While many pastors have years of schooling to help them understand theology and the original languages of the Bible, most lay people do not have that advantage. Therefore, when lay people are called upon to preach, it is often much easier for them to draw on their own opinions instead of the depth of theological training that many pastors rely on. While this may sound like a plausible idea, lay preachers need to be reminded that it is extremely important that sermons are based on scripture, not on personal opinions. Personal opinions may be interesting to listen to, but the power to change lives is found in the Word. 1 Corinthians 1:18 reminds us that “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God." It is also good to remember Isaiah 55:11, “So shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” Both of these scriptures emphasize the importance of preaching the Word of God instead of human opinions. These scriptures remind us that the Word has supernatural power, whereas human opinion has very little power.
Another temptation that lay preachers can easily fall prey to is the tendency to teach instead of preach. Few people understand the difference between preaching and teaching. The purpose of preaching is to persuade, motivate, and/or convince someone to believe a certain thing or to take a certain action. Therefore, good preaching has a persuasive or motivational aspect to it. Teaching, on the other hand, primarily educates, informs, and/or organizes theology or doctrine. Therefore, teaching tends to focus more on facts and details, with less of a persuasive or motivational aspect to it. While it is expected that preaching will include some details and facts and that teaching may include some motivational elements, the two modes of communication have separate and distinct purposes. Since it is so much easier to impact facts and details than it is to persuade or motivate, it is common for lay preachers to really be more lay teachers. But to be effective in the pulpit, laymen should make sure their presentation has a persuasive, motivational and/or convincing aspect instead of just seeking to transfer knowledge.
There are a number of resources available to help lay preachers learn how to preach. Lay preachers who want to be effective should invest in a number of them.
Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church
Successful Lay Preaching
Twelve Essential Skills for Great Preaching
The Essential Nature of New Testament Preaching