Oddly enough, when I was a pastor I seldom verbally practiced my sermons before delivering them. Maybe I was concerned that doing so would have a negative impact on the spontaneity of the message. After all, what minister wants his or her sermon to sound canned? I'm actually more tempted to preach at least a portion of my message on the way to church today, especially if I am driving some distance to where I'm speaking. I find that doing so helps me deliver a better message.
- Sometimes I find that a portion of the message just doesn't fit verbally like I thought it would on paper. It's better to learn that before you preach the sermon than to realize it in the midst of the message.
- Sometimes I realize that the sermon is running longer than I prefer, and this provides me an opportunity to cut out parts that add less value to the message I'm trying to convey.
- It always helps me better remember the message which means I am less tied down to my outline. This allows me to maintain better eye contact with the congregation and to move more freely on the platform.
- Sometimes I will think of a better illustration than I was using in my prepared message which often strengthens the sermon. I can then incorporate that illustration or story in the message.
If you do not currently practice your sermons before preaching them, I encourage you to at least try it for 3-4 months to see if it makes a difference. Your preaching ministry is so important that it is worth at least trying this to see if it makes you stronger in the pulpit.
Since this post is about preaching...I read the other day in another blog that many ministers still find the classic On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons by John A. Broadus to be one of their favorite books on preaching. In that book Broadus wrote, "The record of Christian history has been that the strength of the church is directly related to the strength of the pulpit. When the message from the pulpit has been uncertain and faltering, the church has been weak; when the pulpit has given a positive, declarative message, the church has been strong. The need for effective preaching has never been greater." He wrote this in 1870! How much more true are these words today?
This book has been in my library since the mid-1980s, and it had a major impact on my ministry. You can order a copy of it here.