So I surrendered to preach, and I was to preach for my first time on our bus route. We had 40 kids on there, and I had a sermon on Salvation. HOW WAS I TO PRESENT THIS MESSAGE? This was the question in my mind. My first thought was to be original. Well, the only problem was I didn’t know how to be original. I didn’t know how to be me! All I knew was how to be Dr. So & So! I won’t say who, but there was a big name preacher I almost idolized as a young preacher. I was about to become him for 5 minutes while preaching my John 3:16 message. I got up, cleared my throat, gave my best 5-minute impersonation of Dr. So & So, and sat up with my head swole up the size of a beach ball.
The only problem was that I hadn’t connected with those bus kids! This wasn’t the only time this happened. Right before I went off to Bible College, there was a camp meeting preacher who had become quite a big deal amongst the group of churches I ran with at that time. He was funny, had tons of stories, was really loud, and was a great entertainer and preacher. Oh, I had to be him! So I tried his jokes, I preached with his hack! This even went so far that when I was in Bible College, I was known as Little (Insert preacher’s first name here). The only problem was when I preached in my college chapel, I didn’t connect with them.
When I was pastoring, I’d listen to my current pastor, Austin Gardner. I’d hear him preach chapter by chapter through books of the Bible and give his “Tennessee Hillbilly” version of what it said and really simplify deep truths quite well. I’d hear it, and I’d pick my book of the Bible to preach through. I’d get up and try to be Mr. World Evangelism, but I was a sad facsimile thereof, and many times I didn’t connect with those I pastored.
What was the problem? Why couldn’t I connect? Well, the reason was that for some reason, those people came to hear ME preach! They expected to hear Dustin Brown, and what they got was a sad copy of Dr. Big Name, Bro. Camp Meeting, and Mr. World Evangelism. A valuable lesson to learn is when you get into the pulpit, be you!
Be you preaching the Bible. Be you filled with the Spirit. Be you used by God, but by all means, please be YOU! If not, that sermon won’t go over with the listeners. They’ll see right through it! People don’t want sad copies; they want you! They want you full of Bible and full of passion! So BE YOU! Tell stories that happened in your life, use quotes and verses that God has moved in your heart with, preach in the style that God has given you, but by all means, be you! So how do you learn how to be you in the pulpit? Let me give you three tips on how to be you in the pulpit.
1. Watch out listening to one specific podcast preacher.
Back in my day, it was listening to preaching tapes. What I always found was that when I only listened to one preacher, I’d become him in the pulpit. When I was pastoring, I had 3 or 4 cassette tape sets of sermons by a certain pastor in TX. I listened to those tapes every time I was in my office. After about a month of this, my wife told me one Sunday afternoon, “You were too much like Bro. (Insert name) and not enough like you, and it’s helping no one.” I looked back over the last few weeks’ sermons, and I wasn’t connecting. It’s good to listen to others’ preaching. Preaching is caught rather than taught, BUT listening to one preacher will turn you into a copy cat. Listen to different preachers, different styles, different approaches because if not, you’ll become a pulpit plagiarizer.
2. Preach passages that God has used to move your heart.
Don’t preach a passage until God has changed your heart with that passage of scripture. I think it is important to be a Bible preacher, but I think it is just as important to be a passionate Bible preacher. Bible truth is not meant to be dry; it’s meant to be red hot and living. The point here is when a passage has moved your heart, you are less likely to try to be someone else and more likely to be you moved by that passage.
3. Preach to please God and not man
I realized that in every account, I was trying to please the listeners instead of God. Because of that, I grasped for the preacher and style that I saw everyone enjoying. When we preach to please God, we are ourselves because we realize that preaching that pleases God is passionate, Biblical, Spirit-filled preaching. That kind of preaching can’t be done when we are trying to be someone else.
I pray today that whether you are a Sunday School teacher, preacher, pastor, missionary, or Evangelist, that you’ll take heed and be yourself when presenting the truths of the Bible. Because if you don’t, you will muddy the water with personalities.