Pastor to Pastor: 4 Ways to Develop Your Preaching Voice

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 Don’t get me wrong, I still have my reserved or withdrawn tendencies.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…

BTW: My new book of my blogs came out. Click on the image to order yours!!

 

Pastor to Pastor: 5 Questions About Pastoral Transitions

Yesterday was the anniversary of my resignation of my last pastoral position. The transition was fantastic as was my tenure there. Serving at Christian Celebration Center were 7 of the greatest years of my life (thank you to Facebook and their “memories” feature for the reminder). 

These past 24 hours, combined with the past few pastor-to-pastor blogs, has brought up a thought of pastoral transitions. 

Do all pastors know how to leave churches appropriately? Judging by numbers of congregants I’ve encountered: no.

I’M NOT AN EXPERT IN THIS. Why? Because I don’t have extensive experience with personal resignations (which I celebrate and give God the glory for). In 19 years of ministry, I have held 3 positions including my current one. But being a Lead Pastor and being networked with numbers of other pastors, I have had extensive experience in talking men and women through this tough experience. 

5 Questions you should be asking when it comes to pastoral transition: 

What does your spouse say?

When I talk with pastors, I always ask about their spouse. Why? The two become one. And listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit on transitions, I believe, should be done in the oneness of the marriage. Any transition I have done, I refused to do without the prayer and input of my wife, Anne.  There should be red flags going up if you and your spouse don’t/won’t communicate and work together during these times.  We do not move anywhere unless we both have the peace that passes understanding.

Pray IN the oneness of marriage. Hear IN the oneness of marriage. Walk IN the oneness of marriage.

Why are you leaving? 
– Are you sensing the Holy Spirit leading you in a new direction?
– Do you sense a close of a season of ministry where you are at?
– Are you being transitioned out because of a change in leadership?
– Are you in a place of fracture?
– Have sinful decisions put you in a place of having to transition out? 

The answer encompasses two things: listening to God and honesty with yourself. First, how closely are you listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit?Have you and your spouse spent time fasting and praying over this? Do you both have a peace about leaving? It can be quit easy to listen to our emotions.  Being wanted by another church/pastor is flattering and (if I can say it this way) seductive.  I have to always remind myself: open doors do not necessarily mean they were meant to be walked through. On the other side of our emotions, we can allow hurt and frustration to fool us into thinking a door is closing.  I’ve been there.  And I have to remind myself that my emotions are real and important but were never designed to rule my life. Like the Psalmist (Psalms 42-43), we need to steward our emotions and make sure we’re listening to the Holy Spirit for direction.

Secondly, sometimes we pastors can over-spiritualize the departure and never be truly honest about the “why” of our leaving.  An honest approach makes us confront the issues at hand and help us move toward the healing we AND a congregation needs.  Are you needing the transition? Is the congregation needing the transition? Has God brought the season to a close? The answer can vary but it needs to be honest. And the more forthright you are with the reason, the greater opportunity for God to help.  Bring it into the light. Are you hurt? Be honest with yourself about it. Do you feel a release? Be honest with yourself about it.

Who is advising you?

The bible says, “Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.” I learned a long time ago, the enemy works in isolation, God works in community. Bring community around you that has a heart after God, a love for you, and the guts to shoot straight. It’s not about seeking voices to make you feel better, but you need Godly wisdom to help you through this. Find two types of counsel. Get some “Barnabas” people (peers).  These are encouragers who are in similar places where you are at. They’ll connect with you because they’re in somewhat identical elements.  BUT…make sure you get the other type of counsel. Get some “Paul” people (mentor). These are wiser people who, perhaps, are people who have walked this road before. I value the input by older wiser pastors. Their wisdom is of immense proportion to me and decisions I make. 

How are you leaving?

There’s a couple of statements I make to every person who contacts me regarding a resignation: “Don’t leave in a way to make yourself feel better or justified. Leave in a way that is going to give God glory.”  You leaving shouldn’t invoke any type of spirit of retribution or anger. On the other side, don’t leave like a diva (trying to center everything about you).  The church you are leaving is staying put and they need to think about the next step. If they want to honor you when you leave, that’s fine. It’s a good thing. But when you start making diva-demands about how you are to be honored, you are treading on dangerous ground.

This isn’t YOUR church. This isn’t YOUR ministry. This is the Lord’s church.  Just as much as you expect those who leave the church you pastor in a respectful, Godly way…you are no different. We walk in submission to His Lordship. Leave in a way that leaves a Christ-like taste on the pallets of people’s spirits. 

What’s my next step? 
– Where are you going?
– Do you, your marriage, or your children/family need healing? 
– Do you need a sabbatical from ministry?
– Should vocational ministry the right next step?
– Are you seeking/needing help?

The highest calling isn’t a ministry title; it’s obedience.  Be obedient to the next step that God has for you and your family regardless of the “title” (or lack thereof).  

I’ll never forget what my dad spoke into my life back in high school. “David, no one can tell you God’s will for your life. You need to hear from the Holy Spirit yourself.” I’ve valued that wisdom. It doesn’t mean I don’t seek advice of other pastors and leaders. It doesn’t mean I reject counsel. But Anne and I need to be sensitive to His leading on what the next step is. Do you need healing? Before stepping back into vocation ministry, get some healing. Is God leading you away from vocational ministry? Then be obedient.  Having “Pastor” in front of your name does not make you a second-class minister in the Kingdom of God. Just be obedient to how and where the Holy Spirit is leading.  Find the next step and take it no matter how small or big it is.

Your responsibility: obedience to the next step.
God’s responsibility: everything else.

He is faithful. He will equip you. He will guide you.  

Regardless of the reason, transitions are difficult. There’s a lot going on and a lot of pieces moving.  But in whatever you face and whatever changes happen, do everything in a manner that exalts the name of Jesus.

I love you all.  I pray that God would bless you, keep you, and make His face shine upon you. Let His countenance turn toward you and grant you peace.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…