Preaching Tips from Patrick Lencioni

Bart Blair

Simple Steps to Preaching Better Sermons

You may know Patrick Lencioni as a best-selling author, professional speaker or all-around leadership guru. But did you know that he also has a role in helping preachers preach better sermons? Well, sort of.

Lencioni is outspoken about his faith as a committed Roman Catholic believer. He is a frequent speaker at the Global Leadership Summit and never seems to shy away from sharing his passion for God and the role that faith plays in his life and business. He is so passionate about it that in 2014 he co-founded the organization The Amazing Parish as a way of pouring into Catholic church leaders to help them be better shepherds and lead more effective parishes.

In a recent episode of the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast, Lencioni and Nieuwhof began a conversation about participating in online church and how that might differ for Roman Catholics and Protestants. One element that the two leaders pointed out as being the same for both groups is that mediocre preaching is a great way for pastors (or priests) to lose their audience when preaching online.

Lencioni states that pivoting to 100% church online has had one particular effect on churches:

“We have actually probably lowered our tolerance for mediocrity and there's a good and a bad part of that. The good part is that I'm hoping that churches in general realize that there's, I don't like to use the word competition, but that they have a sense of raising their standards because other people have access now and have experienced excellence.”

In other words, there are more church online options today, as a result of COVID-19, than ever before. It’s sort of like “church got cable tv” and now we have a thousand channels to choose from. Whether we like it or not, people will gravitate towards a church online experience that looks better, sounds better and resonates better with them. The preaching simply has to be better.

In the interview, Lencioni cites that Catholic priests are notorious for being boring preachers. Unlike in the protestant church, “preaching” is not typically the primary calling of the priest. And in an effort to help Catholic priests get better at homiletics (literally deliver their homily), Lencioni includes coaching and training on preaching and public speaking as part of The Amazing Parish’s offerings. He has developed an acronym for some basic points that will not only help Catholic priests deliver better homilies, but can help all protestant pastors to preach better sermons.

P.O.U.R. Your Sermon

P is for Passion

“Be passionate. Genuinely passionate.”

There is a fine line between being passionate and being showy or fake. But the best preachers preach in a way that lets their congregation know that they truly care about what they are saying. 

As a pastor, when you are planning your preaching calendar, the tendency can be to preach on topics that “the congregation hasn’t heard in a while” or “something they need to learn” or some thing that is seasonal. As you plan your preaching calendar make sure that you can be passionate about what you plan to preach.

O is for Organized

“Don't go from A to B to C to Z to A to B. It's so common. This is one of the biggest problems I have. It's like at the end of the homily, we're like, "I don't even remember what the point was.”

If you don’t have a method for organizing your content to ensure that the sermon you are delivering is well organized and keeps your point clear, check out the book Communicating for a Change by Andy Stanley and Lane Jones or The Art of Better Preaching by Carey Nieuwhof and Mark Clark.

U is for Understandable

“Use the language of the people hearing you, not the language of your profession.”

Pastors often suffer from the curse of knowledge, making assumptions that people know and understand various theological terms. Keep the cookies on the bottom shelf. Invite someone in your congregation to make a list of words in your sermon that they don’t understand. Do it a few times and have a few different people do it. You will likely be SHOCKED at how much you say is over the average church attendee’s head (as long as they are truly honest with you).

R is for Relevant

“Tell people this is why this matters in your life today.”

Christians and non-Christians alike often struggle with understanding how the Bible can apply to our everyday lives. Help them find it. Ultimately, that’s your job. If your preaching does not expose God’s Word in a way that leads to life transformation, what’s the point of preaching? But you must see it as your responsibility to translate it to “real life” for them. Most people won’t pick it up without some guidance.

P.O.U.R. out your sermon. Following these simple rules can help improve the quality of your preaching and ultimately make a bigger impact in the lives of those you lead.

But here’s one more letter for the acronym changing P.O.U.R. to P.O.U.R.S.

S is for Shorter

One of the biggest challenges for pastors during COVID-19 has been learning to preach to a camera rather than to a room of people. It is an art form in itself. No one laughs at your jokes. You can’t tell if people are listening and engaged. There is simply no feedback from moment to moment to know how well your message is being received.

Preaching a sermon in front of your congregation is like breathing; there are inhales and exhales. There is a rhythm to it. There is give and take from the crowd. And that is one of the reasons you can get away with a longer sermon in person than you can online.

The biggest mistake I see pastors making in their online sermons is simply going on too long. While you may be accustomed to delivering a 30-40 minute sermon in person, that’s too long online. 30 minutes with a crowd in the room is made up of both the content you deliver, but also the pauses and response of the crowd in the room. You don’t preach for 30 minutes straight with a constant flow of words coming out of your mouth.

But that’s what I see over and over again with those less experienced in video preaching.

Do yourself and your church a favor by POURing a shorter sermon. Cut 5-8 minutes off your regular time and see how it goes. I know first hand that preparing shorter sermons is sometimes more difficult than long sermons. But if you utilize the O for Organization in your preparation it can help you plan a compact and highly effective sermon.

If you would like a free consultation to get feedback and coaching on your preaching, use the link below to set up a time to talk.

Bart Blair Church Growth Strategist

About the Author

Bart Blair is the founder of Make More Discisples. He has more than 20 years in corporate, church and non-profit leadership experience. Bart lives in Frisco, Texas with his family where he serves as a Church Growth Consultant and Strategist.