The Biggest Mistakes Young Preachers Make

The call to proclaim God’s Word is a weighty and thrilling stewardship. No preacher has everything figured out—especially those entering the pulpit for the first time. In this new video, Tullian Tchividjian, Voddie Baucham, and Russell Moore discuss common blunders new preachers make.

“In my early days,” Tchividjian recalls, “I was preaching to impress my seminary professors—who, of course, weren’t even there.” It’s vital to preach from the voices that have shaped you rather than to them. “You’re not compromising when you communicate in average language to average people,” he says. “The challenge is always to comprehend high but communicate low.”

Likewise, Baucham had to learn the counterintuitive lesson that preaching is about feeding, not performing. “I had to come to grips with the fact that I’m not auditioning for something,” he says. And for the preacher, there’s no freedom like that found when the idol of preaching-as-performance is exposed and smashed.

“Almost everybody is a bad preacher at first,” Moore observes. And that’s okay. He recalls one reason criticism stung so much at first: he failed to take a long-term view. Moreover, he warns, don’t “equate being boring with being faithful.” Not only is such a mentality foolish, it also broadcasts a lie about our Savior who is anything but boring.

Watch the full video to learn more about the necessity of patience and repetition in faithfully preaching week after week.

Mistakes Young Preachers Make from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

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  • Trevor Minyard

    That line Tullian said about when you think you do good God empowered you and when you think you’ve done terrible, God can still use it (summarizing) is on point.

    My man Jason Fanning (Denton Bible Church) said something similar to me a long time ago that shaped me, “Trevor, when you get up there whatever you say “good” and whatever you say “bad” by your standards is still in the will of God. He is in control, not you.”

    Now, obviously we all need to be diligent in preparation and faithfully orthodox in our sermons, but it is a good reminder of who runs the thing!

  • Jonathan Brooks

    I would love to hear some thoughts about how recording of sermons for one’s church website can potentially exacerbate some of the pitfalls mentioned in this video, i.e. performance, preaching to the “gallery” and not your people. Motive is certainly key and there are a lot of great reasons to put sermons online, but are there subtle influences we don’t realize it may be having on us?

  • dan

    Thank you. I’m 24, i’m not a preacher, would like to be, i’ve had few opportunities, but this applies to me in my life as a lay-young man. Especially what Mr. Voddie said about preaching, patience, and that one has to say things again and again. For my sake. :)

  • A.J.

    Good stuff! I especially appreciate what they said about the fact that almost everyone is a bad preacher when they first start out. Do we honestly think that some of the greats like Piper, Driscoll, Moore, Mohler, and others hit home runs on their first at-bats?! I’m sure these men, who I deeply admire, would probably pay ransom money if someone were to uncover a cassette of the first sermon they ever preached and threaten to release it into cyberspace. Relax! Preach because you love to preach; this will carry you through the rough times. Don’t worship the praise you receive, and also don’t worship the criticism you receive; worship and serve God while you remain faithful to His Word. Also, I would add, preach anywhere and everywhere you get the chance. Don’t wait for opportunities to open up at church, especially if you are a member of a larger church. One way that I was able to practice, practice, practice was at a nursing home. If you think you’re too good to go to places like that, then you probably need to find yourself a new line of work.

  • m

    One thing I am surprised wasn’t mentioned is the necessity to be before the Lord in prayer for your people seeking to hear from the Holy Spirit the message our Lord has for His people in His Word. Maybe that is just assumed so not mentioned.
    I don’t quite get the comprehend high but communicate low idea. If this is how you think then maybe that is how you are called to teach. Some will love the deeper things and those that don’t will get what they can. Just a thought. I guess if you are thinking in terms of quantity then it makes more sense.
    Teaching/preaching/shepherding is a high calling, I am glad it is being discussed. Motives mean a lot, and will highly influence potency.

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  • Adam

    The point that Dr. Moore made about nearly all preachers being bad at first is incredibly helpful to me. In my first homiletics class, I was preaching from Genesis, and I began to summarize the main characters. I went completely blank on the Patriarchs! It’s encouraging to know that such blunders don’t mean I will never grow up as a preacher.

  • Steve Cornell

    I recently read some good words on this subject from Gordon Fee: “To be a good exegete and consequently a good theologian, one must know the fullness of the Holy Spirit; and that includes a life of prayer and obedience.”

