I love preaching, and I desperately want to grow in my own preaching. By God's grace we live at a point in history when some of the greatest Bible teaching is available through the mere click of a mouse. What I love most about this is the tremendous amount of diversity that exists. No two preachers are exactly alike, and no one preacher is entirely perfect. Over the last few years I've listened to specific preachers in an attempt to continually develop specific skills in my own preaching. Here are the seven preachers I have listened to most frequently and the skills I believe they demonstrate over and over again.
No one does this like Tim Keller. What amazes me is the way he does it without it ever sounding forced or contrived. You feel like what he says is so obvious, but somehow you missed what he helps you see.
Mark Driscoll is a preaching freak of nature. There is no one like him, and anyone trying to be like him should stop because it's embarrassing for everyone. Driscoll has a way of looking at a text or topic from what feels like very conceivable direction (cultural, theological, historical, philosophical, psychological, etc) and beating you into the Biblical view. His is a rare gift, and few should attempt what he seems to do so effortlessly week after week.
Andy Stanley works hard at crafting what he calls "the phrase that pays." He has an amazing ability to convey ideas and principles in a concise, compelling and capacious manner. He makes his big idea memorable, and I appreciate his labor in this.
Full disclosure: James MacDonald is my favorite preacher. In truth I don't know anyone who has the ability to do all of these things well at once, with the exception of Pastor James. But if I can only pick one thing I appreciate about him the most, it would be his helpfulness. Lots of preachers are right, but few are helpful. James has a great ability to convey powerful truth in practical terms. More of us need to labor in this area.
Each time I hear Matt Chandler preach I have the profound sense that he has been deeply impacted by the text he's preaching. It's like he stands up and God's Word spills out of him with a passion rarely seen. I want that. I don't want to stand up and be a talking commentary each week (Down with commentary preaching!). I want to preach out of the work God's Word has done in my heart that very week.
If you ever start to feel like you've got a handle on the glory of God, simply listen to John Piper. My heart and mind explode each time my ear buds go in and Piper comes on. God is bigger to me each time I hear Piper preach from any text, and I pray that will be true of my own preaching for the rest of my life.
Louie Giglio was one of the first preachers I really listened to. What I have always loved about his preaching is his gift for story. He tells a story in such a way that it never detracts from the text but helps me more clearly understand what God is saying in the text. This is the only helpful kind of illustration. Stories for the sake of stories are stupid. Stories for the sake of helping people see Jesus more clearly are transformational! Louie does this better than anyone.
Finally, what I love about each of these men is not how impressive their oratory skills are but how each of them has stirred my affection for Christ. No amount of preaching has any true purpose if it does not stir one's affection for Jesus. My goal is not to praise these men but to praise God for the gift that these men are to the church.
I would encourage everyone to download sermons of any of these pastors and savor the Savior these men herald each week. And if you're a preacher, I'd invite you to join me in learning from the strengths of each of these men, not for the sake of imitation but the development of your own gifts and your own voice.