Home Pastors Preaching & Teaching Musicians Practice All the Time—Why Don't Preachers?

Musicians Practice All the Time—Why Don't Preachers?

Well, I spent a significant amount of time practicing the fundamentals of music. I played many scales and arpeggios (chords). I turned them into patterns and exercises. I played major and minor scales. I played them from memory as well as sight-read the scales and patterns. I would play many different patterns and piece them together in different ways. I played them high, played them low, played them staccato, played them legato, played whole notes, half notes, quarter, etc.

After playing around with scales, I would also play some music pieces. I would practice them with and without background music. This was a bit more enjoyable than playing scales, and the time would go faster. I would then include time in improvisation. Here, I would just play whatever I felt and whatever came to me. It was here that the fundamentals as well as the song playing came together in an interesting combination.

For a time, I also had some breath exercises to improve breath control and power. All of these things helped to make me a better trumpet player and a better musician.

Then, after all that, I would do some composition. Create simple songs. I would also transcribe some songs. TOO BAD I DIDN’T KEEP IT UP!!!

The other day, I realized that I spent much more time practicing the trumpet than practicing preaching. It is true that I do spend some time in sermon preparation, but that time is more comparable to my trumpet composition time than my trumpet practice schedule.

Now, someone might question whether such practice is necessary. Some might argue that one should totally depend on the Spirit for such things. I would disagree that practice demonstrates a lack of dependence on the Spirit. I practiced my trumpet diligently when I was to play in church. Why practice less when I am to preach?

Improving Sermon Presentation by Practicing

I began to think about how my sermonic presentation might improve if I tried to “practice” my preaching just as I practiced my trumpet. I admit that I often practiced my preaching by practicing a particular sermon, but my trumpet practice included more than just the piece of music I was to play. It included fundamentals and other components of musicianship. Because of this, I need to think about how a preaching practice session would look.

First, we need some of the rudiments of preaching. Here we might practice the presentation of theological concepts and scriptural passages. For example, in the African-American church, the concept of “God’s goodness” is often stated as “God is Good all the Time, and All the Time God Is Good!” “Practicing” the presentation of this would include practicing preaching the concept in different ways. Think about preaching the concept in a funeral situation. How would it look? What texts would I use? Now think about preaching the concept at a 9-11 commemoration. Is it possible? Can we do it? Should we do it? Certainly the presentation would be different. Now think about preaching it at a church anniversary.

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Sherman Haywood Cox II is the director of Soul Preaching. He holds the M.Div with an emphasis in Homiletics and a M.S. in Computer Science.