7 Pitfalls for Preachers
In a recent article for The Gospel Coalition, Michael Kruger discusses 7 pitfalls preachers often fall into. Here are four of the most common:
#1 – Confusing ‘expository’ preaching with running commentary.
Somewhere along the way, some pastors have became convinced that the “expository” part of preaching means a sermon must sound like a commentary. They see it as a strictly chronological, running list of observations about the text.
Unfortunately, such a move confuses two different genres. While preaching should unpack the text, it differs from a commentary in meaningful ways. Primarily, sermons have an exhortational component that commentaries often lack—sermons speak not just to the mind but also to the heart. They’re concerned not merely with truth, but also with pressing truth into lives.
#2 – Assuming more illustrations is always better.
Illustrations are a critical part of an effective sermon. We often remember the illustrations more than the sermon itself. But that doesn’t mean (as some often assume) the more illustrations the better. Sometimes, less is more.
Charles Spurgeon, the master illustrator, said a sermon without illustrations is like a house without windows. But, he adds, you don’t want a house that is only windows!
#3 – Refusing to cut good stuff from your sermon.
A major pitfall for new preachers is the lack of “scraps on the cutting room floor.” They are so excited about every point, they decide to leave them all in. Unfortunately, this approach creates a bloated, clunky—and overly long—sermon.
It’s the equivalent of a movie director keeping every scene he shoots. If he did this, the film would be 12 hours long. He has to cut even good scenes to make room for the essential ones.
So it should be with preachers. When sermon prep is over, there should be a (big) pile of good material you’ve left behind. It’s then a sermon moves from good to great.
#4 – Making application before you’ve developed a point to apply.
Since preachers are eager to apply, sometimes it’s easy to jump the gun. They will hurry over exegetical details and move to discussions about practical implications. There is a real danger here. Hurrying to application too fast leaves you with no real point to apply. Sermons like this end up becoming almost all application, merely one “practical” application after another with no real, deeper understanding of the text.
This pitfall is really the opposite of the first. While some never get to application, others barely develop their textual point at all.”