Ten Preaching Mistakes You Should Avoid

I always feel a bit awkward giving preachers advice on preaching since I’m an Executive Pastor who only preaches a few times of year, but just hear me out. I’m actually probably more qualified than most people because while you are preaching the messages, I’m in the audience listening to them. And over the years I’ve listened to hundreds of messages, some from great preachers and some from not so great. Thanks, Facebook Live! Over the years I’ve noticed what I believe are some huge mistakes many pastors are making.

Here are the ten I believe you should avoid.

  1. The preacher voice. If you don’t know what this is, then you’ve never been to a small town church in the south. For whatever reason, it’s like some pastors have a totally different tone and dialect when they’re preaching than when they’re not. They add extra syllables to words and forget to breathe. It’s really a sight to behold, and the crazy thing is people who’ve grown up in church in the south determine how good a preacher is based on his preaching voice. The big problem with this is anyone who hasn’t grown up in church is totally weirded out when this happens. A lot of un-churched people already believe the church is weird. Stop proving them right. Use your normal voice.
  2. Preaching from a Bible version people can’t understand. I probably lost 50% of my audience with that first one, so let’s go ahead and tick off the rest. I know some of you absolutely love the New King James Version of the Bible. I know it was the Bible that Jesus taught from, but it’s hard for an un-churched person to understand at times. It’s like me trying to watch Downtown Abbey. If we have the greatest message in the world, why would we complicate it by speaking a language no one has spoken in hundreds of years? Use a Bible version everyone not just church people can understand.
  3. Preaching on un-relatable topics. If you’re still reading, this I’m really proud of you. It takes guts to get through those first two. Another mistake pastors often make is teaching on topics that have no bearing on a person’s normal life. The goal of preaching is not to make everyone think you’re really smart. The goal should be helping people deal with the issues they’re facing and encouraging them to become more like Jesus. In my church right now, I have people contemplating divorce, people dealing with substance abuse, people with all kinds of sexual sins, and the list goes on and on. These are the issues they’re facing. Teach them what the Bible has to say about what they’re dealing with.
  4. Having too many points. I don’t mean to hurt your feelings, but the majority of people in your congregation will forget what you preached on within 48 hours. The few of them who will remember will only remember a very small portion; so the simpler you can keep your message the better. One main point is perfect. Anything over three and you’re wasting your time and everyone else’s.
  5. Preaching too long. Which brings us to this: there is a very small percentage of pastors who can preach over 40 minutes and still keep their audiences attention. The majority of us should be within the 25-35 minute range. If you can’t keep it shorter than 40 minutes, you have too many points, or you’re…
  6. Not being prepared. When you don’t prepare, you tend to ramble and go off on tangents that have nothing to do with the message. If you’re waiting for the Holy Spirit to give you your message on Saturday night or Sunday morning, you’ve waited too late. The Holy Spirit is a lot better prepared than that. Chances are you’re procrastinating or just plain lazy. Your congregation deserves better than that. Sermon prep looks different for everyone, but for me I type out my entire sermon and then preach it to an empty room at least three times before I ever get in front of an audience.
  7. Not being real. No one wants to listen to someone they can’t relate to. If you are trying to portray this perfect lifestyle with a perfect marriage and perfect kids, good luck getting anyone to listen to you. People value transparency.
  8. Not explaining the why. Sometimes we preach messages and never explain why what we’re saying should matter to those who are listening. You shouldn’t have sex before marriage. Why? You shouldn’t gossip about people. Why? You shouldn’t ask people to share a photo of Jesus on Facebook. Why? Because it’s probably Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi.
  9. Not sharing personal stories. Personal stories are powerful. I would almost say that personal stories are becoming more powerful than Bible stories, but I’ve already lost enough subscribers in this post. But just think about it, the story of God telling Jonah to go warn Nineveh is a really cool story. But the story of someone in your Sunday school class or small group inviting his friend to church who then got saved, that’s powerful. Now, I’m not saying we should scrap one for the other. I’m just saying, take advantage of personal stories; they’re powerful.
  10. Not challenging people to take next steps. And finally, one of the biggest mistakes preachers make is not asking people to take an action step based on the message just preached. If you preach on spending more time with your spouse, challenge them to take a date night. If you preach on generosity, challenge people to tithe. If you preach on Jesus and His resurrection, challenge people to start a relationship with Him. People are way more likely to take a step, if you ask.

Now, it’s time for your next step, which is leaving a comment below and letting me know what you thought about this post. Have you ever used the preaching voice? If you’d like to continue improving as a preacher, check out my ebook 8 Steps to More Impactful Preaching. And as always don’t forget to subscribe to get tips on church growth, leadership, and more delivered to your inbox each week.

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7 thoughts on “Ten Preaching Mistakes You Should Avoid

  1. Stacy

    Good stuff Travis! Enjoyed the read… Trial and error (in small portions) when you have a small congregation, how they respond and react to change is key. They might still be the way they are because there hasn’t been any changes in last 20 years. The world has changed in it’s approach to wow people, but the church seemingly hasn’t in many ways. Yes my heart is that people would feel the Spirit of God and not be fully driven by emotions, but that is a good start!
    Keep up the great work!

  2. Darrell Alley

    “Well…a…don’t…cha…be…to..a…harsh…a…on us..a…Southern born & raised…a..preachers…a..!! Seriously, not my style of preaching or communication , but certainly represented some in my Appalachia culture & heritage. And, I cherish my heritage! No, I’m not so naive to believe that some have not purposely become pulpit clowns! However, I certainly anticipate meeting in Heaven those pastors & evangelists who gave their very best, albeit, with unique delivery styles that may be worthy of humorous reflections. But far beyond just meeting those pastors & evangelists, I am anxiously anticipating meeting the multitudes, me included, that were introduced to Jesus Christ as the Holy Spirit spoke into and through those ministers who dared to give God all of themselves including their supposed flawed communication abilities. Perhaps, Jesus may have a special quadrant of Heaven set aside just for us! you…ah!?

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