3 Things that Must be Clear Before your Sermon is Ready to Preach

A mist in the pulpit is a fog in the pew.“~C.H. Spurgeon

With each sermon you preach, you should be absolutely crystal clear what you want your people to take away from it. If you are murky about how they’ll be able to use your message, then you can be sure they’ll be clueless. Not to mention that they’ll pick up on your uncertainty and check out because their time is valuable and you have chosen to waste it.

As preachers who want to communicate well, clarity must be a top priority in every sermon. But it’s easy, and sometimes necessary, to focus a most of your prep time on your content and not your listeners. This makes it so crucial to think through how your listeners will receive and use your message. I want to give you three simple tests that will help you ensure that your sermon is ready to go in terms of its impact on your listeners and their ability to apply it.

This is drop-dead simple, and it’s meant to be. At this point in your prep...

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4 Things Competing for Your People’s Attention During Your Sermon

sermon prep Jan 27, 2015

It’s more important than ever before to work on gaining and keeping the attention of your listeners while you preach. Capturing and maintaining attention is one of the most difficult things a communicator must do. But I don’t think this difficulty has much to do with attention span. Some will say that it’s just because people have shorter attention spans than a generation ago. While attention spans may be shorter, this doesn’t tell the whole story. I do believe shorter sermons are almost always better, but what makes them better has more to do with how it makes the preacher deliver a better sermon when he has less time to waste with filler, rambling, and incoherence.

The reason we have to work harder to gain and keep attention has to do with what competes for the attention of our people every time we preach. Our listeners are so distracted, and we need to know what we’re up against. Some of these distractions are new, and...

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Five Ways to Overcome Preaching Distractions

sermon development Jan 13, 2015
There are many things that distract you while you preach. Distractions can easily interrupt your flow, make you lose your train of thought and potentially derail your message. It’s important to prepare for potential distractions ahead of time. All preaching distractions fall into one of two categories: internal or external.

Internal Distractions. These exist inside your head. Your mind goes a million miles an hour while you preach. You think about a lot of things in the moment:
-you can’t decide what your next word is going to be
-you wonder how your message is coming across
-you’re not sure if you’ve adequately made your point
-you realize you’re not actually living out what you’re preaching
-you think about the argument you had that morning with your wife
-you’re concerned someone might be thinking you’re preaching about them
-you realized you’ve talked yourself into a corner
-you wonder if everyone is bored and all of this goes...
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Here’s to 6 Months of Preaching Donkey – Top 5 Posts of 2014

church leadership Dec 30, 2014

Preaching Donkey has been so much fun. I can’t believe it’s been around for six months! I started this blog on July 1, 2014 as a way to help preachers communicate better. I wanted to share some thoughts and start a conversation with other preachers and learn together. The response has blown me away!  So far the blog has 31 posts with 17,739 page views. Over 10,000 people follow @PreachingDonkey on Twitter and 154 people like Preaching Donkey on Facebook. Preaching Donkey articles have been published on Sermon Central and Church Leaders several times. I never dreamed this little idea would take off like it has, but this is only the beginning!

I am truly grateful for you. Thank you for reading, commenting, and sharing Preaching Donkey with your friends. You are why Preaching Donkey will keep going into 2015 with even more helpful content for preachers who want to communicate better! I thought it would be fun to look back at the top...

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Why It’s Vital to Take a Day off and Have a Real Vacation

church leadership Dec 16, 2014

The world is not going to end if you take a day off. This planet will keep turning if you go on a vacation. One of the best things you can do to stay fresh as a preacher is to take a break.

So many pastors get burned out and fatigued because they lack balance. They are giving 100% of themselves 100% of the time. This is not sustainable and will lead to an inevitable crash landing. But there are two simple things you can do to keep yourself from burnout: Take a real day off and have a real vacation. Why are these so important?

Here’s why it’s vital to take a day off and have a real vacation:

1. God rested. God set a pattern of working six days and resting one. If your schedule is packed tighter than God’s and you think you have more to get done than him, you need to loosen things up. God commanded his people to remember the sabbath. Remember to rest. To recognize that God provides and even if you take a break from your work, he’ll keep...

