My Notes from Preach Better Sermons Online Conference

For anyone who missed the workshop on how to ‘Preach Better Sermons’. I watched it and decided to take notes for you (with help from my friends at Elim Gospel Church). This seminar was sponsored by Check out their website to see how this new service can help you be effective as a communicator and preacher.

Here are the main ideas/concepts shared during the conference. Enjoy.

Perry Noble is an author, speaker and Senior Pastor of NewSpring Church in South Carolina.

  • Why create a preaching calendar?
    I need to give my people time to prepare for creative elements. My job is to serve my team by planning in advance.
  • When did you discover you had a gift of preaching?
    One of the best sermon you could ever share . . . how you discovered Christ?
  • What do you do to get better as a preacher?
    Read Andy Stanley’s book, ‘Communicating for a Change‘. Trying to preach shorter messages. I’m going to be here a long time. I don’t need to try to say everything in one week. How can I say the ‘one’ thing.
  • How many times do you preach in the year?35-40 Times
  • How do I figure out what to preach on? 
    Nearly every idea I’ve preached came out of my quiet time. A preacher preaches best when he does so out of the overflow of his heart. I use Evernote to keep track of all my thoughts, ideas, concepts that I can preach on at any time. That’s what he uses as a resource for a preaching calendar.
  • What have you learned working with your team?
    We have a Creative Pastor who takes all our creative ideas and makes them happen. He invites various people to creative team meetings. Single people, men, women, married, etc. Different people give him unique ideas that he couldn’t figure out himself. I learned how to ask the right questions to the right people and have learned to listen to other people.
  • I don’t have a big staff? I’m the ‘Lonely People’ Pastor.
    You can do this without a staff. Invite {the right} people to lunch and tell them you want them to help you put your sermon together. They will come.
  • How do you deal with criticism & praise?
    Pastors have foes, fans, and very few friends. Foes tell you how bad you are (makes you think you’re worse than you are), fans tell you how awesome you are (makes you think you’re better than you are), friends tell you the truth. Your friends love Jesus first, the church second, and you third. So you know they will always give you the feedback you need because their priorities are straight.
  • Closing Thoughts:
    Let the Bible speak for itself and be your platform. Listen to other preachers as much as you can. I’ll say what other preachers have said all the time. Podcasts are the common day commentaries. Surround yourself with people who can help you communicate better. Get a great team to support you as the preacher. Don’t ‘give them hell’ on Sunday. ‘Give them hope’ on Sunday.

Jud Wilhite is an author, speaker and senior pastor of Central Christian Church in Las Vegas. Jud talked about how we can find common ground with other people. We have to communicate in language that people relate to. Here are a few insights to do that.
  • Communicate from your life.
    I often start my messages by sharing something personal in my life that relates to my topic. The most powerful illustrations are when those illustrations overlap with the person’s personal experience/life. My favorite definition of preaching: expressing truth through personality.
  • Communicate honestly.
    Be honest about what you’re thinking, feeling, experiencing, etc.
  • Communicate to the broken.
    I imagine broken people around my desk as I prepare what I’m going to say. The 17 year old who doesn’t want to be there. A single person struggling at work. A couple struggling in their marriage. Someone struggling with an addiction. I write my message to each of them. I want people to feel like I’m talking directly to them. “If you speak to the broken, you will always have an audience.”
  • Communicate the Word.
    Just preach Jesus. We don’t have to apologize for the Bible. People are there to hear what it has to say. 2 Timothy 4:2. Be careful about religious language. Don’t water things down, just remember to use language that everyone understands and explain/define things when you don’t. I try to stay in ONE Bible passage when I preach. I shifted to the NLT version because it’s at a younger grade reading level so people could track with the task.
  • Communicate for Next Steps.
    Let them know whether the Bible has something to say AND it has a connection with their life. I ask what the text says to me as a person, to the imaginary individuals around my desk, and to my church and my community as well. I define a crystal clear ‘next step’ opportunity. 

