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How Not To Preach Boring: Practical Preaching Advice from Kevin DeYoung

Probably because he’s one of my favorite writers, but one of the highlights from my first semester at Covenant Theological Seminary was hearing Kevin DeYoung give a series of lectures on preaching. Several seminary students and I got to listen to DeYoung speak live in our chapel. And then we got to spend time with him after his lectures for a more personalized “Q&A” session on preaching. The insights that he gave on preaching are things I’m still thinking about today.

Preaching advice from Kevin DeYoung

In this article, I’ll give you some of those insights. I took a lot of notes in Evernote as DeYoung spoke. Admittedly, the notes are a bit sloppy, sporadic, and at times abrupt. But that’s the nature of note-taking during a live speaker.

With that in mind, the notes have been edited for space and clarity. But none of DeYoung’s thoughts have been altered. You can find the notes below.

Practical Preaching Advice from Kevin DeYoung

“The title of my lectures are, ‘How Not to Preach Boring.'”

“The seven points in my lecture today are veracity, clarity, specificity, ingenuity, authenticity, spontaneity, and authority.”

1. Veracity 

“Read God’s Word, and spend some time giving people the accurate meaning of it.”

“Your best content from preaching should be things you learned and discovered in preparation from studying the text. Not from stories or personal testimonies, but from the text.”

“What gets John Piper excited the most is what he sees in the text. What should get you the most excited is what you see in the text.”

“You’re going to burn yourself out if you’re constantly trying to have your best stuff derive from jokes and stories. You should be consumed by the text.”

“Aim first to be a congregational preacher, not a conference preacher.”

“People should have to hold and open their Bibles while you preach.”

“The preacher is at his best when he is closest to the text.”

[share-quote author=”Kevin DeYoung” via=”DavidQaoud”] “The preacher is at his best when he is closest to the text.”[/share-quote]

2. Clarity 

“After veracity, clarity is king.”

“The goal in preaching is not to be thought as clever and smart, but to be understood.”

“Simplicity is the best sign of a good teacher.”

“Art makes bad preaching. Movies make bad preaching. Poetry makes bad preaching. Why? Because there’s too much subtly. They’re great, but it’s not preaching. Preaching should be simple and clear.”

“There can be drama and subtly within the sermon, but you must land in a place that is crystal clear and understandable.”

Quotes Alistair Begg: “Read yourself full. Write yourself clear.  Pray yourself hot.  Preach yourself empty.”

“Don’t leave it to Sunday morning to make your points clear.”

Quotes C.S. Lewis: ”You are not brilliant if you can’t make your brilliant ideas understood.”

“Ask yourself this: ‘Is your sermon a laser or a mist?'”

“Pray for clarity, especially when you don’t want it. The early church prayed that they would preach the Word with boldness. I would have thought that they would have prayed for a change in circumstances.”

“Boldness in preaching is not bravado or arrogance or decibels. Boldness is the ability to be clear in the face of fear. And that’s what you have to do as a preacher.”

“So find out what the passage says, and say it as clear as possible.”

3. Specificity 

“We have to be mindful of who is in front of us when preaching. The people who you’re preaching to are all not like you.”

“We tend to preach to our struggles and to the kind of people who are like us.”

“There is no substitute for knowing your people.”

“There is no other place than I would rather preach than my home church.”

“There’s some value in knowing the culture. It is of some value, but it is of much less value than knowing the people you’re preaching to on Sundays.”

Four Groups DeYoung tries to reach every week:

1) The weary
2) The wandering
3) The lazy
4) The lost

“Some sermons need to be a trumpet blast, but if all you ever do is blow the trumpet, you’ll blow people’s ears offs.”

Quotes Tim Keller: “If you listen to one preacher, you become a clone. If you listen to two preachers, you develop good habits. If you listen to a lot, you become wise.”

“Beware of preaching unknown battles to your people.”

“Beware of primarily preaching the sins of others.”

4. Ingenuity 

“As the preacher, you must be resourceful, inventive, and hard-working.”

The four things DeYoung aims for when preaching:

1. Explain
2. Apply
3. Illustrate
4. Defend

“Reformed folks like to explain but sometimes we do it too much.”

“One of the marks of good preaching is pacing. You get the sense that you know where the preacher is going.”

“What made Martyn Lloyd-Jones so powerful was that he made application at every point.”

“The purpose of a good illustration is that it is supposed to shed light, not so that people stare at it. They’re windows that provide clarity, not just to get stared at.”

“Study and save and defend illustrations.”

“At the end of your illustrations and points, defend.”

“Work hard at certain sentences and lines.”

“When I have a hard time putting a sermon structure together, it is usually because: 1) I have too much, and 2) I don’t know what I’m arguing.”

“The point of your points in the sermon is so that people can track with you and understand the text, not so that they would remember the points.”

“Don’t read John Stott’s outline until you have your own.”

“One of my great weaknesses is that I give too much content when I preach. You and I must learn how to prune our sermons.”

“I’ve never heard a sermon that could not have been a little shorter.”

“How long should you preach? Know your congregation. Sometimes I preach for 45 minutes, but you may not. Know your people.”

5. Authenticity 

“I’m not a big fan of this word.”

“By authentic, I mean you are yourself.”

“And I mean you are gripped by the gospel message.”

“Famous definition of preaching: ‘Truth through personality.’ I don’t think we should be overly dogmatic about stories and humor. It depends on your personality.'”

“None of you can preach like Tim Keller. You just can’t. You need to find your own voice.”

Quotes D.A. Carson: “People don’t learn what you teach them. They learn what you’re excited about.”

“We pass on to others what we feel from ourselves.”

“At the end of my sermons, I sometimes say, ‘Some of you have never trusted in Christ. You know he’s speaking to you and you keep ignoring it.’ End with a personal, passionate plea of the gospel like this.'”

6. Spontaneity

“Don’t just preach the text; preach the mood of the text.”

(Note: I was not able to capture much for the sixth point because I left for an appointment. I pick up with point seven below).

7. Authority 

“When Jesus preached, people didn’t say, ‘Wow, look how smart and wonderful and amazing he is.'” “They said, ‘here is a man of authority.’”

“If you get one thing out of this lecture today, get this: Do you really believe the Word of God will do the work of God?”

[share-quote author=”Kevin DeYoung” via=”DavidQaoud”] “Do you really believe the Word of God will do the work of God?” [/share-quote]

“Preach with authority. Not because you have confidence in yourself, but because you have confidence in God’s Word.”

“Your effectiveness in the Word of God will determine the fruitfulness of your ministry.”

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