June 21, 2011

10 Ways to Be a Boring Preacher

I’ve heard some pretty boring preachers in my day. You probably have, too. To be open with you, I’ve probably preached some pretty boring sermons in my day, too. And, maybe you have, too. Here are ten of top tricks to make your next sermon a real snooze. Have you ever committed these boring crimes?

  1. Don’t use visual aids. As sonorous and beautiful as your golden voice may be, you are asking too much from people if you expect them to listen to your voice without any outside stimulus. A droning preacher’s voice is like a sleep-inducing drug, unless there is a little something to look at (besides the preacher, of course). Do yourself and your people a favor and use a PowerPoint sermon now and then. Or even a video. It will help.
  2. Don’t tell any stories or use any illustrations. There are some preachers that do a bit too much in the way of story telling. It’s almost as if they thought up some really good stories, then went off hunting for a few good texts that fit the stories. That’s obviously not the way to do it. However, stories and illustrations are essential to piquing people’s interest and explaining the text you’re preaching. Want an illustration of this? Jesus. Think about his approach to speaking. It was a whole lot of stories. Maybe that was one (of many) reasons that people flocked by the thousands to hear him. He was interesting. He used stories. Preach like Jesus. Tell a story or two.
  3. Don’t use any humor. Humor and preaching can go together, in a good way. Humor is part of life. It’s the way that we as humans function. Humor is part of our makeup. We were created in God’s image and we like to laugh at a good joke. That’s okay. So, don’t despise humor in preaching. Obviously, you’ll want to use it wisely, sparingly, and appropriately, but don’t toss it out altogether. To intentionally axe humor from your preaching is counterproductive to good communication.
  4. Preach on the same topics all the time. Almost every preacher has a hobby horse topic. Maybe it’s politics (i.e., “Conservative Right-wing Republicanism”) or something like that. After a few messages on your hobby horse topic, things will start getting a little bit boring for your people. The best way to avoid being One Note Johnny is to preach the Bible. In other words, preach the whole thing, not just your favorite passages.
  5. Always circle around to the same application. When it comes to application time, the surefire way to bore your people silly is to offer the same application over and over again. I’ve known preachers, and regardless of their “text,” the application of the message is always the same:  Witness to your next door neighbor!! Read the Bible every day! Obey the posted speed limits! Don’t watch TV!! I’m certainly not against specific application that comes from the Bible, but there is a certain danger in always coming to the same pointed application for every single message you preach. Boredom is only one of those dangers.
  6. Avoid application altogether. It is equally boring to not apply the Bible to people’s life. Truths about God are meant to change people. Part of explaining what the Bible means, is explaining what that looks like in a person’s life. No, the pastor is not called upon to legislate an individual’s standards, and encourage moralistic living or mere externalism. On the other hand, when the Bible says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9) the pastor can do some explanation on the practical side of living out that verse—beyond just parsing the verb for “confess” and explaining the circular structure of the book of 1 John.
  7. Never change your tone, rate, or pitch. Your voice is an amazing thing. You can do a lot with it. So, in order to create the most boring preaching environment, limit how much variety you infuse into your voice. Some preachers favor the Two Hundred Decibel Angry Yelling Voice, others use the Reverent and Holy Hush Voice, and some use the Loud Nasal voice. People will tune you out in a hurry if this is the case. May I suggest using a bit more variety in your voice?
  8. Preach for a long time. Here’s the humdinger. Long sermons. Preachers are famous for being longwinded. But not just longwinded. Longwinded and boring. No, you don’t have to whittle your message down to fifteen minutes. But you may want to rethink making two messages out of that hour and thirty minute sermon you were planning for this Sunday.
  9. Avoid using expressions and a manner of speaking that are familiar to your people. The best way to communicate with people in a way that will capture and hold their attention is to speak directly to them in normal conversational way. Somehow, when we think of “preaching” it’s easy to think that we have to use big words and complex expressions. That’s not the case at all. Of course, you’ll want to be reverent and appropriate. Cussing in a sermon is probably not a good idea. (Read the article, “Should a Pastor Use Salty Language?”) But using a normal manner of speaking is just fine. Think of your sermon as a conversation—a normal conversation—about God and the Bible. People will be able to listen better, just like they would in any other kind of conversation.
  10. Use Hebrew, Greek, and theological jargon profusely. I’m sure that there are some very smart pastors out there. Don’t feel like you need to prove it by speaking a different language in your preaching. The Greek word for sin is hamartia, but that means nothing to most people in the pew. Don’t do it. We Christians have built up a pretty big vocabulary of insider words and Christian jargon that are just as confusing to the uninitiated. For example, “If you are lost and blind, ask Jesus to come inside of your heart and cleanse you from the heavy burden of your guilt and shame” Despite the mixed metaphors, that phrase may be perfectly sensible to you and me, but if there is a “lost” person in your congregation, that may not mean a whole lot.
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4 comments

  • Jo Starble · July 5, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    Love it, except for #5: When I’m writing a sermon and intentionally trying to listen for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, the application always ends up being “God loves you.” Really, is there any other application that’s ALWAYS appropriate?

  • Andrew · July 6, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    Jo, glad you are intentional in studying and listening to the Holy Spirit, but “God loves you” isn’t even an application. That’s a theological truth (John 3:16, etc.). While the truth is always true, the application can and should vary based on application. Here’s a few suggestions depending on the passage and your audience:
    -thank the Lord that He loves you and chose you
    -love your spiritual family
    -love your enemies
    -love your neighbors

    Even this basic applications can and should be developed much further, but they are all legitimate applications of “God loves you.”

  • ton myrna · July 26, 2011 at 8:26 am

    Praise God for this article! I just have a problem of lengthening my messages.
    Thanks a lot anyway. May God richly bless your web-ministry!
    Ton

    • ton myrna · July 26, 2011 at 8:30 am

      Many church pastors are richly blessed by your ministry. I shall continue to be enriched in wisdom and knowledge through your ministry. To God be the glory!
      Ton

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