Improving My Preaching

Improving My Preaching:  25 Hours of Prep Part 1

God has used circumstance to challenge my preparation for preaching.  Scott Chapman, our pastor at The Chapel said in a sermon that he usually spent 25 hours or so a week preparing to deliver his sermons.  Within a week or two I had a conversation with Bill Bertsche of Moody Church who said that he and others who preached at that church spent 25 hours in preparation.  I have never spent that long in preparation.  When I have spent 10 hours I have thought I was spending a long time in prep.

In an effort to improve my preaching I am going to see what happens when I use 25 hours.  I have also asked the pastoral department at Moody Bible Institute if I can attend their preaching classes.  I am also (gulp) asking for feedback from those who have heard me preach, so that they can let me know where I need to grow.

I have four messages to deliver in April and May.  Two are prescribed passages which I will preach at Warrenville Bible Chapel on April 3rd and 10th. They are Genesis 40 and 41 respectively.  The second pair of preaching opportunities are in May at Chinese Christian Union Church.  I will use the Colossians 3 and Deuteronomy 6 for each week there.

Today I will spend an hour repeatedly and reflectively reading through Genesis 40.  Here is the text in the ESV, but I will also read it in multiple versions:

Some time after this, the cupbearer of the king of Egypt and his baker committed an offence against their lord the king of Egypt. And Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guard appointed Joseph to be with them, and he attended them. They continued for some time in custody.

And one night they both dreamed—the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison—each his own dream, and each dream with its own interpretation. When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they were troubled. So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in custody in his master’s house,“Why are your faces downcast today?” They said to him, “We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.” And Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.”

So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph and said to him, “In my dream there was a vine before me, 10 and on the vine there were three branches. As soon as it budded, its blossoms shot forth, and the clusters ripened into grapes. 11 Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.” 12 Then Joseph said to him, “This is its interpretation: the three branches are three days. 13 In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office, and you shall place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand as formerly, when you were his cupbearer. 14 Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house. 15 For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, andhere also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit.”

16 When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was favourable, he said to Joseph, “I also had a dream: there were three cake baskets on my head, 17 and in the uppermost basket there were all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating it out of the basket on my head.” 18 And Joseph answered and said, “This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days. 19 In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head—from you!—and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat the flesh from you.”

20 On the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday, he made a feast for all his servants and lifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants. 21 He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.22 But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them.23 Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.

The Holy Spirit is working.  As I was reading the passage multiple times I noticed an advertisement at the top of the page which said it was offering a free download of Dale Caregie’s guide to help improve public speaking.  The link is .  I feel led to depart from reading the text after the third read through and to read the guide.  The first point is that the speaker must spend multiple years in preparation, if possible.  It seems more than coincidence that Dale Carnegie should be making the same point that I have been receiving from other locations.  The whole of Dale Carnegie’s pamphlet is available by following the link above, but here are the main points:

How to Make Rapid and Easy Progress in Learning to Speak in Public In the last analysis, all art is autobiographical. You can sing only what you are. You can paint only what you are. You can write only what you are. You can speak only what you are. You must be what your experiences, your environment, and your heredity have made you. For better or for worse, you must cultivate your own garden. For better or for worse, you must play your own instrument in life’s orchestra. As Emerson said in his essay, “Self-reliance”:Speak about something that: (a) You have earned the right to talk about through study and experience; (b) You are excited about; and (c) You are eager to tell your listeners about. I. Make brief notes of the interesting things you want to mention. II. Don’t write out your talks. III. Never, never, never memorize a talk word for word. IV. Fill your talk with illustrations and examples. V. Know far more about your subject than you can use. VI. Rehearse your talk by conversing with your friends. VII. Instead of worrying about your delivery, find ways of improving it. VIII. Don’t imitate others; be yourself.

Now I am much more motivated to read the text.


About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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