You can all too easily get into a mentality of worrying about trying to top your last sermon rather than faithfully preaching the text and relying upon the Spirit to empower you and apply it to the hearts of your congregants. By no means am I advocating slothfulness in the pulpit. Work hard to prepare your sermons, but be yourself in the pulpit, and most importantly, preach the text—preach the gospel of Christ.
When students cross the threshold and enter the hallowed halls of seminary, those who enroll in the Master of Divinity program usually have one big goal in mind—they want to be preachers. This is a perfectly natural and understandable goal, one to which all MDiv students should aspire. Seminaries, therefore, invest a good amount of time in the curriculum training students how to exegete the Scriptures, prepare, and deliver a sermon. Preaching courses, for example, focus upon whether the student was faithful to the Scriptures, whether his sermon had a clear structure, whether his illustrations were appropriate and helpful, and whether his delivery was smooth. All students struggle with different elements of sermon delivery, and this is to be expected. While the ability to preach is a God-given gift, this doesn’t mean that the gift can’t be honed or improved.
One of the ways that students try to short-circuit the learning process is by listening to sermons by well-known preachers. I know of ministers who do this as well. On the one hand, listening to sermons isn’t a crime and can be a spiritually beneficial thing. On the other hand, if you’re listening to a sermon as a substitute for your own necessary exegetical spadework, or because you don’t want to meditate upon the text to develop your own material and illustrations, listening to a sermon can be a bad thing. I was once at a meeting of presbytery where a fellow colleague was delivering the opening devotional. One of my colleagues sitting next to me leaned over and whispered in a concerned tone, “I heard this very same sermon several weeks ago at a Banner of Truth conference!”