My mentor Haddon Robinson used to say, “It is easier to form good habits in preaching than to break bad habits.” He was so right. The more we preach the easier it is to form hard to break habits. So how does one go about breaking them?
To begin, you must be certain you have a teachable spirit. Defensive people are very difficult to help. I love the truthfulness and frankness of Proverbs 12:1, “Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.”
Some preachers say they want to break their bad habits but as soon as somebody points them out, they get defensive. Each one of us must examine our own hearts and answer the question, “Do I really want to break this habit?”
I have heard it said about numerous preachers, “I think he would be better if he stopped saying. . .but he would be offended if you brought that up to him.”
With a teachable spirit in place, the best way to break a bad habit is to find someone who is willing to listen to you, watch you carefully, and critique those bad habits. Since it’s hard to be objective about yourself, you need the kind of person who will tell you what you need to hear, not necessarily what you want to hear. It should be someone who can hear numerous messages from you, not just one or two. Listening to several messages allows them to give you better feedback.
A friend who heard me often once said, “You use the phrase, ‘In other words’ quite a bit. I think it would be helpful if you did not use it so often.” He was right. Apart from him bringing that up to me, I don’t think I would have seen it.
Give them the assurance that you want them to listen not just to what you say but how you say it. For example, I know one preacher who keeps using the same gesture over and over again. As you listen to him, it becomes very distracting and causes you to miss out on much of what he is saying. I know another person who tends to look over his audience instead of at them. That takes away his effectiveness because people leave not really feeling like he spoke to them.
A person who gives constructive feedback proves invaluable. Once you receive it, then merely begin working on the areas cited. With God’s help those bad habits can be broken because you’ve now identified them.
One caution. Don’t assume that having broken a bad habit in one area, you won’t form one in another. That’s why having someone that can consistently give you helpful feedback will help immensely. It is easier to break bad habits the quicker they are caught.
Bad habits in preaching are sometimes hard to break. Knowing what they are though, having a teachable spirit, and moving forward in correcting them makes all the difference.