1. Trying to please people.
There have been moments when during a sermon, I zero in on a church member with hope and vigor that they will like what I am saying. Maybe this was a person that did not approve of my preaching before.
Maybe this was a person that really did not like me and I was trying to gain their approval. To have people like you is a natural instinct we all have. But if this becomes the chief goal of your sermon, we have completely lost the purpose of why we preach.
The truth is that many times we won’t please our listeners and people will pick apart even your best message. The end goal of the messenger is to preach the gospel and to please Christ.
What good is it if we gain the approval from all of our critics but don’t bring glory to Jesus in the process.
2. Trying to convert people.
There will be people in your audience whom you know very well. They have confided with you about their sin and their struggle. You see them every Sunday. However, you know for a fact that they have not made a resolve to change the course of their life.
We as preachers sometimes think that if we only have the right illustration or just the right tone of voice or the right amount of passion, this will surely melt their hard heart. The reality is that only the intervention of the Holy Spirit can make a person desire to worship Jesus.
We are simply mailmen who are delivering the greatest message that every existed with a resolute hope it will be used as a means to evoke repentance form the sinner. Preach your heart out and leave the results to Jesus.
3. Thinking they have all the answers.
Because preachers and pastors study and read a lot, we often feel like we have all of the right answer. There is this messiah complex that is a huge temptation for people who are super studious.
One of the most liberating things that I began saying recently to people who asked me hard questions is that I don’t know. Sometimes, I don’t know the answer to the question. I have grown to be okay to say that.
Because this shows to the other person that I am not from some spiritual elite varsity team but rather I am a sojourner along with them on this journey with Jesus.
4. Being devastated from criticism.
We’ve all been there. You end your sermon and proceed to sit down while your worship team sings the closing song. After, you stand in the back and greet your beloved church members as they exit the sanctuary.
Most of the people simply shake your hand and provide a cordial smile. But there will always be that one guy who will pull you aside and adamantly explain to you that the way in which you exegeted the sixth commandment was the most erroneous thing that he has ever heard.
Here is the thing. Your identity as a gospel communication is not rooted in the constructive criticism that you receive. It is rooted in the cross of Christ and what Jesus did for you there on Calvary.
As my seminary professor always advised me on how to handle critics, chew the meat and spit out the bones.
5. Being prideful from compliments.
Preachers are tempted to believe their own hype. The danger is even greater when you are a guest speaker because apparently you are more anointed than the guy the people see every Sunday. Which is of course a myth.
I have had people come up to me after a sermon and say to me that I am the best communicator they have ever heard. I am always tempted to ask them: Really? Are you sure about that?
Don’t let these compliments go to your head. Chew on them, be encouraged by them, and then forget them.
6. Envying other gifted speakers.
When Paul was writing to the church in Ephesus, he said that the people there were a work of art. In other words, he called each individual a masterpiece that God has created. This means that you need to use what God has given you specifically in order to leverage that within your communication style.
You are not like another speaker for a reason. You have a unique voice, a unique delivery and a unique message. When people listen to what you are saying, they are not thinking about another speaker – they are processing mentally what you are saying.
Instead of envying other speakers, learn from other speakers. Be fueled by their talent and charisma but avoid envying their talent and charisma. Comparison is the enemy of contentment.
7. Trying to be like other gifted speakers.
Just because someone like Matt Chandler can preach for ninety minutes and not have a single member of their multiple thousand audience fall asleep or even be bored or not paying attention even for a second – it doesn’t mean that you are able to achieve the same.
And that is completely okay.
Find your voice, find your cadence and find out who you are and what God has given you. Just because everyone else uses powerpoint, it doesn’t mean you have to.
Just because others dress a certain way in the pulpit, it doesn’t mean you have to.
God created one you, so do you. This is the best thing for you.
8. Not preaching what you practice.
It is not a coincidence that the requirements for an overseer is to be above reproach. This means that your people are analyzing you more than anyone else in your church. This should not scare you but rather encourage you.
If you have nothing to hide, than hide nothing. Be in your community amongst your people so that when you preach on Sunday, they are listening to someone who has been in the trenches and not the ivory tower.
Visit the sick in the hospital, pray for the sick for supernatural healing, give generously to those in need and invite people into your home and feed them a nice dinner. People notice these small but meaningful pastoral acts.
This also adds gravitas to the pulpit when you are preaching because your life and your doctrine are like a train driving on the same tracks, in the same direction.
9. Trying to be too funny.
If you are a naturally funny person, your illustrations and delivery will show it. Don’t force the joke or the humor. This becomes super awkward and your audience will notice it right away.
I have yet to make the audience laugh because of a pre-planned joke. Most of the time it is off the cuff, simply because I am able to use humor in an effective way. Both when I am preaching and in every day conversation.
If you are not quick-witted in front of an audience, stick to what you are good at.
10. Not being excited about Jesus.
Because you and I were created in the image of God, we must be people who image God well. If we image a boring God, people will be bored with the God that we preach about.
We need to be captivated by the message that we are preaching. It must be burning inside of us, ready to be proclaimed from the rooftops for Jesus glory. There is a dying world out there that needs to hear the message of the risen Messiah.
When Paul was ministering to the Corinthian church, he told them that he had made a resolve to know nothing else other than Christ and Him crucified. He made a deliberate verdict about his life that all he would talk about is Jesus and His gospel.
When we have this kind of resolve, it will fuel our excitement and people will see our passion.