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Does the Holy Spirit ONLY Work When Preachers are NOT Prepared?

sermon prep Dec 09, 2014

If you preach regularly you’ll resonate with this quip about sermon preparation, “Somebody’s gonna suffer. Either you do before, or they do during.” -Howard Hendricks

Sermon preparation is not an easy task. It takes great patience and the ability to stick through even when inspiration and creativity are lacking.

This is why I have written a lot of articles on sermon prep:

I know that sermon preparation can be vexing, and I want to help in any way I can. I also know how important it is to put in the necessary hard work and deliver a sermon that is worthy of a listen.

I get interesting feedback when I write about the importance of...

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3 Things You Can do Right Now to Communicate Better as a Preacher

The most effective preachers are continual learners. What separates ordinary preachers from extraordinary communicators is a relentless desire to improve. But there are so many things competing for your time it’s difficult to know which resources to take advantage of. To make it easier, I want to share 3 things you can do right now to communicate better as a preacher:

1. Read great preaching resources.

I once met with guy who was in his sophomore year in college. He felt a strong calling to be a pastor and wanted to know if he should change his major and pursue ministry as a career. I offered him some books to read that would help him think through his decision. He declined them, “I’m not much of a reader.”

“Well, then you won’t be much of a pastor.” I responded without thinking much about it.

He was surprised at my assessment that he should either become a reader or do something different for a living. I feel very strongly that those...

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Two Questions to Nail Down Before Every Sermon

sermon prep Nov 18, 2014

To know if you were successful at something you’ve tried, you have to know what you were seeking to accomplish. This is true in every area of life but especially in preaching. This is why I nail down two questions before every sermon. These two questions are an essential part of my sermon preparation process, and I want to share them with you.

1. What is the objective for this sermon?

When you think back on a sermon you’ve preached you should know if you met your objective. Nothing is more frustrating than putting lots of work into a sermon and having no way to measure its effectiveness. But to assess the sermon you need an objective to measure it against. And to meet an objective, you must have an objective. So what exactly is a preaching objective?

A preaching objective is simply what you want the sermon to do. A sermon should be more of a verb than a noun. A sermon should work. It should accomplish things.

But your sermon only accomplishes...

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9 Tips for Preaching on Controversial Topics

sermon prep Nov 11, 2014

As a preacher you should never shy away from tough topics. If the Bible addresses an issue, you should too. You want to help your people have a holistic view of how biblical truth intersects with every aspect of their lives. But the more controversial the topic the more important it is to handle it with care.

In the last couple years I have preached on topics ranging from what the Bible teaches about alcohol consumption, to sex and sexual issues, to marriage, and financial giving. Along the way, I have learned a few things about how to approach these types of sermons, and I would like to share with you. Here are 9 tips for preaching on controversial topics:

1. Avoid shock-jocking. Some preachers use sensitive topics as an opportunity to use crass language and coarse humor. Their intent is to capture attention and foster interest in the topic, but this is unnecessary. If you are covering a sensitive topic it probably engenders enough interest in itself.

Depending on your...

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Stop Preaching Out of Pride and Fear

sermon development Nov 04, 2014

As preachers we must guard against pride. It is a trap that can destroy our effectiveness and our ministries. But we need confidence in order to boldly proclaim God’s word. A tension exists between pride and confidence.

Most of us would say that being confident in our abilities is generally good, but being prideful in ourselves is detrimental. We know that the Scriptures contain harsh warnings against pride. You can be a confident person without being prideful, but it often seems like a fine line.

A closely related character trait to pride and confidence is fear. Fear can be a huge inhibitor. Most of us bounce back and forth between pride and fear. Sometimes we’re prideful of our accomplishments looking for others to notice how awesome we are and validate us. Other times we are insecure in our abilities and fearful of what other people might think. We like confidence because it seems to be a good middle ground, but it is difficult to stay there...

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