Andy Stanley is an author, speaker, and Lead Pastor of North Point Community Church in Georgia. Get his book on preaching, Communicating for a Change.
  • How did you know speaking was a gift for you?
    Taught a Bible Study in a home and a woman spoke a word of encouragement about that gift.
  • Discuss how you prepare your messages?
    Most importantly is that the process needs to be relational. The pattern I mostly use is Me. We. God. You. We. This approach can help you connect with the audience. It may allow you to be able to preach without using notes so much. It breaks your message up into chunks, instead of points.
  • How do you craft a Sermon based on application instead of information?
    I tend towards (wired) application because my strengths/gifts are exhortation oriented. I’m not satisfied if people don’t know what’s at stake and don’t know what to do. Make sure they know what to do at the end. It’s not just about what they need to know. It’s also about why it’s important to know it and what to do about it. It’s critical that you have a burden to preach.
  • How do you create these memorable phrases when you preach?
    It is very difficult to do, but the phrase is the best way to make an idea stick. You owe it to yourself to create a ‘bottom line’ phrase, question, application statement. It will equip you to be more successful as a communicator. I also prepare my sermons way in advance which also gives me a lot of time to mull over the concepts and get these nuggets. The ‘crock-pot’ approach. This approach also protects me from bad ideas. I have time to come up with something else.
  • What have you learned about ‘tension’ in communicating?
    It’s critical that you create tension in the first few minutes if you want people to track with you during the sermon. Tension makes things interesting. You are never bored where there’s tension. If it’s boring, then you haven’t interested people by creating a tension they can get into. I’m OK with developing an entire series to focus on one tension, as opposed to taking care of it in one sermon.
  • How do you preach to the unchurched & everyone else at the same time?Some of it comes back to tension. It’s not about content, it’s about the approach we use. Get his new book coming out in the fall to read about it more.
  • What are you doing lately to improve yourself?
    I watch myself preach. I listen to other people. I watch other communicators, including comedians, newscasters, etc.
  • Closing Comments
    When you speak, do it with a burden to reach broken, hurting people. Make it personal. Think of the person you know who needs to hear it or that you think needs to hear it. Pick a target audience and preach to them, not about you.

Jeff Foxworthy is one of the most respected and successful comedians in the country. There are many similarities between what comedians and preachers do. One of them is using humor.
  • How can preachers lean into humor when preaching?
    It’s important for us to not take ourselves too seriously. I figured out that what I think, experience, and see probably isn’t unique to me. I trust that truth and am willing to take risks by sharing them with others.
  • What have you learned about timing with humor?
    Usually people who are good ‘joke-tellers’ have learned how to cut the fat (details). Trim humor down to the bare essentials. This includes telling funny stories. 
  • How do you prepare jokes/humor?
    I use note-cards. I put a thought that occurred to me on a note-card that I keep nearby. I try ideas/thoughts on people, either randomly or formally. The yellow notepad is where I develop thoughts and jokes to a context. When do you develop content . . . always. 
  • How can we reach the heart of men?
    Make sure we don’t portray Christianity or Christ as a ‘sissy’ faith.
  • Closing Comments:
    Be vulnerable from the pulpit. Let people see you living life to the full.

Thanks to Eric Scott, Care Pastor at Elim Gospel Church for the below notes. Unfortunately, I had to step away from the conference at this point.

Vanable (Van) Moody is an author, speaker and Senior Pastor of The Worship Center in Birmingham, Alabama.

  • Start with the end in mind.
    All navigational systems start with the end in mind.  A message is the same.
  • The most effective form of preaching is behavioral.
    Behavioral preaching goes after the impact the message has on the hearer. Jesus gives many examples in this way (John 4 or Pool of Bethesda, “Do you want to get better?” this was about behavior.
  • Impression or Impact?
    Settle this issue – Do you want to make an impression or do you want to make an impact?  It’s great to hear, “Good message!”  Yet it’s better when a person’s life is impacted with the gospel and it brings about lasting life-change.
  • The Behavioral Purpose.
    Come to an understanding of what the behavioral purpose is.  What is God wanting to change and do?  Craft your message around that purpose. When you are clear with this then you should be able to reduce your message down to one crystal clear statement – your objective statement.  The message should then consistently support this message.  What do you want people to do as a result of this message.
  • Message vs Messenger
    While behavioral messages are important, it is imperative that you not separate the message from the messenger.  
  • Keep it Clear and Simple
    Make sure as you communicate the purpose, make sure it is clear and simple. Use words phrases and sentences your people can grasp onto. Give points for their head and pictures for their heart. Provide a vehicle for them to do what you have been preaching about.  Muscles grow because they are exercised.


