How to Be Mentored for Preaching


[The following is a guest post by Pastor Casey McCall, Pastor of Students and Discipleship at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church]

Preaching is hard work. In fact, I’ve never met a preacher who was happy with his first sermon, and I talk to many who are perpetually dissatisfied with their own progress. Just like painting or carpentry or baseball, proficiency in the art of preaching sermons comes only through prayer, hard labor, and tears. I’ve met many young preachers who have had natural communication skills and good pulpit presence, but who left a lot to be desired once they stood up before the people of God with a Word from God.

Since 2004, I have had the privilege of being mentored in preaching by David Prince and Jeremy Haskins, two men who I now have the privilege of serving alongside on the pastoral staff of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. Whatever progress I’ve personally made in preaching over these past eleven years is partly the result of having powerful, Christ-centered expository sermons modeled week after week by these men from the pulpit. However, they have not left me to my own devices. While listening to them weekly has certainly been helpful, I have benefited the most from listening to these men tear my sermons apart and offer constructive feedback.

Every preacher needs a mentor who will help him along in this difficult task. With that need in mind, I offer three tips for how to get the most out of being mentored in preaching:

Remember that you’re not nearly as good as you think you are

Humility is the first step toward being effectively mentored. I’ll never forget the praise heaped on me by well-intentioned elderly ladies the first few times I preached in church. My head would grow so large I could barely fit through the sanctuary doors as I took to heart the praise and admiration of my many fans. I just knew that I was the next Charles Spurgeon in the making. It was just a matter of time before I took over preaching in a prominent church where thousands would flock to listen to me.

A few weeks ago, I visited with a dear family experiencing tragedy in the hospital. The mother complimented me in this way: “You have grown so much as a preacher. I love hearing you preach now, but it wasn’t always like that. When you first started, I used to think to myself, ‘Oh great.’” The irony is that I’m less confident now than I was then. Every preacher needs to meditate long and hard on Gal. 6:3, “For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”

The truth is that you can’t be mentored unless you think you need to be mentored, and trust me, you need to be mentored.

Remember that you only improve at preaching by preaching

You don’t get better at preaching by reading books about preaching. Books often help, but what you need more than anything else is to preach. If someone asks you to preach, don’t hesitate. Don’t act like you’ve got too much to do. What could be more important than preaching God’s Word? You go to seminary to be trained to preach, not to have an excuse ready when you’re asked to preach.

Perhaps you’re in a church where there’s not a lot of opportunities to preach. Who ever said preaching had to be done in a church service? The first place I ever preached was the Rescue Mission in Dothan, Alabama once per month. These weren’t good sermons by any stretch, but I got the gospel out. You can preach at nursing homes or youth groups or even on street corners.

If you really want to learn to preach, you need to preach and preach often. Then you need to record those sermons and ask the person who is mentoring you to give you honest, nothing-held-back feedback.

Handle Criticism Wisely

Preaching is different than a lot of other skills. Everyone tends to think they know something about preaching. If you were being trained by an astrophysicist, you would probably shut your mouth and listen to whatever he had to say. But you’ve listened to John Piper and read some of Spurgeon’s sermons. You already know what good preaching is. The faster you get this notion out of you mind, the better.

Prov. 9:8-9 says, “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” There is much wisdom in humbly listening to your mentor and taking every single criticism to heart.

There’s a reason you’re seeking to be mentored by him. He knows more than you about preaching. Don’t be a fool. Close you mouth and open your ears.

By |November 13th, 2015|Categories: Blog|

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