This semester I took my first preaching course in seminary.
Taking the course was a big step for me, in a weird way. I’m in front of people all the time. Sometimes leading smaller groups, other times leading thousands. But the thought of getting up and speaking for a long period of time is so intimidating to me, mostly because I’ve never done it. I could have put off the class for another year, but I knew it was something I needed to get better at, so I signed up anyway.
Through my course reading and lectures I slowly started to see a lot of similarities between blogging and preaching. Sure, most blog posts are about 300 words and most sermons are closer to 30 minutes, but the principles of good sermon preparation and good blogging are closely tied.
In reality, blogging over the past 3.5 years has taught me as much about preaching as the course did. Here’s 4 ways blogging taught me to the preach (let me also say, I don’t really think I’m a preacher, considering I’ve only given one sermon, just that the principles I learned in class I also learned through blogging):
- The importance of being succinct. Raise your hand if you’ve ever fallen asleep listening to a long, drawn out diatribe by a pastor on a Sunday morning? Well I never have (my dad would have killed me if I fell asleep listening to him) 🙂 But I’ve always heard that the most effective blog posts are around 300 words. There is no space for fluff or a bunch of side points. Attention spans continue to get shorter and shorter and the importance of making your point throughout and quickly is paramount.
- People most often learn best when a sermon (or blog) has one main point or overarching theme. In my course reading, Haddon Robinson emphasizes what he calls the “big idea.” I’ve listened to hundreds of messages that do a great job of presenting and developing several main thoughts within one message. Instead of walking away with a firm grasp on the message, I often forget it within an hour. While, certainly a message with one main thought isn’t immune to being forgotten by the listener, it will only help listeners if the message hones in on a “big idea” and spends its entire time developing the idea.
- Illustrations take a point from being abstract to concrete. Good bloggers are excellent at using illustrations to make a point. Whether it be using a picture or video or story, often the best blogs don’t make their point on its own, they use an illustration to help it land in real life. Robinson says, “an audience does not respond to abstract ideas, nor have many people ever been moved to faith by reading an outline of Romans…” Illustrations make an abstract point more concrete.
- The art of a consistent process that works for you. The most intimidating part of preaching was the process of putting a message together. I had no idea where to begin. My class helped me understand a process that works well and being a good preacher is being consistent with following that process. When I started blogging I didn’t make goals about getting readers or becoming a better writer, more than anything I wanted to be consistent with it. Whatever “success” I’ve had blogging is due mostly to being consistent.