process of assembling this 20th anniversary issue of Preaching
has been an enjoyable yet challenging process. It’s been fun to dig back
through many of the 120 past issues we’ve produced since 1985 – to
read the old interviews, sermons, and articles. I’ve even read through
some of my old Back Page Pulpit columns, which is an experience just as humbling
as going back and reading some of your earliest sermons. (I’ve burned my
beginning sermons, just to be sure there’s no danger of them doing any
further damage.)

Putting this issue
together has been a bit like stumbling across an old scrapbook. As you flip
through the pages, lots of memories tumble out that spark laughs, tears, and
maybe a cringe or two. It’s also got me thinking about the past two decades
of editing Preaching, and all the
things I’ve learned. (The list of things I haven’t learned is too
big for one column; that one would fill a collection of hefty volumes.) So please
allow me the liberty of sharing some observations about things that 20 years
in this editor’s chair have taught me:

• The great
preachers – past and present – didn’t get that way through a
driving desire to be known as “great.” That adjective is attached
to preachers with a compulsion to communicate God’s Word effectively. They
have invested the time and energy to develop their craft. They have spent time
in reading and study. (For example, I’ve yet to come across a great preacher
who isn’t also a voracious reader; strong preachers just have a curiosity
that makes them want to read and learn more.) Great preachers have never been
obsessed with adhering to some artificial homiletical model created by others;
their commitment to effective communication has led them to find the style that
best suits the gifts God has given them.

The great preachers
aren’t those who seek greatness. For a great preacher, the goal is not
the accolades of the crowds; it is the applause of nail-scarred hands. There
are some who draw crowds today but whose names will be lost a generation from
now. There are others who may be overlooked today, but whose work will continue
to produce fruit many years after they are gone. God knows, and that’s

• Preaching
is being affected by the reality that more and more people are attending a growing
number of megachurches scattered across the suburbs of America. As a result,
the 800-or-so senior pastors of those congregations are increasingly identified
as the pastoral models of our era. In fact, a handful of those pastors and churches
have become “virtual denominations” through their offerings of curriculum
and conferences, worship resources, congregational tools and more. Ask a random
group of pastors who today’s “top preachers” are, and at least
eight of the first ten names listed are likely drawn from this group.

Yet the vast majority
of congregations in the U.S. still have less than 300 people in attendance each
Sunday, and the methodologies so well suited to the suburban megachurch are
often a poor fit for such congregations. The tragedy is that too many pastors
and lay leaders look longingly at the megachurches and identify that as the
definition of “success,” no matter how unrealistic it may be for their
rural and urban churches.

At the same time,
there are some things every preacher can learn from gifted pastors like Rick
Warren, Andy Stanley, Ed Young (Jr. or Sr.) and many others. Just as Victorian
pastors would have done well to study a model like Charles Spurgeon, so today’s
pastors can gain great insights from studying the ministries and preaching of
today’s most effective communicators. Please note I said study, not mimic.

• The marketplace
for pastoral resources is getting more and more crowded. For example, when we
started the National Conference on Preaching in 1989, there were few significant
training events for preachers. Today, pastors are inundated with invitations
to conferences, seminars, and meetings. We still think NCP is one of the two
or three most effective conferences for preachers held each year, but it can
be a challenge for pastors to cut through the onslaught of promotional materials
and find the events that will truly make an impact on their ministries.

And the congestion
isn’t limited to conferences. Although a couple of the major preaching
publications (Proclaim, Pulpit Digest) have ceased publication in recent
years, that doesn’t mean there is less competition for a pastor’s
time and attention. New periodicals have emerged, and the big action is on the
Internet. It’s hard to even count the number of web-based “sermon
services” that have hit the web, all offering to make your job easier by
providing pre-digested sermons for every Sunday. (As if God intended preaching
to be anything less than an investment of blood, sweat and tears on the part
of God’s messengers.) At Preaching, we want to give you helpful, quality
tools with which to carry out your divinely-appointed task. But if we ever suggest
that we are going to make your job easier by providing your sermons for you,
you have my permission to slap me up side of the head.

• On a related
front, plagiarism seems to be a more significant issue than it was twenty years
ago. There has always been plagiarism; the temptation to “borrow”
from a book of published sermons has always been a reality of Saturday-night
specials. But the advent of the Internet (and all those thousands of sermons
in digital form) has made plagiarism an increasing temptation and problem. Every
year, we read new reports of pastors who are fired by church leaders when it’s
discovered they have been preaching the sermons of others without attribution.
They expect you to be good; they also expect you to be you.

• I’m
increasingly convinced that creativity must be a major focus of preachers committed
to reaching this culture with the gospel. (You may have already figured that
out, based on the two major articles on creativity we’ve already published
in 2005.) That doesn’t mean being “wild and crazy” and emphasizing
shock value – if the emphasis is always on the “show,” then each
successive week the show has to be bigger and better. But it does mean that
we can’t fall back on the “same old thing” Sunday after Sunday
and expect today’s congregations to have the same “brand loyalty”
their grandparents had. We have to continue to think strategically about ways
to overcome communication barriers and reach people with the truths of God’s

And what we preach
must be God’s Word. Being creative doesn’t require preaching to be
topical in nature. A creative God has given us His creative Word, which is sharper
than any sword; do we dare stand before His people and preach that Word in a
dry and dusty manner? I think the great challenge of the next decade may be
to develop exciting new models of creative expository preaching that will serve
the church in a changing culture.

Too many church
leaders have assumed that being creative requires massive infusions of technology
in worship. Properly used, technology is a helpful communications tool, but
it’s no panacea. It is important to think about the visual as we consider
ways to share God’s truth. But at best, visual images are a support for
the spoken word, not a replacement. We still have to have a Word from the Lord
to share.

• No matter
what shape the culture takes, preaching will continue to play a vital role in
the work and witness of God’s people. For two thousands years, God has
used preachers to reach the lost, encourage the saints, and lead the church.
That will continue to be the case until the Lord returns.

Aren’t you
glad He has called us to be part of it?


Duduit is Editor of Preaching magazine and President of American Ministry
Resources. You can write to him at, or visit his website

Check out more great articles

About The Author


Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

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