times in several different places, the presentation will be different each time (even if the content is the same). I believe this is because God gives you a different heart to preach with each time. Another contributing factor may also be that you would have reviewed the last presentation you did and have yourself come up with ideas for improvement.
  • Writing out your sermon word per word and reading it out loud to a visual live audience is the poorest way to present your sermon. More often than not, reading out a sermon like that lacks emotion, lacks interest, with voice tone likely to being monotonous. Try having a small card or a small piece of paper on which you can list your main points in bullet point form. You can write a brief description for each of your point if you need to. This is extremely useful and effective if you need to glance at your points quickly whilst speaking. 
  • Rehearse your presentation several times over (from beginning to end) in the few days before you are due to preach. This will help you to remember the structure of your sermon and the points you want to say. Doing this should result in a smooth flowing, polished and professional sermon presentation without hardly the need to look at your notes.

Sermons translated
  • If you are presenting your sermon with a translator who translates your sermon into a different language, keep your sentences simple and short; avoiding complicated expressions. This will make the translation work easier and more effective.
  • It will also help enormously to translate your sermon slides into the language of the audience the sermon is for.
  • You may also want to prepare a small greeting in the language of the audience to break the ice and win the audience's favour.