Pitfalls of a Young Preacher: Things to Keep Out of the Pulpit


Charles Spurgeon once said, “Every workman knows the necessity of keeping his tools in a good state of repair, for if the iron be blunt . . . he knows that there will be a greater drought upon his energies and his work will be badly done.”  We shall do our Lord’s work the best when our tools are sharpened, and worse when they are blunt.  Below are common ditches young preachers fall into.

1. Carrying on a Conversations with Our Professors in the Pulpit
A common habit of young preachers (and I myself bare the guilt of this) is to try and fit everything we know about God, salvation, eschatology, hermeneutics, Karl Barth and the heresies of the Emergent Church all into 2 Samuel 8:4 (or whatever text we’re preaching at the time).  The problem is, 2 Samuel 8 only talks about 2 or 3 of these things.

It is important to remember that while you and I are wrestling with Ladd, Brunner, Barth, N.T. Wright and others, the people in the pew need to be encouraged, exhorted, corrected and instructed.

I’m not saying to keep your people dumb.  Not at all.  You should not shrink back from challenging them to use their mind, to wrestle with the complexity and mystery of the gospel and to struggle with tensions like the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man.

What I am saying is don’t bring into the pulpit something you yourself are unsure of.  Countless of times young preachers take into the pulpit what they just learned that week. Preach what you know!  Bring certainty, not confusion.  The Pulpit is not the place to wrestle with an issue you have yet to figured out. Hey, if you’ve figured out how inaugurated eschatology coincides perfectly with Pre-Millennialism in Isaiah, go for it!  Seriously. Stretch the minds of your people and cause them to think deeply about God’s Word.  But, like me, if you’re still a little uncertain about how that works out, leave it in the classroom.  Don’t carry on a conversation with your professor in the pulpit.

2. Preaching Obese Sermons
As I said above, a tendency that I have is to pack everything I know about the text into the text.  This may not be the best approach, but it takes discernment.  Often, what I have found is a shorter, power-packed, point-driven, Word-exalting sermon is the best sermon.  Just remember: it’s better if you end 10 minutes early leaving them wanting more then going the set amount of time while they are wishing you were done.  I have heard many sermons that were incredible, only to bomb at the last 5 minutes—and everyone remembers the last part of your sermon the most. Your sermon should be the silver bullet that pierces the heart, drives home conviction, and sets the heart ablaze for God and His Word.  Aim for clarity.

3. Over-Dependence Upon Personality
If you are of the gregarious personality that can “wing it” in the pulpit and still present a fairly decent sermon . . . don’t.  You could easily fall into the habit of putting off preparation.  And don’t presume upon the Holy Spirit’s assistance when you have neglected preparation. When Friday night roles around and activities of all kinds seek your attention, it will be too easy to think in the back of your mind, “I’ll just wing it; I know I can get away with it,” when you know you should stay in your study and tighten your sermon.  The Holy Spirit works in the preparation as well as the delivery.  Give Him kindling to ignite a blazing torch.

On the other hand, If you’re like me, and you know there’s no way you can afford to approach the pulpit unprepared, prepare, but don’t over-prepare.  Yes, nail your sermon down. Memorize it.  Know it.  But leave room for freshness.  Know it well, make sure you have time to let it sit (a day or two), and then review it once before delivery.  Know your personality.

4. Overstepping the Authority of Our Elders
At times a young preacher can fall into the trap of feeling the need to correct the congregation in an area where the elders have “overlooked”.  This would be overstepping the bounds of authority given to you.  Leave room for elders to “eld”.  They are older for a reason: they can say things you can’t . . . merely because a certain amount of wisdom and authority comes with age.  Of course I’m being general here, and application takes discernment.  But the principle is the same: Let the elders see and address the need for correction of certain matters.

Hopefully, these few ideas will cause us to become much more effective in the pulpit and in the Kingdom.  There will be mistakes . . . many.  But learn from them and press on to sharpen the aim of your presentation of the gospel.

Preach the Word

What Are Some Other Tendencies Young Preachers Have?



3 Responses to “Pitfalls of a Young Preacher: Things to Keep Out of the Pulpit”

  1. Adam Says:

    Using emotion in the place of strong exposition. I don’t remember where I read it, but I read an example of what not to do: When you come to that weak and under-developed point in your sermon – you try to carry it through by raising the volume, shouting, bringing in more emotion. When the truth is, it’s uncooked meat. Now matter how much sauce you put on uncooked (or even rotten) meat – it’s still not good and will probably make the congregation sick. Of course, don’t brink uncooked meat into the pulpit, but even if one point is less developed as you would like, don’t think slathering emotion on it will some how cook it in the mind of discerning, hungry saints. They’ll call you on it, and they should.

    Also, if you are a gregarious type, don’t stay in 5th gear the whole time. It just strains the ears and brain if from start to finish your straining with zeal. Use pauses. Let things sink in. Slow down. Louder doesn’t necessarily equal prophetic. Excited doesn’t necessarily equal anointed.

    Be mindful of the pace of your zeal, take breaks so the truth can sink in before you move to your next point. I think this ties in with your Obese Sermon point somewhat, not only being obese in amount of content, but obese in bringing too many non-stop sentence barrages. An unnatural pace.

    These are some tendencies I have fought against and will continue to be mindful of.

  2. Jeff Harris Says:

    yeah, I completely agree I can see the same tendencies in myself and others. When you learn something new and profound you often want to share or teach it to someone else. the tendency is to teach it even you haven’t really come to full grips with understanding.

    I do appreciate and learn more from a good sermon that ends in full clarity rather than one that creates a point that turns out to be on the fence or up in the air, leaving you not knowing how it will turn out. Especially because the last few minutes are the most important. First impressions are important but last impressions last the longest.

    I like the “Give Him kindling to ignite a blazing torch” quote that’s a great analogy that addresses a true pitfall in sermons today.

  3. Forearm Workouts Says:

    Forearm Workouts…

    […]Pitfalls of a Young Preacher: Things to Keep Out of the Pulpit « Paul & Timothy Blog[…]…

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