Are preachers born or made? That question has been debated across the centuries with the debaters lining up first on one side of the issue and then the other. So which is the right answer? Are preachers born or made? The answer is — BOTH! Preachers are born with certain abilities that God incorporates into his call in our lives. However, for the most part, preachers are made.
It is certainly not an easy process, nor is it instantaneous. Yet, we have observed improvement in preachers we have listened to over the years. And, those of us who have been at it for a long time see occasional development and improvement in our own preaching efforts. So how do we improve as preachers?
The first step is to KNOW GOD. The most important step in preaching is not to prepare the message but to prepare the messenger. The crucial part of that preparation is the spiritual preparation that comes from an ever-deepening walk with the Lord.
The second step is to KNOW THE WORD. According to one definition, preaching is “a manifestation of the Incarnate Word, from the Written Word.” In other words, the term biblical preaching is redundant. If it is not biblical, it is not preaching. Only as we are rooted in the Scripture will we stand in the pulpit, not just because we have to say something, but because we have something to say.
The third step is to KNOW OURSELVES. One of the keys to communication is genuineness. Genuineness comes from understanding who we are. Phillips Brooks’ well known description of preaching as “the bringing of truth through personality” reminds us of the part we play in the preaching of God’s Word. The answer to the question, “Which is the best style of preaching?” is “the style that allows you to be yourself.” A preacher who knows who he is and is aware of his gifts and his limitations is on his way to becoming a better preacher.
The fourth step is to KNOW OUR PEOPLE. Part of Harry Emerson Fosdick’s effectiveness as a preacher was his conviction that the sermon must make contact with the people. This led him to establish a certain number of hours each week in pastoral counseling so that he could understand the needs of his people. He described preaching as “counseling in a group setting” and thought of his large congregation as a group of individuals whom he was counseling on a one-to-one basis. Fosdick intentionally understood his congregation. So must effective preachers today.
The fifth step is to KNOW THE WORLD. Karl Barth once suggested that the best preparation for preaching is to have the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. John R. W. Stott’s image of preaching as “bridge building” magnifies the importance of knowing the world so that we can construct a bridge over which they can move from where they are to where God wants them to be.
The sixth step is to KNOW OUR CRAFT. The sermon is an event but first of all it is something that is crafted. With practice and experience and suggestions from others, we can improve our procedure for putting the sermon together and then for presenting it to the people so that they will have the opportunity to participate in the event called preaching.
By considering all of these things a person will automatically become a better preacher. Right? No, wrong! Becoming a better preacher takes time. It is a life-long process. But a journey begins with the first step. So, today, take the first step toward the lifelong process of becoming a more effective communicator of the unsearchable riches of Christ.