Practice Doesn’t Make Preaching Perfect

There’s a myth that says, “Practice makes perfect.” But there’s also a fairly common rebuttal that says, “Practice doesn’t make perfect; practice makes permanent.”

Whether you are a musician, an athlete, a communicator, or whatever, just because you do something over and over doesn’t mean you’re getting better at it. You may simply be reinforcing bad habits!

I’ve heard John Maxwell say, “Practice doesn’t make perfect; practice with evaluation makes perfect.” Practicing with evaluation and reflection is how we grow. That’s certainly true in preaching!

Preachers must constantly make adjustments in order to become better communicators. Occasionally, after preaching, I will list some adjustments I need to make, such as, “too much information; leave more on the ‘cutting room floor,'” “be further ahead by Thursday morning,” “create more tension in the opening,” “include more practical examples,” “do a better job of internalizing the text,” etc.

During my preaching journey, I’ve tried to make some adjustments. The biggest change I’ve ever made was transitioning to a one-point preaching approach in 2006 (after reading Andy Stanley and Lane Jones’ book, Communicating for a Change). In more recent years, I’ve been investing more time and effort in growing as a communicator, with an emphasis on sermon preparation (see Preaching Requires Investment).

One area that has undergone constant development over the course of my ministry is how I use sermon notes, which I wrote about a few years ago. Basically, I’ve tried many different approaches: handwritten or printed half sheets hidden in my Bible, a small notebook, one 8.5×11 sheet, a storymap, etc. More recently, as I’ve been using fewer and fewer notes, I’ve been limiting my notes to one post-it note (or preferably, no notes at all). The bottom line is, you have to find what works best for you. I’ve discovered that the more detailed my notes are, the more scripted and inhibited I feel (and I hate that feeling)!

While all of this is secondary to time with God and cultivating our relationships with God, we still have a responsibility to develop and grow the gifts God has given us to communicate God’s message!

What adjustments have you made along the way? What adjustments do you need to make next?

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