Have you ever preached a sermon that made you want to crawl under a rock? A sermon that was so bad that you wondered if you really were called by God to preach, or maybe you just heard Him wrong? We all have.
There are plenty of reasons you might feel like this at some point. It could be that you had an unusual busy week, which limited your time to study. Maybe during your sermon preparation things just didn’t come together and didn’t seem to stick.
Whatever the reason may be, an important lesson is examining how we can build consistency in effective preaching.
Most preachers want to hit it out of the ballpark every time. (Though talking like this may sound arrogant, so this kind of talk isn’t said out loud but often thought silently). We want to get off the stage knowing that we communicated well, adequately explained scripture, allowed for and encouraged the presence of the Spirit, and left people feeling convicted by the Spirit to take action.
However, experience alone cannot cure the inevitable strikeouts. One of the great dangers of doing something repeatedly is hitting a plateau. Therefore, time is not the secret weapon to better preaching. On the contrary, it can be your worst enemy.
Time produces comfort and complacency. We must be intentional about reevaluating our preaching methods no matter how much time has passed, and this starts in your study room.
As you prepare your sermon this week, ask yourself these four questions to avoid the plateau and hit a home run:
1. Is my study TRUE to the biblical text?
A sermon that has poor exegesis is no sermon at all. “Exegesis” is a fancy word for a critical explanation or interpretation of a biblical text.
We should ask ourselves questions like:
- “What was the original author trying to say?”
- “What would the original audience have understood?”
- “How is this applicable to my audience today?”
Changes in one’s life happen when God’s word is preached, and not when man’s opinion is exerted.
2. Is my sermon INTERESTING to listen to?
Without an interesting way to communicate truth, great biblical exegesis and application can go unnoticed by your audience. What a shame. Some ways to make your sermon interesting are:
- Tell a good story. Use interesting words and give examples.
- Use a prop. But be careful that it’s not something that will become too distracting and causes you to loose your audience.
- Add media. Video or powerpoint will suffice.
- Make the material relatable. Bring the themes you preach into the modern world, and explain how they are part of your audience’s everyday life
- Vary your delivery. Changing your tone, volume and speaking style keeps people engaged with what you’re saying. Remember, you’re telling a story, and you want your audience to be rapt with attention.
3. Is my outline CLEAR in organization?
Remember that outlines are for you, the preacher, and not for the audience. Outlines provide a way for you to organize your thoughts and prepare to deliver them in a way that doesn’t require you to glue your eyes onto your notes.
Ask yourself whether your major points flow progressively? Do you have transitions in place that prepare you for your next major points? Does your overall sermon flow logically?
The clearer your organization, the easier it will be for you to deliver it and for people to understand it. Finally, always remember that you are not preaching to impress but to be understood.
4. Is my application RELEVANT to the listeners’ specific needs?
It is good to know who makes up your audience. The same sermon can be preached multiple times and have different applications based on the interpretations of different groups of people. This is why it is important to know the culture and values of your audience.
If you are preaching at a midweek service, chances are your audience will be more spiritually mature than your Sunday morning crowd. If you are preaching at a youth service, the application to young people will be different than middle-aged parents.
There is no one-size-fits-all application of any text. Know your crowd and apply it to them specifically.
Remember, we must ask all four of these questions. Focusing on a few while neglecting the others will produce less-than-satisfying results. What’s the point of having great exegesis when your delivery puts people to sleep?
God has wired us in a certain way to receive information. If you are not interesting behind the pulpit, your audience’s Facebook feeds will grab their attention instead.
On the other hand, having an interesting sermon without great biblical content rarely produces changed lives. It is through the truths of God’s word and allowing you congregation to hear it that the Holy Spirit works and brings change.
Question: Are there any more questions that you think we should ask ourselves? Leave comment below.