It’s not hard to tell who’s influencing rookie preachers, it tends to come out in their delivery. Sometimes when I’m listening to young guys preach, I can see John Piper in their “exaltation” expressions, or Tim Keller in their “conversational” style or Matt Chandler in their “are you tracking with me “statements. Finding your preaching voice can be difficult, so here are some tips to help you along the way.
Finding Your Preaching Voice
1. Reps, reps, and more reps.
The best way to find your own preaching voice is to preach. So you’re not the primary preaching pastor, ok look for other opportunities. Find a local rescue mission and volunteer to preach a service once a month. Teach a Sunday school or life group class. If you can’t preach in those settings, ask your pastor if you can use the church sanctuary to practice a sermon. Preach to yourself in the mirror. Do whatever it takes to get practice. There’s no telling how many pets of mine have come to faith in Christ from listening to my practice sermons. I’ve stopped mid-sermon many times in my living room and thought, that’s dumb, or that’s heresy or that was cheesy. Better to discover all that in the living room alone than on the stage in front of the congregation.
The more reps you get the more it will become like muscle memory when you are preaching to a live crowd.
P.S. if you are a lead pastor, find ways to get younger preachers opportunities to practice. Use Wednesday nights and men’s breakfast meetings to engage them in speaking the Word.
2. Watch and listen to your own sermons!
I know it hurts, but if you want to find your voice you need to listen to yourself preach. You’re probably your own worst critic so don’t be too hard on yourself. You will notice quickly the awkward points in your sermon. Ask these questions of your sermons:
- What fillers did I use?
- What was the main point of my sermon?
- Was the main point of my sermon the main point of the text?
- Did I sound like me or was it forced?
- As a hearer, do I have a sense of confidence in the preacher?
- Did I speak clearly with good voice inflection and appropriate eye contact and hand gestures?
3. Get feedback from someone who knows good preaching.
One of my preaching professors used to say the first day of Sermon Delivery, check your ego at the door. This is the last time someone will be honest with you about your sermon. Parents, grandparents, and the older members of your congregation will probably just tell you how good your sermons are, even if they are terrible.
Find someone who knows you and good preaching, and ask them for loving but honest feedback. Sometimes an outside voice can help you with your blind spots. After a couple of sermons, my wife asked why I keep using the phrase “setting to rights”. I had been reading and listening to a ton of N.T. Wright, and while that phrase may be perfectly natural for him as a Brit, it’s not for me in Raleigh, NC.
I was listening to a lot of E.V. Hill when I suddenly began referring to my congregation as “beloved children.” I’m not E.V. Hill nor am I old enough in ministry to refer to my congregation as “beloved children.” I enjoyed listening to these men and I’m richly blessed by them, but I was picking up stylistic features that weren’t my voice.
Put your ego to the side and listen to good feedback.
4. Listen to a variety of preachers.
You may love H. B. Charles, but if you only listen to him you will sound like him. You should listen to preachers from various denominations, ethnicities, backgrounds, and styles. This approach will help you as you find your voice to be less a clone and more a mosaic.
As a side note here, don’t just pick things up from superstar preachers, listen to the faithful preaching of your own local church pastor. Finding your preaching voice is not learning to be a pulpiteer, but a shepherd through the spoken word. Your pastor can help you with this more than big name preachers.
5. Be consumed with the truths of Scripture not the delivery styles of men.
A lady told me on the way out of church one day, “you really believe what you’re preaching and that makes the difference.” When you are convinced of the truth you are preaching it will spill over through your own personality. It’s good to learn from other preachers but let your heartburn with the burden of the gospel and the truths of Scripture, then it will translate into your preaching. The preachers you mimic show you their natural disposition to being consumed by the Word. So, if you focus on the Bible, your preaching voice will naturally rise to the surface in your delivery.
I heard an old pastor say preachers are the oddest people in the world. From my experience, I tend to agree with him. God has called you in all your uniqueness and he will equip you to preach in the power of the Spirit. Keep preaching, never stop learning and you will find your preaching voice. The God of all glory will speak through you.
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