Whether you’ve preached hundreds of sermons to thousands of people or you lead a small group of seventh grade boys, it’s easy to get in a rut when it comes to preaching, teaching, or leading a discussion. Maybe you’re feeling like you’re not having as much of an impact as you used to, or perhaps you’ve noticed that people aren’t really engaged or connecting when you’re speaking or trying to lead a discussion. Or maybe you haven’t noticed that all of your messages seem to sound just about the same (believe me, the people who are listening to you have noticed!). To keep things fresh, here are three questions to ask yourself as you prepare your next sermon, message, or small group discussion:
Have I learned anything?
Communicators–small group leaders, senior pastors, and everyone in between–are more likely to communicate with passion and clarity when they are learning as they prepare. If you can prepare a thirty-minute sermon without learning anything new that you can apply to your own life, you probably won’t have much in the way of life-altering truth to share with those you’re speaking to.
Do I believe it?
Before you get mad at me for accusing you of not trusting the Bible or breaking at least three articles in your church’s statement of faith, answer this question: Have you ever had to preach a sermon that your head believed was true, but that you just couldn’t get any passion for? Sure, your head might believe the content of what you’ve prepared to say, but you may not own it. Whether people can articulate it or not, they can tell when you don’t really believe what you’re saying. So own it. If there’s something you’re not sure of in a passage or that you struggle with, say that. Don’t pretend like everything you’re talking about is a neat and tidy set of obvious beliefs you figured out ages ago and have never wrestled with.
Does it matter?
Great theological thinking and funny stories don’t mean a thing if you don’t help your group or audience understand why what you have to say matters to their life. Look, I know you’re armed with a New Testament dictionary and some great Bible software. By all means, put it to good use (see the first question on this list). But if you’re not helping people be doers of the word and not just hearers, then you’re just creating really smart hypocrites who deceive themselves (see James 1:22). Let me just put it this way: if because of time you have to choose between explaining the Greek root of a word or giving a great application to your message, choose the latter. Every time.