Preaching is a gift of God, and although some elders may not be as adept at it as others, all can, with God’s blessing, become effective in the pulpit and deliver an important spiritual message to the congregation. It has happened countless times by thousands of elders in unnumbered churches around the world.


Are you an elder? If so, God has called you to minister to His flock. You, along with the pastor, are one of the chief leaders in your church. The deacons and deaconesses are also called, and they are your colleagues. Together, you are a team called by God to give direction, support, and spiritual guidance to your church members. You can serve by teaching a Sabbath School class, aiding your pastor in a communion service, visiting the sick and the needy, giving Bible studies, and, yes, even preaching. Preaching is a high calling and a high responsibility. All of you are an important segment of the local church membership.

But preaching, you say? Yes, preaching is perhaps the most important part of the church service, and as an elder (or deacon or deaconess), when you are called on by your pastor due to absence or illness, you must meet the challenge. If you are a new elder, you may squirm at this challenge. I can assure you, however, that if you lay this burden at Jesus’ feet, He will help you rise to the occasion. And if you peruse the following instructions carefully and thoroughly and practice them, you can become as good a preacher as your pastor.

In several of the countries where my wife and I worked over the years, it was the elders who ran the local church, especially in large, multi-church districts such as in Mexico, Bolivia, the Philippines, Haiti, and various countries in Central America. Some of these districts contained 10, 15, or 20 churches, companies, and unorganized groups, making it impossible for the district pastor to visit them more than three or four times each year.

How were these churches attended to and what made them successful? The good management by the elders, deacons, and deaconesses made this possible. We saw elders who performed all the duties of their district pastor—communion services, board meetings, Bible studies, and preaching. Some elders were dynamic presenters of the Word, and some were successful local evangelists. Many of these men held no formal college or university degrees or had ever progressed beyond the elementary school level. It was obvious that they were deeply imbued with the power of the Holy Spirit.

As an elder in your local church, have you ever been asked to preach? What was your answer? Did you say “Yes” because you believed you had been called to church work but felt incompetent in some areas? Did you say “No” because you were too timid? Perhaps you would have liked to preach but didn’t know how.

This article is about preaching. It intends to tell you how to be a good preacher. I can assure you that if you follow the principles in this article carefully and with the aid of the Holy Spirit, you can become a dynamic preacher of God’s Word. And, as that happens, you will be thrilled and deeply, humbly satisfied. There is nothing greater than preaching and winning souls for God’s kingdom.


First, you should know something about preaching and what the Bible says about it. The early church had some great preachers: Peter, Paul, Barnabas, Timothy, Silas, and others who are mentioned in the book of Acts. We can safely assume, however, that these great early-church missionaries trained elders and local church members in operating the local church established by these apostles. As these missionaries moved on to new territory, the local church members and especially the elders stepped up to take their place.

Paul said, “It pleased God through the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe . . .” (1 Cor. 1:21, KJV). And Paul said further, “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe to me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:16). God invented preaching and endowed certain men and women with this gift in order to promote the gospel of salvation. Through the unction of the Holy Spirit, the dedicated early Christians brought millions to the foot of the cross. Since then, through preaching, millions more have been brought to salvation, and the practice continues today

On the Day of Pentecost, 3,000 were saved by Peter’s preaching through the unction and power of the Holy Spirit, who imbued all the disciples that day (Acts 2:38, 41). Peter was an evangelist, and God used him mightily. He was a powerful preacher because he was totally converted to Jesus Christ, but only after he had made his decision to follow Jesus all the way upon recognizing the terribleness of his denial and subsequently repenting of it. His sermon on the Day of Pentecost was not short (see Acts 2:40). People’s hearts were pierced because the Holy Spirit was working hand-in-hand with Peter and the disciples on that glorious day. The same miracle can take place today, in your pulpit, though it may be just one or two—or maybe even more—souls as you deliver your Christ-centered sermon from time to time in your own church’s pulpit.


Remember, preaching is a tool of the Holy Spirit to assist in bringing men and women to repentance, as well as to hold them in the pew. Human beings are the medium through which the Holy Spirit uses the tool. The intensity to which the tool is useful depends on several factors which are essential for dynamic preachers.

The spirituality of the preacher is the most important virtue of the preacher; without a deep spiritual life, his/her ministry will only be partially effective. “Ministers must seek God for His Holy Spirit, in order that they may present the truth aright.”1

The dedication of the preacher is also important:

Devotion to God calls for regular contact with God. Prayer is the single most important activity that a preacher can exercise. Without a deep prayer life, a preacher can never have the piety that his or her congregation expects.

Devotion to soul-winning is part of preaching—it calls for loving people and their salvation.

Humility is one of the most important traits a preacher must have. Egotism or pride almost always shows through and spoils the presentation and reduces respect.

The preacher must be sincere—the behavior must match the message. Sincerity is a mockery when a preacher’s actions don’t match his or her words.

The scholarship of the preacher means thorough study. John Ruskin said, “A sermon is 30 minutes to wake the dead.” The preacher ought to spend an hour of preparation for every minute he or she preaches. This is what used to be taught, but probably few preachers today spend such a great amount of time; however, the more time spent in preparation for a sermon, the more powerful that sermon will be.

The reading habit of the preacher is important—reading extensively on a wide range of subjects, especially the Bible, underlining the important material, making notes of what is seen as useful, and filing those notes in alphabetical order by subject. This will greatly enrich the pastor’s sermons.

The organizational ability of the preacher, particularly of the sermon, refers to the sequence of thought and the natural flow of ideas.

The wisdom of the preacher in choosing the proper content for his or her sermon means that the message will be meaningful to the particular target congregation.

The sermon delivery focuses on how the message is shared: Body language, gestures, eye contact, voice inflection, facial expressions, and pauses (which can be very powerful).

The courage of the preacher means:

• Calling sin by its right name, in love but with firmness and good taste

• Making altar calls

These challenges may seem rather daunting to you as an elder. Just remember that you will not be an accomplished speaker the first time you’re in the pulpit—and neither were the great preachers of history. As you review the various items in this article, seek to apply them, and call upon God to aid you, your speaking ability will continually improve. So, don’t despair. Remember, God is with you. (To be continued).

1 Ellen G. White, MS 127, 1902.

Lamar Phillips is a retired minister and church administrator who served for 39 years in six world divisions.