Constant, Incremental Improvement

As I have been working with my students at the end of the semester, I’ve been thinking about the Japanese concept of kaizen – the principle of constant incremental improvement. One of the things that have made companies like Sony so ubiquitous is that they are constantly improving their products. The Walkman still sells because with every season Sony makes sure to offer a slightly improved product. Sony engineers never rest. They don’t have to re-invent everything every year, but they do need to show the market they are constantly improving.

I feel the same about my preaching. I’ve been preaching and teaching about preaching for a very long time now, but I still feel like I am constantly and consistently improving. I try to teach my students how to self-evaluate, because constant incremental improvement requires we pay attention.

Are you a better preacher today than you were a year ago? Have you even thought about what improvement might look like in your case?

For some of us, our last homiletics class was many years ago. We figured we knew how to preach when we left the seminary and we have never really looked back. That might not actually be a good thing. It might not hurt for us to consider how we preach and whether there might be places that our preaching could improve. If we can get into a kaizen pattern for our preaching, we might find an exponential improvement in our exposition over time. That would be a good thing.

I know that it is difficult for some of us to own up to the idea that our preaching could improve. We don’t like to think about the fact that we could be better. But whether we want to think about it, our listeners are. Perhaps it is time for us to grab a book on preaching, to gather some trusted listeners for some honest evaluative conversation, or maybe even to enroll in a seminary course on preaching.

I know, you’re a good preacher. I’m sure of it. You could, however, be better. You can always be better – constantly and incrementally.