20 Things I’ve Learned About Preaching So Far

I’ve developed a number of convictions that drive my preaching. Week after week these things influence my preparation and approach. I’ve only been preaching weekly for about four years, so I’m sure this list will grow and change over time.


This is not an exhaustive list and is given in no particular order.

  1. The point of the Bible’s text should be the point of the sermon.
  2. It’s the preacher’s job to make the audience care about listening. If they’re not engaged, it’s his fault.
  3. The gospel needs to be preached as the solution rather than just telling people to try harder.
  4. The preacher must demonstrate care for his listeners as people and not just care for his message.
  5. Illustrations and stories are what people often remember.
  6. Illustrations can easily overshadow the point or be self-indulgent. Beware.
  7. People don’t remember what you say. They remember what you emphasize and get excited about.
  8. Ezra 7:10 says that “Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules.” The order matters.
  9. Preach to the heart. Motivation to change almost always comes from connecting with the truth at an emotional level.
  10. Every sermon should be understandable and challenging to both Christians and non-Christians.
  11. It’s your job to prepare the meal, set the table and not drop the food. It’s God’s job to make it taste good.
  12. Your ability to communicate fluently is dependent on how much you’ve internalized the material.
  13. Details make things more engaging, especially in using stories or illustrations.
  14. It’s easier to discover what the passage says and means than it is to surgically apply it to daily life.
  15. People love to be challenged if they believe you have their best interest at heart.
  16. A wise preacher checks with his wife before using her or the kids as an illustration.
  17. People don’t remember much of what you say, so don’t be too discouraged when it goes poorly or too excited when it goes well.
  18. Preaching two services helps you improve twice as fast.
  19. The only way to improve at preaching is to do it.
  20. If you sweat, use a black towel.


Which of these lessons resonate with you the most? Why?

Published by Luke Simmons

I was born and raised in Denver, CO and lived there through high school. Then I moved to Champaign, IL where I attended the University of Illinois and played on the Fighting Illini baseball team. I was married in December, 2001 to Molly, who I met at the U of I. In June of 2002, we moved to Phoenix and have been here ever since.

7 thoughts on “20 Things I’ve Learned About Preaching So Far

  1. I love this list, Luke.

    While I understand what you are saying on point #2, I would also suggest that the listener bares responsibility to be engaged, especially as they are maturing in their faith. I know that as a 16 year old Christian, I prepare myself to listen to sermons in a better way than I did as a 3 year old Christian.

    Your point #3 has radically changed my life. Thanks again for sharing your insights, very helpful.

    1. Dale, in the big picture you are absolutely right, but we have no control over what other people do to prepare. I can control my content and the way I deliver it so I can walk into that room thinking it’s all on me. I’ve heard it said, “work like it’s all up to you and pray like it’s all up to God.” I think it’s too easy a temptation to simply blame the audience for their lack of engagement.

  2. #4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13…but especially #15…I love a good challenge, especially a God-centered one. When you present a “challenge”, it’s obvious that you are doing so with a heart for the people in the congregation and our walk with the Lord. Thanks for sharing your list, Luke. #20 is just hysterical…but TRUE!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Ellen! I’m so encouraged by how you respond to challenge. Makes me want to keep doing it.

  3. Literally slouched in my chair and sighed when I saw #5. You redeemed yourself with #6.

    A Catholic friend asked me last Friday why our sermons were so long. I told him we just have a really high view of Scripture and like to spend as much time in it as possible.

    But after thinking about that, that only shows itself to be true if most of the teaching time is actually spent in the Scriptures. Not at all saying that the illustrations and storytelling are NEVER helpful, but to play on your #1 – the point of the sermon should be the point of the Bible’s text – the meat. Not all of the condiments.

    Was going to comment on #2 but Dale already did.

    Great list! Thanks for sharing these lessons!

    1. Thanks, Eugene. I wish #5 weren’t true…but it is. Hopefully remembering these stories also helps them remember the point being illustrated.

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