Your love for preaching isn’t important. What’s important is whether you love the people to whom you’re preaching. In fact, the single most important key to being an effective communicator is your love for people.
The Bible says that if I “have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1 NKJV). You don’t want to be a clanging cymbal.
I say this with a great degree of humility that the people of Saddleback Church would follow me anywhere. Why? Because they know I love them. I’ve given them 40-plus years of my life. You can fake love for a year or two. You can’t fake it for 40 years.
You either love those you’re preaching to—or you don’t.
Before every message, I pray: “God, I love these people with all my heart. And they love me. And God, I love you, and you love me. You love these people, and I love them, and there is no fear in love. Perfect love casts out all fear. This is not an audience to be feared; this is a family to be loved. So Jesus Christ, love these people through me. Because if I don’t have love, I’m wasting my breath.”
Studies have shown that the number one factor in being a great communicator is likability. If people like you, they’ll listen to you. If they don’t like you, they won’t listen to you—even if you have the greatest message in the world.
How do you get people to like you? Love them. The church desperately needs great communicators who genuinely love people.
If you love people, you’ll want to become a better communicator of the Gospel. If you love your congregation, you know how desperately they need to hear God’s Word. You want to see them grow in Christ-likeness.
That’s why I want to encourage you to commit your life to becoming a master communicator who loves the people you’re preaching to.
And you can do that in three ways:
- Listen to sermons. Don’t just read sermons. Listen to them. You become a good communicator by listening to good communicators. When you listen to other preachers, you learn their timing, delivery, and where they pause in their sermons. You learn how to put sermons together by reading sermon outlines and transcripts, but you learn structure and delivery through listening.
- Practice preaching. Paul says, “Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:9 NLT). Just keep practicing. The more you preach, the better you’ll get.
- Ask God to help you become a better preacher. Never forget it’s not your words that matter. It’s God speaking through you. Jeremiah 1:9 says this of God, “Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, ‘I have put my words in your mouth’” (NIV). Ask God to speak through you.
You can pray something like this:
“God, I want you to use me, anytime, anywhere, and in any way. Help me to love the people you’ve given me to share your Word with. Help me to see them the way you do.
I want to be a workman who is not ashamed, someone who correctly handles the Word of truth. Help me to sharpen my skills. Help me to deepen my convictions. Help me to develop my character. Help me to expand my knowledge and to enlarge my perspective. Make me more like you. Forgive me for the times I haven’t prepared well. From this day forward, I commit to doing the hard work necessary to becoming a master communicator. Change me, grow me, and use me in ways I’ve never thought possible. Thank you for your grace.”
Don’t take your influence as a teacher of God’s Word for granted. Ask God to help you develop a deep love for the people you preach to.