My name is Dave, I am a natural introvert who absolutely loves to preach.
Sounds odd doesn’t it?
My craft and my demeanor don’t come natural; both have been (and still are) in a stage of development. Don’t get me wrong, I still have my reserved or withdrawn tendencies. But the nature of my vocation has drawn me out of the safety of my solitude to develop a side of me I never thought I could access.
Stepping into ministry, I had very little experience with preaching. My youth pastor granted me a couple of opportunities in youth group that stretched me beyond belief. In bible college, I preached a few times in homiletic class. Apparently I didn’t do so well as I had a couple of friends pull me aside and tell me that preaching wasn’t my “gift” and I would have “difficultly finding a position.”
In fact, after my very first Sunday morning sermon EVER, a lady approached me in the lobby right after and said, “Can you put in the church bulletin when the pastor is out of the pulpit so I can go somewhere else and actually get fed?” Awesome.
So, all in all, I was very “green” and in need of some shaping.
I remember in the first few months of ministry, my dad handed me a sermon series on cassette tapes from T.D. Jakes. I found myself listening to them while I’d set up for youth group. I cannot remember what the series was on, I only remember what it did in me. Regardless of what you think about Bishop Jakes, his style and presentation ignited my heart. I felt like the Holy Spirit spoke something to me that I’ll never forget:
My “preaching voice” was more than what I have been handed but a gift that needs be developed.
I’m working on a blog/message about pastoral evolution as, I believe, us pastors do not stop learning and growing. We should be able to look back and see patterns of growth and development. God has granted us positions and opportunities and with what God has given, we are called to be stewards. Stewards don’t bury the gift; they do something the gift. We do not sit on it, we manage and develop it. And, I believe, preaching is no exception.
You need develop your “preaching voice.” I’m not necessarily talking about having a certain tone or fluctuation (even though, that’s certainly part of it). I speak of growing and honing; learning and shifting. I’m not the same preacher I was 20 years ago (thank the Lord). I’m also not the same preacher I was 10 years ago. God has used seasons and examples to help “evolve” the mentality, passion, and presentation of how I proclaim the good news of Jesus.
So today, I thought I’d share how God’s has (and is still) helping me grow my “preaching voice.” My hopes is that you’d allow the voice you have to grow and develop in the hands of the Holy Spirit.
Don’t be T.D.
News flash, I’m not T.D. Jakes. Though imitation (I hear) is the highest form of flattery, I’m not called to be someone else; I’m called to be David Barringer. There’s a difference between “gleaning” and “being.” My insecurities can get the best of me and think, “if that works for him, maybe it’ll work for me.” Don’t allow your insecurities to rob you of the joy of proclaiming hope in Jesus because you are not [insert favorite preacher]. Do not allow envy of how someone preaches diminish (1) what God has blessed you with and (2) what He wants to develop in you. But that brings me to…
Don’t ignore T.D.
As much as I need to be “me,” I can glean from others as to hone my “voice.” You cannot get the attitude that you can’t listen to others so you can be yourself. As preachers, I think one of the best ways to fine-tune your voice is to listen to a variety of preaching voices in a variety of preaching genres.
I listen to a variety of others who’ve helps show me ways to grow in a variety of ways that have honed my “preaching voice.”
For passion in preaching, I’ve gleaned from Steven Furtick.
For raw authenticity, I’ve gleaned from Perry Noble (but I can’t say the raw things he says…I’d get fired).
For connecting scripture to every-day life, Lysa TerKeurst.
For getting people to laugh, Jim Gaffigan (yes I know he’s not a “preacher”).
For developing words and phrases to help people remember the message, Andy Stanley is great.
For conversational preaching, Levi Lusko is tremendous.
For story telling, Judah Smith is a favorite.
I could make a longer list of preachers with the likes of Beth Moore, Rob Ketterling, Jud Wilhite, Chris Hodges, Craig Groeschel, Mark Batterson and so many more. I’ll learn from anyone. Exposure is important and in the age of podcasts and video casts, there is literally no excuse why we can expose ourselves to a variety of voices to challenge and grow our own. Which leads me to…
The conjoined twins: Presentation and Preparation
When I get hear a presentation, I think about preparation. Presenting the message and how it’s prepared work hand-in-hand. As your preaching voice develops, so will the way you prepare. Why does that change? When you position yourself to be stretched in the “what” it directly challenges the “how.” Some areas that will go through some “evolution” will be:
Locations you study and locations you write (may not be the same).
Times you study and times you write (I’m a morning person, afternoons are for meetings).
Places and times to seek the face of God for direction (I prefer walks in solitude).
How to collect information (tools, journals, files in the cloud, etc.)
Where you collect the information from (books, blogs, preachers, etc).
Forecasting future messages (learning to plan ahead).
If I’m not preparing well, I can’t present well. And as much as these things are all a part of my week, I’ve held them loosely in my hands as to allow the Holy Spirit to shift them and change them a bit as to grow me. Which, lastly, leads me to…
Be overly sensitive
I’m not talking about being overly sensitive emotionally, but to be extremely sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. My desire is not to chase “change” and, in the same breath, not to fight “change.” I want to be constantly open to that which the Spirit of God wants to do in and through me and nothing is off-limits to Him. There was an old chorus I grew up on:
Change me Lord, into your image
Rearrange me Lord, cause me to grow
From glory to glory
Change me Lord I pray
Into your image more each day.
I cannot expect change in others I, myself, am not open to. And as I am open to the Holy Spirit, He helps guide the growth I need and the development of the message in my heart. I’ve watched Him use moments to fine-tune my life. I’ve seen the Holy Spirit open my eyes to life experiences to be used as sermon illustrations. The Holy Spirit is faithful and is always speaking. It’s just a matter of whether we will listen and obey.
There’s probably more to go into, but this is where I will stop. As I’ve said before, I’m not the same preacher I was 20 years ago or even 10 years ago and, I hope, to not be the same preacher after this next decade of ministry.
What are your influences? What has helped you grow your “preaching voice”?
Love you all. Praying over you as you to “proclaim the Message with intensity; keep on your watch. Challenge, warn, and urge your people. Don’t ever quit. Just keep it simple.”
Thanks for letting me ramble…