Hershael York teaches preaching at Southern Seminary and is a columnist for Preaching. In a recent article for the seminary’s blog, he describes 4 factors that make a difference in becoming an effective preacher:
The most frustrated preacher is the one who has a sense of duty, but not a burning calling. Preaching is not just another helping profession, a Christian version of politics or the Peace Corps. The call to preach is a definite demand issued by the Holy Spirit that ignites a fire in one’s bones that cannot be extinguished by the hard-hearted, stiff-necked or dull of hearing.
A preacher who has been called must preach what God has spoken simply because God has spoken it. The success of one’s ministry will depend on the strength of his calling. His willingness to work at his preaching will be proportional to his conviction that God has called him to preach and to be as fit a vessel for God’s use as he can be. The Holy Spirit must undergird everything else from preparation to delivery, and that will not happen apart from that calling.
Being a preaching professor is like getting paid to tell a mother that her baby is ugly. It might be the truth, but it’s not a truth anyone wants to hear.
Most guys I have taught dread my comments and cringe when I tell them they missed the point of the text or seemed unprepared. They tire of hearing me tell them they lacked energy or failed to establish a connection with the audience. Every now and then, however, someone smiles gratefully as I offer corrections and suggestions.
Someone may even say, “I want you to be really tough on me. Tell me everything I’m doing wrong, because I really want to do this well.” That guy is going to be fine, because his spirit is teachable and he’s willing to pay the cost of personal discomfort in order to be effective. He understands that he is a vessel in service of the text, and his feelings are not the point.
Almost all my students are passionate about Christ, about reaching the lost, and about the Word of God. The problem is not that they don’t feel passionate, but rather that they do not show passion. What I feel is never the point, whether good or bad, but rather how I act.
If my delivery of the Word does not convey that passion, then my audience will not be moved to be passionate about it either. The prophets were all passionate. The apostles were passionate. Jesus was passionate. Why else would farmers, fishermen and housewives come and stand in the Galilean sun for hours just to hear Him? . . .
4. Reckless abandon
The generation of students I now teach have grown up with the written word—on screens, smart phones, blogs, Kindles and now iPads. Through video games they have raced cars, built civilizations, won wars, destroyed zombies and killed hundreds.
They communicate orally far less than any previous generation, and when they do so, they typically do it with less passion. Yet God still uses the preaching of His Word—an oral event—to edify the church, encourage the saints and engage the lost.
So to preach the Word, a young man has to be willing to get completely out of the comfortable cocoon he’s built in his personality and habits, and recklessly abandon himself to risk being a fool for Christ.
I tell my students, “That little voice inside your head saying ‘That’s just not who I am’ is not your friend. Sanctification is the process by which the Holy Spirit overcomes ‘who I am’ and shapes me into who he wants me to be. So if I need to preach with a reckless abandon that is foreign to my natural way, I will beg the Holy Spirit to help me do it for Christ.”
If someone has a burning calling, a teachable spirit, a passionate heart and a reckless abandon to pay the price to preach well, then not even the limitation of their own background, personality or natural talents will keep them from preaching the Word of God with power.” [Click to read the full article]