I recently preached my first sermon. I profited greatly from the experience and decided to (finally) post what I learned on here. Here are 4 valuable lessons I learned from my first sermon:
1. No book will truly prepare you for your first sermon.
I have read a ton of books directly related or referring to preaching. I thought I knew it all as I prepared for my sermon. I had an outline and clear, numbered points. I had the advice of Mark Dever, John Piper, Martyn Lloyd-Jones, John Macarthur, and Charles Spurgeon. I was ready to ace my first speaking experience. Yet none of this prepared me for my sweaty hands fumbling nervously as I turned a page in my notes, or my long, awkward pauses when I lost my place in my sermon. And none of this prepared me for the presence of the Holy Spirit during those twenty minutes or the exhilarating, glorious feeling I experienced as I exposited God’s word. Books are great tools. My sermon benefited from them. But they cannot take the place of getting up in front of an audience and trying to make yourself clear for 20 minutes. That’s the fun (?) of preaching your first sermon.
2. Never underestimate the power of prayer.
I prayed through the process of studying and writing my sermon. I prayed right before I got up from my pew and marched to the pulpit. And then, as I faced my audience, I bowed my head and led the room in prayer. My knees felt as weak as jelly. I was sweating under the spotlights and as nervous as anything. Yet as I prayed, I felt God’s presence and power. I couldn’t do this. But God could. This was not my sermon. This was God’s sermon. I wasn’t nerve-free after the “amen.” But I had the confidence in God’s word that I needed to go on. Never, never underestimate the power of prayer.
3. Never lose confidence in the power of God’s Word.
Who did I think I was? A thirteen-year-old, challenging and exhorting adults? Thoughts like these went through my head as I prepared. Some helpful advice was offered me which helped me clear through these. I was challenged to “look your people in the eye. Even if you’re thirteen, you’re going to preaching from God’s inspired word, and you need to have the confidence to make eye contact with your audience.” This really helped me. I learned an important lesson: be confident enough in the inerrant and life-changing Word of God that you can convey the same confidence to your audience.
4. Well-timed encouragement can be a big blessing.
I had a variety of responses to my sermon; many telling me “great job” and reminiscing about their past speaking experiences. But a few people took the time to actually tell me how they benefited and what they learned from my sermon. This was very encouraging. Believe it or not, I actually put a lot of work into the theological content of my sermon, and a lot of people just emphasized the fact that I was getting up there and speaking for the first time. But to know that people actually grew spiritually from the content–that meant worlds to me.