Every preacher should always be growing, learning, and working on their craft. That’s the conviction I operate from. It’s why I’m always reading a book on preaching. It’s why I’m always deconstructing my own processes, methods, and routines. It’s why I listen to great communicators proclaim the good news of Jesus. But beyond the typical advice: read theology books, read preaching books, watch/listen to sermons from others, and evaluate your own preaching, I want to give you some unexpected sources preachers should be learning from.
Leonard Sweet, in his book on preaching called, Giving Blood said this:
Preachers must take up the poet’s tools – image and imagination, rhyme and rhythm, simile and metaphor, and story. (p. 53)
3 Unexpected Sources Preachers Should Be Learning From
1. Hip Hop and Spoken Word Poetry
This one is easy for me. I grew up listening to hip-hop. But now, I listen to it both because I love the music and so I can learn from it.
Another source that is similar, but different is the art of spoken word poetry. This is, just as it sounds, poetry that is spoken. Sometimes it has some subtle background music, sometimes it doesn’t have anything.
Even if you don’t like these artforms, you can learn from them.
- how to rhyme
- how to vary your cadence
- how to put a string of words together that stick in your people’s minds
Here are some artists to check out and learn from:
- Andy Mineo
- Jackie Hill Perry
- Sho Baraka
- Beautiful Eulogy
I have a Spotify playlist that has a mix of these artists and more in the genres of hip-hop, spoken word, as well as some worship bands. You can check that out here.
2. Writer Resources
You may not think of yourself as a writer, but no matter how you slice it, you are one. You write outlines, manuscripts (if you don’t, I think you should reconsider), small group questions, emails, thank-you notes, etc. But this isn’t the time for me to convince you that you’re a writer. That’s for another day. But, what I do want to show you is the advantage of learning from those who help writers write better.
The Social Media application Buffer posted the picture below on their Twitter account:
What Gary Provost is saying about writing, he could have easily said about preaching. Cadence is important. Why? If you have a consistent cadence, people will get bored. Instead, give them variety.
Not only is it important to learn the craft of prose, it’s also worthwhile to learn the craft of storytelling. Why storytelling? Well, in every sermon you preach, you’ll have an illustration to tell or you’ll preach through a narrative passage.
In this area, I’ve benefited the most while listening to the Story Grid Podcast. In it, an aspiring fiction author talks to and learns from an experienced book editor.
Here are some more writer resources to check out:
3. Fiction Books
In reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. – C.S. Lewis
In fiction, we engage our imagination, we learn empathy, and we understand humanity. Fiction forces us out of ourselves to consider what life may be like for others. It helps us preachers dig into the minds and experiences of the people unlike us.
Us preachers can benefit from good fiction.
This is an area I’m working on improving.
Here are a few fiction books I’ve read recently:
- Out of the Silent Planet and Perelandra by C.S. Lewis (books 1 & 2 in his Space Trilogy)
- 1984 by George Orwell
- Adrenaline and The Last Minute by Jeff Abbott (books 1 & 2 in his Sam Capra Series)
A few books that are on my to-read list that you may find interesting are:
- The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver
- The Road by Cormac McCarthy
- Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
- That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis (book 3 of his Space Trilogy)
Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity. – G.K. Chesterton
The Book to Read to See All This Come Together
My all-time favorite book is, hands down, Notes From the Tilt-a-Whirl by N.D. Wilson. In it, he weaves together poetry, theology, philosophy, wonder, and awe. If you want to see what all this can combine and turn into, in the end, read this book.
Learn widely. Step out of your normal spaces, zoom out, and learn from more places, avenues, and sources.
You’ll be a better preacher for it.
Brandon Kelley is a pastor at The Crossing on the east side of Cincinnati. He is the managing editor of Ministry Pass, co-founder of RookiePreacher.com, and the author of Preaching Sticky Sermons. You can connect with him on Twitter @BrandonKelley_.