Top 10 Mistakes Preachers Make in Sermon Delivery

Sermon delivery. It’s an art, a moment, an experiential occasion. But sometimes it can seem like a train wreck. Often, the delivery of the sermon is the thing new preachers struggle with the most. But even some seasoned veterans still struggle with delivering sermons that both engage and edify.

Top 10 Mistakes Preachers Make in Sermon Delivery

I believe with all my heart that sermon delivery can be improved upon, but it takes intentionality. And the first step toward improvement is to recognize what not to do.

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Top 10 Mistakes Preachers Make in Sermon Delivery

1. Flip on the “preacher voice”

It’s one thing to elevate your energy since you’re speaking to a crowd, but it’s completely different to alter your voice altogether. Hey, it’s good to see you. How are you doing with the new job? The preacher sounded normal there.

But then they stepped into the pulpit…

Good morning, hallelujah. Let’s open up in our Bibles to the book of Isaiah.

All of a sudden, the preacher transformed into a golden radio voiced announcer at the local arena.

If this is you, here’s what that communicates: you’re being fake.

2. Walk into the pulpit underprepared

There may be nothing more detrimental to your sermon delivery than being underprepared.

Why?

Because when you don’t know what you’re going to say, you are chained to your notes or chained to your “uhms”.

Instead of being free to deliver the message with power and passion, you’re checking for directions, missing turns, trying to do u-turns, and looking around, wondering how to get to your destination.

3. Stare at the back wall

In most churches, if you stare at the back wall, everyone will notice.

Think about it.

If you’re having coffee with a friend and they look past you the entire time, you probably would either wonder if they even care about you or you would ask them if something is wrong.

Anytime someone avoids eye contact, we grow suspicious of that person.

If your goal is to communicate that your message is disconnected to everyone’s life, the back wall is a good place to stare at.

4. Don’t… move…

I promise it’s not a sin to step to the side of that wooden behemoth of a pulpit. This is especially important if your gathering space is set up wide.

If we don’t move our legs and our arms, we communicate a lack of energy.

It’s unnatural to stand still for long periods of time.

5. Keep your voice in the middle

We all have our natural talking voice. But it is always a mistake when preaching to keep our pitch and our volume in the middle the entire time.

Variance engages.

VARIANCE engages.

Variance ENGAGES.

Variance engages.

If you want to lull the congregation to sleep, keep the same speaking pattern. Always end a sentence low or always end a sentence high. These are surefire ways to help people catch up on Zzzz’s.

6. Show no emotion

This may sound crazy, but hear me out…

Your emotional expression is important. Feel something when you preach.

After all…

God created human beings with emotion. If your sermon displays a lack of emotion where it would be natural to show emotion, people will see you as disingenuous or disengaged.

Don’t just tell them about joy in Christ. Show them.

7. Keep your pace the same

Don’t ever pause. Don’t ever slow down. Don’t ever speed up. Just keep that pace the same. Nice and consistent. Cruise control is great…

In a car.

Not in the pulpit.

The power of the pause can’t be overstated if…

It’s placed in the right spot.

Again, variance. It engages.

8. Assume people know the Bible

We all know the story of Ehud…

Once you’ve said that, many in the room have packed up and checked out of their mental room. They don’t know Ehud nor do they know much of any other accounts from Scripture. And since they didn’t get an explanation, they’re wandering.

Assume people know the Bible and you’ll leave most of them at the train station while the train is picking up steam. They won’t even know how to get on.

9. Use colossal, gargantuan terminology

It’s better to use big words than it is to make sure people understand what you’re saying. At least they’ll walk away knowing a few words to look up on Google. Old English is preferable to Modern English. Thou shall be impressiveth to thee congregants.

*Insert sarcasm disclaimer.*

Big words might have been fun in Seminary, but if you want your sermons to connect with your congregation, it’s best they understand what it is that you’re saying.

Can you hear me now? Good.

10. Crash the landing

A plane in the air is only going to have future value if it lands properly. Think through your landing.

If there were a computer program to illustrate the path of a sermon, I’m afraid we’d see lots of nose dives at the end. Let’s not do that.

Turbulence is scary. Nose-diving and crashing is even scarier.

Plan the landing and stick it.

Improve Your Sermon Delivery

Improve Your Sermon Delivery: 5 Unexpected Steps

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Written by Brandon Kelley

Brandon Kelley is the co-founder of Rookie Preacher and the author of Preaching Sticky Sermons and Crucified to Life. He serves as the Senior Pastor of First Church of Christ in Bluffton, IN. Among the many things he does at The Crossing, serving on the teaching team is one of them. He also writes at BrandonKelley.org. You can follow him @BrandonKelley_. Watch his sermons here.