1. Read the Bible Devotionally.
You are very efficient as a preacher when you are using a narrative to explain a command or a command to explain a narrative. It was said of Jonathan Edwards: “His illustrations were doctrinal and his doctrine was illustrated.”
Along these lines, if you are able to bring in a redemptive story from another time period, it shows that God’s work has been singular and consistent. You are probably not going to quote 2 Kings or Lamentations or 2 Thessalonians unless you are spending some time in those books. Devotional Bible reading helps greatly.
2. Read the Classics.
About this same time, I was reading Tony Reinke’s book, Lit! In it, he basically said you need to read strategically and recreationally. He makes the case that there is a lot of very helpful material out there (particularly for preachers); we just need to go and get it.
Shortly thereafter, a book was published called Pastors in The Classics (Ryken, Ryken and Wilson). This book helps to show how many of the classics provide helpful lessons and antidotes for pastors. These two books helped to turn me on to a whole new aisle of thought.
Because many people who love and read the classics go to our churches, this helps pastors connect with them. And because many of the classics are steeped in a worldview that was largely Christian (presecularized), the storylines are helpful connection points for everyone. Since reading Tony’s book, I have read several books from authors like Dostoevsky, Dickens, Tolkein, Tolstey and Hugo. They have truly helped spice up otherwise bland sermons.
3. Read the Newspaper.
Bottom line: The people who listen to you preach probably read the paper so you should too. If you can hang some gospel banners on news articles, then do it!
It helps you teach your people to think in a gospel-fluent, gospelicious way.