I have a friend named Larry. I won't mention his age, but let's just say Larry can remember life before the Internet was invented. When you are a young pastor, you need a man like this in your life. Although I was once Larry’s pastor, he often pastored me.
When I left the Bible Belt to take a new church in the Pacific Northwest, Larry gave me his best piece of advice on preaching: “Chad, don't try to hit a home run every Sunday. Just get a man on base. Week in and week out, just get a man on base. After a while, you'll start bringing people home."
When I ride a wave of momentum, his words balance my optimism. After a grueling Sunday, when I am discouraged because people do not seem to change, his words keep me standing behind the pulpit.
Pastor, it is not your job to preach the perfect sermon every Sunday. You won't always have a catchy introduction to hook people's attention, or illustrations that make your point come alive, or application that fits every situation in the room.
Rest in the fact that God uses good solid preaching "singles" to advance his kingdom.
Yes, we should always seek out ways to improve our preaching. And we should by no means ignore glaring problems. But seeking out the perfect sermon every week will bench us faster than if we play the long game.
Just get a man on base. Here’s what that means:
1. Preach what the Scripture says clearly.
Say what God says. You don't need to improve on it. You don't need to be original. In fact, you need to be courageously unoriginal in the content of your sermon.
If you can help people visualize what you are saying, do it. If you can place it into the struggle of their life, then by all means. But whatever you do, be clear about what God says to them.
2. Preach like you believe what you're talking about.
If you do not believe what you say, there is no way your people will believe it. Speak in a way that communicates what you are talking about is important and you believe it yourself. In other words, say it like you mean it.
3. Preach hope.
People fundamentally need to hear hope and hope does not come from when we look within. It comes from outside ourselves. Our hope is that Jesus has done for us what we could not do. Our hope is that because of Christ's work, we are filled with the Holy Spirit, and we are empowered to do whatever is required. Our hope is that God is incredibly generous with how much grace he dispenses and upon whom He dispenses it.
Was it truthful? Was it believable? Was is hopeful?
That's a good solid preaching “single”. That will advance the runners around the bases. Week in and week out, just get a man on base and leave the results up to God. Oh, and praise him for the occasional triple or home run when it happens.
"I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth." 1 Cor. 3:7