So what makes a great preacher?
For those of us who weekly prepare messages, that question often seems to be answered by the criticism or applause of those who sit under our teaching and preaching ministry. We also live in a world that has become very small when it comes to hearing “good” preaching on a regular basis. If you are anything like me, you listen to sermons on a Christian radio station, you might subscribe to a few podcasts of current preachers, and you likely have some books of sermons from past great preachers.
The purpose of my post today is to embark on what I hope will be a healthy discussion on what makes not just a good sermon, but what makes a great preacher of the Word. Let me begin this discussion with a few items that will be in the arsenal of a great preacher.
1. Personal character. I start with this characteristic because as Paul described the qualifications of a pastor, he began by saying the pastor must be blameless. I believe the overriding characteristic of any great preacher is a man who seeks daily to live the messages that he preaches weekly. A man of low character will be hard-pressed to elevate his hearers to Christlikeness, and he certainly will not be able to encourage his congregation to do as Paul did: “Follow me even as I follow Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Included in the personal character of a great preacher must be a personal time of Bible study and prayer and a daily commitment to confessing and repenting of sin.
2. Ability to communicate and articulate the Word. This may seem obvious, but there is a reason Paul put as one of the qualifications of the pastor is that he must be “apt to teach.” Some men are godly but are not gifted at the verbal communication of God’s Word. I believe the pulpit has been reserved for those who are godly and who by giftedness and training can explain and deliver clearly a word from God. Not to be overlooked in this quality is the ability to connect God’s Word with the needs and circumstances of the hearer. So often it seems that men seek to communicate the Word without making any connection with the people to whom they are speaking. We do this with our own children as we teach the Word (e.g., I’m not teaching through Song of Solomon to my five-year-old!), yet many times we fail to consider our audience in our preparation time.
3. Walk with the wise. Proverbs says, “He who walks with the wise will be wise.” I believe a great preacher will walk with the wise by surrounding himself with godly men who are also gifted communicators themselves. Living in rural Indiana, that’s a little bit harder to do than in an urban area, but in our state there are several gifted men who have been just a phone call away. Added to the personal contact with godly, gifted preachers is the ability to walk with the wise through good books and good podcasts of gifted preachers. A great preacher is a student of other great preachers!
4. Humility. “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). “Therefore, let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). One of the greatest tragedies of gifted teachers and preachers is Luciferian sin of pride. God will not share His glory with another, and as preachers for the King of Kings, we must be ever aware that with giftedness comes the potential for pride and self-accolades. If God has gifted you with the ability to preach, make certain you give Him the praise and fall on your knees asking for His daily provision in your preparation and delivery.
These are just four items that I believe make for great preachers. I have purposefully kept the list short so you can have freedom to add to this list.
Keep preaching and teaching the Word and trusting God to bring an increase!