10,000 Hours of Preaching: Outliers

Been reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. One of the points that he makes is that you don’t generally become really good at something until you’ve done it for at least 10,000 hours. I was reflecting on that regarding preaching… and I could not agree more.

All the theorizing, the books, the listening to sermons of ‘the experts’… nothing replaces just preaching and preaching and preaching. When I first got into preaching, I preached absolutely any chance I got. Rest homes, small groups, groups of 3-4… even if the audience itself was not seemingly ‘worth the effort’ I put into it (I remember times spending hours preparing a sermon, driving 3+ hours to go preach it, and then having an audience of 11 people all who looked like they were over the age of 100), I realize it was good for me just in terms of having the chance to preach. Actual preaching helps you learn yourself, how an audience works, how to organize thoughts… so just go do it!

As Gladwell might say, you’re not any good until you hit 10,000 hours. I hope to be hitting that soon.

For whatever it’s worth, that’s another reason I blog. I don’t really care if anyone reads it or not (actually, I do, I’m just making a point :)) Writing helps me process and think. The more I write the better I get… so when I have an opportunity to write an article or book and it really counts, I’ve put in a lot of my 10,000 hours here on this blog. And some of you have put in 10,000 hours reading blogs, so you should be a pretty dang good reader by now.

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  1. Dave Miller   •  

    That 10,000 hours is a lot easier to reach for long-winded preachers like myself! That’s really encouraging.

  2. Brent Hobbs   •  

    So if I preach for 30 minutes it’ll take me twice as long as a guy who preaches for an hour? Or some guys who preach the same sermon 4 times a weekend. :) Just playing devil’s advocate.

    Us guys that only preach one sermon a week are in trouble! If I preach an hour (which I don’t), once a week, 52 times a year, it’ll only take me 192 years to preach 10,000 hours.

    I guess if you include prep time, that really levels the playing field. If you work a 40 hour a week job, 52 weeks a year, then it would take you about 5 years to reach that 10,000 hour mark.

    But your point is well-taken. Nothing can replace experience and any preacher will get better as he continues to preach and work.

  3. Alex Costa   •  

    I have thought the same exact thing! I think that for people who want to write a book on anything theological, they should spend 10,000 hours reading theology. As far as preaching is concerned, if you spend 5 hours a week for 40 years preaching, you’ll get your 10,000 hours, plus a little more. I know that plenty of pastors spend more than 5 hours a week doing that. I hope to one day be able to say I preached for 10,000. It’s funny that you mention this, because I blogged on the same subject from the same book last month.

  4. Joshua Allen   •  

    Right on! The actual experience of doing the thing is often more valuable than the direct benefits that we suppose we are getting.

  5. Pingback: 10,000 Hours of Preaching: Outliers « The Thlog Blog

  6. alvin reid   •  

    Thanks JD. I prefer to quote the older Methodist man of prayer E.M. Bounds who said it takes 20 years to make a sermon because it takes 20 years for God to make the man. Same point Gladwell is making.

    On a related note, years ago an older saint named Jack Stanton told me he wrote very little because he fretted so much over getting it just right. He challenged me to write books if I had the chance and not to wait until they were just right. That really hit me because I had (and still have) insecurities about my ability as a writer. I decided to write, and now over ten books later my books may not help a lot of folks, but they have helped some. And now, finally, I may have learned enough to say something worth reading. I am sure I have spent 10,000 hours writing and well more than that speaking!

  7. Alex Costa   •  

    Brent, I bet that there are probably plenty more opportunities to preach than Sunday mornings… unless, of course, everybody in your community is converted. If so, please disregard this comment.

  8. Will Smith   •  

    I’m not a preacher, but when I read your post I immediately thought of how this principle applies to other disciplines, like evangelism. Though God can, and does, use every evangelistic encounter, the best way to get “good” is to just get out there and do it! Study is fine, but only when done in the context of regular practice.

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