Preaching is a personal profession. For those who put their heart and soul into it, their work and identity intertwine so extensively that they sometimes have trouble distinguishing the two. This reality makes offering advice to preachers a task fraught with challenges lest any recommendation come across as criticism or, worse, an attack. Nevertheless, advice—even unsolicited—provides an opportunity for personal evaluation and potential improvement. And while I am well aware that I do not possess perfect answers for a work that requires developing character, honing skills, growing knowledge, and building relationships for a lifetime, my prayer is that my counsel might yet prove of benefit to some.
Commit yourself to personal and spiritual growth (1 Tim. 4:12-16). Develop a growth plan for yourself to address every aspect of your life and then stick to it (2 Pet. 3:18). Read to build your skills more than to gather others’ opinions on issues and doctrine, as tempting as that might seem at times. Building your own exegetical skills, homiletical skills, teaching skills, and leadership skills are far more valuable in the long run. Then, study intelligently and diligently (2 Tim. 2:15). Guard your study time as if others’ souls depend on it, because they do. This makes it possible for you to preach from what you are learning—not just from what you know—and demonstrates a commitment beyond a paycheck. Most of all, use this time to fortify your own soul (1 Cor. 9:27). If you are not growing spiritually, neither are the people to whom you preach.
Focus on YOUR work (2 Tim. 4:5). Preachers can easily get caught up in Facebook envy, an overabundance of recreational activities, socializing instead of evangelizing, or whatever current issue plagues the brotherhood. Instead, focus on the work and what the people need. Take the time to get to know the area, the community, the congregation, and the leadership. Consider what they are doing well and where they need help. Make the time to consider what lessons they need to hear and how best to reach them. Then figure out how your strengths can help them overcome their weaknessess—and vice versa.
Build lasting relationships (1 Tim. 5:1-2). Allow yourself to get close enough to people to know their needs and to make sure they know you care. That will provide the foundation to help them spiritually far better than listening to denominational lessons online or building the world’s best website. Build relationships with other preachers based on God’s truth, godly love, and mutual respect. They are fellow soldiers in the Lord’s army (Phil. 2:25)—not enemy combatants to fight. Build the congregation’s leadership and partner with them. Work with elders as partners, brothers, and friends—not as competitors. Be the best friend you can be to everyone with their souls in mind, and you will build relationships for eternity.
Love people sincerely and deeply (1 Thess. 2:7-8). Be there for them—when they are ignorant, when they are weak, when they are confused, and when they are a problem. And appreciate those who are knowledgeable, strong, clear-headed, and helpful. Make the most of your time with the brethren—all of them (1 Thess. 2:17-20). Care for those who are critical of you (Matt. 5:43-44). Rejoice in those who support you (2 Tim. 1:16-18). They are all God’s people—the best people on earth and your family in eternity. Make that meaningful.
Teach meaning; preach significance (1 Tim. 4:6; 2 Tim. 4:2-4). Preachers should teach people to have a greater understanding of God’s Word. (And they should improve their teaching skills with this in mind.) But preaching should explain how to put faith into action, how to go from the doctrinal to the practical, and how to move from understanding to implementation. Do not expect people to recognize personal application themselves; counsel them how to apply God’s truth to their lives as specifically and distinctly as possible. Show them how to build greater character. Challenge them to take on greater responsibilities. Push them to greater heights of spiritual understanding and growth (1 Thess. 2:11-12).
Seek excellence rather than acceptance (Phil. 3:13-14). Do not allow yourself to become too comfortable with yourself. If you want other Christians to excel, then you must demonstrate a commitment to consistent improvement yourself. A preacher should always be improving—as a Christian, as a husband and father, as a speaker, as a student, as a friend. Let people see that, and take them along for the journey.
Make God’s perspective your perspective (1 Sam. 16:7). Preach the gospel with the heart of one who loves souls as God does (John 3:16). Defend the truth as you would the core of your being (Jude 3). Become God’s man for God’s people (1 Tim. 6:11). See yourself as a servant (1 Cor. 4:1-2). Put God at the center of the work—not the congregation and not yourself
(1 Cor. 3:21-23). Meditate on God’s priorities until they become your own.
This advice, admittedly, addresses only the bare fundamentals of a preacher’s life and work. However, I pray that you will consider it in the spirit offered and that your work may be blessed as a result. The church needs faithful men doing faithful work (2 Tim. 2:2). And I am thankful for each and every one of them.