As a seminary professor (and a pastor) I spend a lot of time helping students grow and develop as preachers. After hearing a student preach, I will often get coffee or lunch with that student and we will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the sermon and how it can be improved.
Over the years, I have learned to ask students a key question that can reveal a lot about how they are developing as a preacher.
“What did you leave out?”
Most of the time that I ask that question I am met with a blank stare. Students expect to be asked about the content of the sermon—i.e., what was left in. But, they are not prepared to answer the question about what is left out. And there is a reason for that. Often, very little is left out.
One of the key mistakes of young preachers (and even some older preachers!) is to take all that they have learned during their sermon prep and to put it in their sermon. Every exegetical observation, every textual nuance, every connection with OT (or the NT), every analogy or illustration, makes it into the final version.
Of course, this is why sermons from seminary students are known for being extremely detailed, overly technical, and, often quite lengthy.
Why do seminary students tend to do this? [Continue reading]