Most of my recorded sermons are on cassette tapes. I know what you are thinking. I am old.
I served as pastor of four churches and as interim pastor of nine churches. Many of the churches recorded my sermons and distributed them via cassette tapes. There are a lot of my sermons out there. I cringe thinking about someone listening to them today.
I am not, nor was I ever, a good preacher. My words are not those of false humility. They are frank reflections of reality. Here are some of the reasons my past sermons are really bad.
1. I did not deal with the biblical text sufficiently. As I have listened to pastors in recent years, I am grateful for their solid biblical exposition. But my sermons mostly did not dig deeply into the text.
2. My sermons had too many illustrations. One of the reasons I did not deal well with the biblical text was my overdependence on illustrations. I told too many stories instead of dealing with God’s story.
3. I was dependent on emotions too often. I used emotional illustrations often. I added humor too frequently. I was sadly dependent on emotionally moving the hearers rather than leaving the work to the Holy Spirit.
4. Some of my sermons reflected insufficient preparation. In most of my churches, I preached two different sermons, one on Sunday morning and one on Sunday night. In addition, I prepared two Bible studies, one for a small group class I taught and one for Wednesday night services. Instead of doing one sermon well each week, I prepared several sermons poorly.
5. I did not give sermons priority in my ministry. Too often I let the tyranny of the urgent replace a needed focus on my preparation and preaching. My use of time in ministry reflected poor stewardship.
I apologize to those of you who sat under my preaching. It is my prayer that God used my preaching despite me. I could have done better. I should have done better.
Somewhere in my house are several boxes containing hundreds of cassettes. My wife probably does not want them destroyed. She will likely want our three sons to have them. I cringe at the thought of the three of them laughing heartily as they listen to their old man trying to preach. I cringe even more thinking about my grandchildren getting the cassettes.
For those of you who are new in the preaching world, please consider my counsel. Do the opposite of what I did, and you will do well as a preacher.
And if you happen to come across one of my old sermons on a cassette, please destroy it immediately.
The world will be a better place for your diligence.
Posted on February 27, 2023
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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Jesus used a lot of stories and illustrations. Paul did not, both seemed to work.
Often times people connect emotionally before they connect intellectually.
I do not know how much time is needed for sermon prep, but people also take a lot of time, that makes for a tough balance.
I am concerned in your own self evaluation you may now espouse another imbalance in the other direction.
Thank you for the caution, Doug.
This is a great idea I have gotten this morning from a great preacher. But I don’t think our father in the Lord preach his sermons without being inspired by the Holy spirit and God. So those sermons are still genius and they are the pictures of great humility and I beg the younger generation to imitate the same pattern of preaching. Weldone Pastor. God bless you and your generation
I was saddened by your judgement of yourself, Thom. Your list of ‘failings’ are part of the incarnational nature of preaching. People were blessed by them, or they would not have been reproduced and listened to. People remember good stories – this is why illustrations are so important. You might have the most erudite exposition of a text, and find that most of your pearls would get lost because of the lack of illustrations. We live in story, which is part of the reason Jesus told so many.
And, we are emotional beings – God created us that way – it’s when the heart is touched that there is greater possibility for life change than just reaching the mind.
After 30+ years of preaching (only 2 parishes) – the reason that I would cringe at the though of anyone listening to anything older than a maximum of 10 years is that I’ve grown, and may not see things quite as I saw them. I imagine that the same will be true 10 years from now.
This just motivated me to prepare more when I’m about to preach.
As a 25-year-old Pastor of a local church, I don’t want to look behind and feel sorry for those who sat under my ministration decades back.
Thanks for this!
A great seminary professor told our class of future preachers a few things I’ve never forgotten. 1) You can’t top yourself every week. That’s impossible. You’ll have some good ones and you’ll have some train wrecks. Just keep getting back up there and be faithful to expose the Word honestly. 2) Your sermons are not going to change people. Yes you want to engage people, but if your aim is to dynamically transform people – keep in mind that’s God’s job. He does the changing. You deliver the message. 3) He also said it takes about 5 years of preaching every week for a pastor to hit their stride in message prep and delivery. I’m 8 years in and ‘Ive gotten better, but I still feel like a middle schooler trying to teaching a master’s class most of the time.