5 Characteristics of Constantly Improving Preachers

What tricks have you tried to make your preaching better? Writing more interesting introductions? Stating your your main point more memorably? Is it actually working?

Ironically, I have found that the more I try to preach better, the worse I do. But the more I just try to preach, the better I do.

In other words, when I’m committed to preaching the gospel, I take steps forward as a preacher. When I’m committed to improvement, I take steps back.

So what should a pastor who knows he needs to get better at preaching do?

Commitment to preaching, not preaching improvement

In 1 Timothy 4:13-16, Paul tells Timothy what he needs to do “so that all may see your progress.” He lists five imperatives. Each one tells Timothy to be committed to preaching, not necessarily improvement.

1. Devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching (v. 13) Not everything can be primary. Cut some things out of your schedule so that you can be devoted to preaching. Don’t expect progress when you give attention to a million different endeavors.

2. Practice these things (v. 15) The age old adage “practice makes perfect” holds true in preaching. The week-in, week-out repetition of preparing and preaching has a natural way of making you better. Put your 10,000 hours in. Don’t expect to be very good right away.

3. Immerse yourself in them (v.15) “Immerse yourself” translates the simple Greek verb: eimi, “to be, to exist.” You have to be in your preaching and teaching. Exist in these things. Make these things the place where you are. Such a pastor has his nose in Scripture more often than homiletics text books.

4. Keep a close watch on yourself and the teaching (v. 16) Don’t short cut this one. If you’re committed to improvement, you’ll apply your sermon to your life so that you’ll become a better preacher, rather than a better Christian. Your growth as a preacher is relative to your growth in Christ.

5. Persist in this (v. 16) Be stubborn about your devotion to preaching. When people want you to go with the flow of the latest ministry fads, persist. When people want you to be the church’s C.E.O., persist. When you get tempted to throw your ministry into cruise control, persist.

You can’t conjure up commitment to preaching

These five characteristics are not something you do, but are a response to what God has done for you. Paul just expressed this a few verses earlier, “For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:10). Hope in the one who saved you must fuel your passion for preaching.

Commitment comes when you say, “He saved me! How can I not devote myself to declare his salvation to others?”

Each of these characteristics has a view to long-term progress. This poses a problem for someone who wants quick fixes. But if you’re patient everyone under your care will see your steady progress. You will save them. You will save yourself.


  1. I wanted to thank you for the information that you put in this article. I am fairly new to ministry, so the topic of this article was excellent. I hope you don’t mind, but I will probably be referencing this post on my blog in an upcoming post. Thank you again.

  2. Matthews Bantsijang says:

    Preachers must stay healthy….

    • Eric McKiddie says:

      Both good points, Matthews. I was focusing on the particulars of this passage specifically, but those are necessary, too!

  3. Matthews Bantsijang says:

    Preachers must be holy….