Dan Cathy is the President and COO at Chick-fil-A.

  • Strive to be a communicator who communicates to real felt needs.
  • When putting a message together work with a smaller audience first.
  • Rehearse the message.
  • Illustrations on stage are powerful!


Dr. Charles Stanley is an author, speaker and Senior Pastor at the First Baptist Church of Atlanta.

  • The most important part of sermon prep is my personal walk with God.  A man can preach no better than he prays.
  • Discipline is key to the pastor’s life.
  • It boils down to this: I must have a balanced schedule, a healthy body, healthy relationships, the courage to be obedient to God no matter what he requires and most of all a pure heart before God.
  • You must have the weight of the message on your shoulders concerning what you believe God wants you to communicate through this message.  This way you’re preaching for impact.  

Preparation Process:

  • Ask: “What’s the need of the people listening?”
  • Ask: “What is the text that best speaks to this need?”
  • Ask: “Now, what does it say personally to me?”  
  • Number your statements as you gather materials and then ask yourself, “How do I put this together into a  format that will work?”  With that in mind, ask, “What is the one thing they can walk away with?”
  • Once this comes together the outline comes next with the theme in mind – that one thing.
  • Look for clarity, movement and always with the idea that this must have impact.
  • You cannot be thinking about yourself and also have an impact on others.  You’ve got to have the people in mind.
  • I does not give an outline to the congregation.  I want it bottled up inside me until it is just right in my mind, even up to the evening before.  I do not want anything between myself and those hearing the message prior to giving it. I do not manuscript, but use an outline and memory.
  • In the midst all of this I pray and ask for help with points in the outline that are troubling me.
  • It should be a rare exception to step into the pulpit without proper preparation.
  • “Obey God and leave all consequences to Him.”
  • “Your personal intimate relationship with God is above all else.”
  • I feel a tremendous responsibility when I think about who I am speaking to and who is listening and that deeply moves me.  I am not nervous, but feel very responsible to communicate for impact.
  • My goal during personal devotions is to ask, “What are You speaking to me, Lord?”  If my life is not right, it will not communicate what it needs to a waiting world.  Every test and heartache I have had has been seen later as something God worked about for good.
  • Changing Bibles periodically helps me quite a bit in reinvigorating my personal devotional life with God.
  • Closing thought:  “See everything that comes at you as coming from Me (God).” If you’ll come to this then you’ll begin to see the purpose behind the circumstance that came.  He’ll turn it for good if you’ll turn it over to Him, listen to Him and obey Him.


Louie Giglio is an author, speaker and Lead Pastor at the Passion City Church in Roswell, Georgia.

  • Recognition of the gift came early and encouraged came in phrases like, “You have no idea what God has in mind for your life…”
  • Calling and self-discovery plus affirmation tells you that you are in the right spot.
  • There was an inner-witness inside of him that said, “I’m going to speak here someday.”  However, you need to park that in the recesses of your spirit and speak where you can, where you are invited and grow from there to the place where that word actualizes. 
  • The God Factor – At the end of the day it is the Spirit of God moving through God’s Word that impacts people.  Even Paul said he was not perfect in speech.  It’s more about the power of God happening there.
  • Ask: “God, what do you want to say and what do You want Your people impacted by?”  And then get to work.  Craft it into a message that impacts people.
  • Preparation and presentation are much like a funnel.  The wide end is all your life, experience, study, etc., but you need to bring it down to that one thing that comes from all that wide area of the funnel and work it down to that one thing. 
  • Let the text work its way through you until what comes out leads to that place of impact.

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