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Do you want to preach? Here are 8 Suggestions From An `Old` Preacher by Bo Sanchez

December 2006

Hi, Preachers. And Would-Be Preachers.
I’m also a Preacher. Been one for 25 years now.
But many times, I’m also your audience.

Many times, I’m also the ordinary Mr. Guy-At-The-Pew because I too listen to Lay Preachers and Priests give their talks. So I see you, the Preacher, the way 90% of the world sees you: A figure in front some seventy feet away, three-fourths of your body covered by an old pulpit.
Competing against your talk is the humidity of the Philippines, the noisy kids around me, plus the lovely girl in front of me wearing a spaghetti strap blouse that exposes her exquisite neck and flawless shoulders.
And as if all these aren’t enough, I’m very distracted by my problems at my job and my family that keep replaying in my mind like the refrain of a hit song on radio. I’m thinking of my big and small concerns. The debt that needs to be paid on Tuesday. The electric fan that my wife asked me to fix 6 weeks ago. The DVD that my son wants me to rent after Mass…
How can you compete?
I have 8 suggestions.
I gave this talk to a group of 90 priests—and they were immensely grateful.
Here they are…

For starters, I want to see you.
Move out of the pulpit. Don’t hide.
If you have something to say, show yourself.
Remember, you’re speaking to a generation raised by television, spending 5 hours a day with it since birth. So we’re visually-wired. We need to see something moving in front of us if you want to speak to us.

Second, connect with me.
My friend complained, “When my parish priest gives his talk, I sometimes feel he’s autistic. He just babbles his words to the wind. It’s as though we’re not even there in front of him. I have this great desire to shout and wave my hand, ‘Yoohoo, Father, I’m here! Hello!’”
Yes, Preachers.
Speak to me. Look at me. Talk to me. Converse with me.

Third, use small words.
For example, I noticed that priests love this word: Dichotomy.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard it from the pulpit.
Father, you’re no longer a seminarian taking a compre, impressing your theo prof.
Do people go to the market and say, “Isang kilo lang ang bibilhin ko sa malaking isda na yan. Paki-dichotomize mo nga…” I don’t think so.
If you know that 90% of your listeners don’t use the word dichotomy, and your goal is to communicate, then don’t you use it.
You might as well speak German if you do.

Fourth, tell stories.
Here’s what I’ve learned from sales people: Facts tell but stories sell.
I need to see it in my imagination—and then I’ll understand it.
Use analogies. Use personal experiences. Use details, and make me see, touch, taste, smell, and feel the story.
Like Jesus and his parables, be the best story-teller in the world.
Don’t say it’s impossible. Hone your craft!

Fifth, don’t forget my needs.
You may criticize Mike Velarde for his neon-colored barong, but you have to admit that he’s an incredibly effective speaker. (Proof? 300,000 people gather in front of him every week voluntarily.)
Why? He always speaks with their problems in his mind.
Your audience is a bunch of people that have debts to pay, fears about their kids, burdened by marital fights, suffer from hypertension, arthritis, migraine, and cancer.
Believe me, the Gospel of the day is very far from their minds.
So when you begin your homily by saying, “The Gospel for the day is about…” you tune out half of your audience.
Begin with where people are. And then talk about how the Gospel addresses their problems.

Sixth, speak more than fifteen only if you’re really good.
A fifteen-minute talk is purgatory if you’re boring.
But a thirty-minute talk from an excellent preacher is bitin.
So if you know you’re still growing in the skill of preaching, shorten your homilies. Some great preachers are even known for the brevity of their talks.
Many love (adore, worship) Bishop Soc Villegas’ three-minute sermons, which I compare to solid punches to one’s solar plexus. On target, every time—with the least amount of words.

Seventh, be real.
Tell me a bit of your struggles. Your sins. Your temptations.
Tell me about the problems you go through.
I need to know you’re just like me—needing God at every breath.
Open up and I’ll open up to your message.
Doing so will make you cease being another statue in church.
You’ll become a friend.

Eight, speak from your passion.
I’m not talking about bombast.
You could speak very quietly, but I know if you’re speaking from an inner passion—or if you’re speaking from your head and your hastily prepared notes.
This is probably the most important lesson in preaching.
Don’t talk about trust, or repentance, or love, or service—if you don’t feel a fire in your belly for trust, or repentance, or love, or service… It just won’t work.
People will know you’re a phony.


I’ve been preaching for 25 years.
Here are some habits that have helped me through the years…
• Read as much as you breathe
• Listen to preaching videos and audiotapes
• Prepare your talks way in advance
• Most of all, deepen your relationship with God
The last point is decisive. I try (strive, strain, struggle, stumble) to strengthen my spiritual life. That’s where the passion comes from.
For without passion—a love for God and for others—the preacher is a noisy gong and a clanging bell.

PS. One of my dreams for next year under the Kerygma Family—A School for Catholic Leadership. One important Subject: how to preach! Pray for this. Join the Kerygma Family and be part of a growing ministry that will impact the world.


  1. angelica said...

    This is sis. Angelica guevarra po, a member of the Diocesan Service Committee of Pampanga -Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement Speaker's bureau. i started preaching po at the age of 18 up to now that im 21. Im realy blessed by your preaching po.Im sorry for imitating my talks to Jesus, iknow that iknow in my heart that He created you also for me,that u can be my model mentor who is now gone for abroad, had a dream on his heart that i'll someday be like you po...(09156140869)this is my number po...I pray,hope and wish we'll talk someday so i can learn more from u po..Plus my soul dream that someday,we'll be partners in preaching. Amen.
    JESUS CARES.....+

    April 7, 2008 at 9:03 PM  

  2. angelica said...

    This is Sis.Angelica Guevarra of the Diocesan Committee of Pampanga,Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement, member of the speaker's Beauru po..I started Preaching at the age of 18,up to now that im 21 po..Im realy blessed by your talks.Sorry for making u my model, for immitating you po,to my talk with JESUS, I know, that I know that He made you for me, to be my model mentor who is now gone for abroad created a dream for me in his heart that someday, i will become just like you...Amen.+
    (09156140869)here's po my number, hope we'll meet someday, so i can learn more from u po....JESUS CARES!+

    April 7, 2008 at 9:05 PM  

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