Can Preaching Be Improved?

I read a blog post by a seminary professor that humorously answered this question by saying, “No, of course not. I’m just doing this for the money.”

Can preaching be taught? Why would I suggest that preachers should intentionally strive to get better in their ministry of preaching?

First Timothy was Paul’s letter to his true son in the faith, Timothy. His purpose was to give instruction on church matters and how a pastor like Timothy should conduct himself with and in front of his congregation. There was indecision in Timothy’s heart, perhaps because of his age, and Paul sought to embolden him. In chapter 4, verses 11-16, the great apostle mentions three arenas in which Timothy was to redouble his resolve: his example, his preaching/teaching ministry, and his spiritual gift. He was to make progress in all three areas.”Practice these things”, Paul instructed, “immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.” (1 Timothy 4:15) Through concentration and perseverance, young Timothy would make visible progress in his preaching and teaching ministry (v.13). And in someway that we may struggle to understand, whether he did so or not was an issue impacting salvation (v.16).

The call to improvement in preaching has nothing to do with age but everything to do with attitude. (If the relevance of this imperative to improve doesn’t apply to every preacher, then how could we assert that other parts of 1 Timothy are relevant to pastoral ministry today.)

We’ve all heard the old adage about not being able to teach an old dog new tricks. But this is only true if the proverbial old dog thinks that new tricks are only for puppies. An old dog can possess the attitude of a puppy and learn every new trick that he needs to learn.

Someone recently said something memorable to me. He said, “The apostle Paul has no category for a preacher who thinks that he has peaked in his preaching ministry.” In other words, Paul’s admonition to Timothy to make progress in his preaching and teaching ministry was a universal imperative and one that every herald of the gospel must take seriously.