    “A great danger lurks here, you understand, especially for those who have been called of God to serve the Church in pastoral and teaching roles. The danger is to become a professional (in the pejorative sense of that word): to analyze texts and to talk about God, but slowly to let the fire of passion for God run low, so that one does not spend much time talking with God.”

    “If the biblical text does not grip or possess one’s own soul, it will likely do very little for those who hear.”

    “We must begin, as we would conclude, standing under the text, not over it with all of our scholarly arrogance intact. Thus it is simply wrong-headed for us ever to think that we have done exegesis at all if we have not cared about the intended Spirituality of the text—whether it be theological, doxological, relational, or behavioral.”

    “The aim of exegesis is to produce in our lives and the lives of others true spirituality, in which God’s people live in fellowship with the eternal and living God, and thus in keeping with God’s own purposes in the world. But in order to do that effectively, true ‘spirituality’ must precede exegesis as well as flow from it.” (Listening to the Spirit in the Text)

    It’s helpful to review 10 Attributes of good preaching based on the work of Jonathan Edwards (

    • John

      “A great danger lurks here, you understand, especially for those who have been called of God to serve the Church in pastoral and teaching roles. The danger is to become a professional (in the pejorative sense of that word): to analyze texts and to talk about God, but slowly to let the fire of passion for God run low, so that one does not spend much time talking with God.”

      Oh, beautiful. So very true I’d imagine. I’m not and won’t be a preacher but we all get to “preach” at some point in our witness and as witnesses for Christ, that point is beyond valid and meaningful. Thanks!

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  • Giles Beynon

    Good article.

    All the points made were excellent. From the gallery to patience with preaching. Russel Moore is a particular favorite of mine and he did made me laugh hard with one comment. It was about being faithful and wanting to gouge his eyes out with pencils at some preaching! Classic!! It made me laugh for ages. The article and commments are strong as ever, keep up the good work.

  • John

    This is virtually identical to other disciplines, music for example, being one. I played in a band when I was in my late teens/early 20s, covers etc., playing bars/clubs/weddings and so forth. The more we performed, the better we got as a group and individually, the more we learned what worked and did not. Eventually, I took up classical guitar and it was like starting from square one! I didn’t have other guys standing around me. I had to learn a whole new set of performance skills and had some appalling experiences :=) But their points are totally valid. Expect bad performances at first and learn from them. If you can record your sermons, do so. Totally different perspective listening back to it. And for those of you here who are pastors, good luck, God bless and keep the faith.

  • Jonah

    I would also suggest that this advice does not only apply to young (age) preachers, but also older men who are young in the pulpit.

  • Ethan

    Read Spurgeon’s sermons to know what it means to preach to the every day person. His application is fantastic.

  • Ken

    There are so many great nuggets of truth in this short video!

    One thing that Tullian shared is that you can have great content but if you don’t communicate it well, the content “stays up here” (essentially it does not go anywhere).

    I completely agree! One of my early mentors used the following analogy when he first taught me about communication. He pointed out that I could have a great point to make but if I only know Spanish and my listener only knows French, now matter how eloquent I am with my Spanish, my message is not getting across. Instead, I need to spend some time learning French so my message is understood and received!

    I also really resonated and agreed with the audition and performance comments! Thankfully Tullian’s books/messages have helped shed light on that issue and as I focus on Jesus and not myself, I find that to be less of an issue. Sloooowly working through all of that! :-)

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  • Andrew Bernhardt

    While I fill in for my pastor every once in a while, the majority of the time I am on the receiving end of the sermon. I have heard many different kinds of messages: dry/boring, inspiring, hellfire-n-brimstone, convicting, passionate, etc. The ones that I find the most effective are those that explain biblical truths in simple, natural, everyday language (but without watering down the meaning), and that exhort me to action in that same kind of language. Put another way, the message is most effective when I hear the words speaking *to* me instead of *at* me.

    When I preach, I avoid oratory, and I don’t use big theological words unless I explain their meanings. Instead, I speak naturally, like I would if I were talking personally to one or two people.

  • ryan sanders

    Thank you for this. Very encouraging to me. I’ve only preached one sermon in my life, which was for seminary, and I made all of these mistakes! Especially the mistake of being boring! ; ) Great video. Thanks for sharing.

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