The Top 10 Problems Preachers Face (and how to overcome them)

preaching May 15, 2024

Over the years, I’ve received hundreds of emails from preachers from all over the world. In these emails, they’ve shared with me their struggles/challenges/problems when it comes to preaching.

And after reading these hundreds of emails, I’ve noticed some very common patterns (no matter if the preacher is from South Africa, New Zealand, Ireland, Canada, the United States, or any other country).

These patterns are prevalent across denominational lines as well.

Likely, you’ve dealt with (or are dealing with) these too.

Here are the Top 10 Problems Preachers Face and how you can begin overcoming them.

1. The Unpredictability of ministry can make your schedule a mess. And the thing that always gets put off is your sermon prep. Then, what results? Another sermon thrown together at the last minute.

You've tried protecting your sermon preparation time more than in the past, but your plans always get hijacked. Someone wants to meet. A staff member has a challenge and needs you. A deacon or elder calls you and two hours later, your prep time is gone.

Instead, what you need is a weekly ministry plan and a repeatable sermon prep process that allows you to prepare your sermon in less time, complete with sermon prep checkpoints and deadlines.

2. You have no plan for your preaching beyond a week or a month out into the future. So every week or every few weeks, you get a pit in your stomach because you know you need to figure out what you're going to preach on. And what results are sermon series that are half-baked and increased stress in you.

You know you need to sit down and plan your preaching further out. But it feels daunting and you're not sure how to do it. And even if you do know how to do it, you don't feel like you have the time to make it happen.

What you need is a realistic path to not only plan your preaching further out, but a way to get a week or more ahead on your sermon prep and writing.

3. You absolutely LOVE sermon preparation. But this means you spend far too much time on digging into the "nerd mine." You know, that place where you find all the highly nuanced 'golden nuggets' you love. And what you have is too much exegetical content with little to no tension, illustration, and application.

You've tried to limit your time in commentaries and Bible software.

But the problem is while you have plenty of knowledge-base on exegesis, you haven't developed the same skillset on connecting those textual insights to your people's lives.

4. You struggle to think creatively and prepare dynamic sermon illustrations that are connected to the truths in the biblical text. You know the value of sermon illustrations but knowing the value of something and crafting them on your own? Those are two very different things.

So you waste a lot of time watching and listening to other people's sermons to see how they handled the Scripture and what illustrations they used. But what results are generic sermon illustrations that haven't captured your soul – so your preaching falls flat.

Instead, what you need is a pathway to reliably crafting more sermon illustrations than you need every single week (along with stacking up your own library of illustration ideas for future use that you can pull from) so that you can use the best ones.

5. Your sermon content is too generalized and, as a result, it doesn’t move people’s hearts. Your people struggle to see deep relevance to their everyday lives. They’re left wondering what they’re supposed to do with your sermon.

So you study harder. You read more commentaries. You watch more sermons. But you keep feeling like something is missing. And something is missing.

You're failing to see that your issue may not be with understanding the Scripture more, but with understanding the human condition more (and connecting the text to all of people's struggles, experiences, narratives, fears, hopes, and dreams).

6. Transitioning from preparation to writing feels like an extremely difficult puzzle. The sheer volume of your raw sermon prep materials are overwhelming. You know that you need to take that material and turn it into a sermon that is focused and easy to follow, but you find yourself getting lost in it all.

You've gone back through your preaching books to try to figure out how to best organize your sermon. You've googled 'sermon organization' or 'sermon outlines' but you're left with more questions. You're still in search of a path to turn your raw materials into a well-organized sermon.

7. Your sermon lacks an aim, a goal, a desperately urgent matter worthy of people's full, unwavering attention. So, instead of writing a message that opens people up to God's transforming power, it's just another day at church – the place lifelong churchgoers go before lunch out of routine.

You've convinced yourself that "people just don't care" and that they "need to get their priorities right." And maybe you're right, on some level. But while you've become more cynical, you've robbed yourself (and your people) of the gift of transformational preaching.

But I know that’s not where you want to stay. What you need is an approach to sermon design and sermon structure that helps you craft focused, tension-filled, gospel-centric, application-driven sermons every single week.

8. You try not to, but when you step into the pulpit, you flip on the preacher voice. It's so automatic, that you don't even notice you do it until your spouse, one day, asks you why you do that. And your people? They trust you, but not fully because when you're on stage you're a different person than when you talk to them in the halls five minutes after "amen.”

You've thought to yourself that you need to become more authentic when you preach. Just be yourself. And let God use you. But you don't know how to go about finding your voice. Instead, if you were honest, you know that you tend to sound more like your favorite preacher than you sound like yourself.

What you’re missing is the thing every Seminary should help students develop: a preaching manifesto that captures your voice and the unique calling God has given you so that you can preach as the person He has called YOU to be instead of trying to be someone else.

9. You either suffer from a perceived lack of energy or you come across someone who just downed three 5-Hour Energy bottles. And it's not really your fault. Your preaching courses (if you had any) focused more on exegesis than dynamic sermon delivery. But your people think you lack conviction due to your lack of energy. Or they're distracted by your projectile energy levels.

If (and that's a big "if") you're even aware of this... You want to improve your preaching delivery, but you don't know where to turn. So you watch other people's sermons. And you might have even watched your own sermons. But you're not sure what to work on (or how to work on it).

Luckily, learning to deliver sermons in an engaging way is something you can learn. You can learn to use your energy to help instead of hinder your message. Along with all the other fundamentals of powerful sermon delivery.

10. You spend more time making eye contact with your notes than the people you're preaching to. So all throughout your message, you lack a real connection with your people. You're up on stage. They're in the pews. And between you and them is a large chasm. The sermon has become a public speaking presentation instead of a pastoral and prophetic trialogical encounter between you (the preacher), them (the congregation), and the Spirit of God.

You want to have less dependency on your notes, but you don't know how to do it. You know that it would be best to wean yourself from a manuscript and go up to the pulpit with less notes, but you've been doing it this way for so long that you're not even sure you can do it.

What you need is a practical approach and plan paired with a new mindset when it comes to your notes. You can free yourself from your notes. After all, the sermon isn’t your notes. The sermon is what you proclaim.

Here’s the good news

You can overcome all of these preaching problems.

And that’s exactly what I’ll help you do in Sticky Sermons Academy. Click here to learn more and enroll.

Write sermons that stick!

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