After nearly 25 years of preaching I have put together some strategies that are important to ensuring that the heart of my preaching is fixed on pleasing God. If you’ve ever heard me give a talk on preaching then you’ve probably heard these strategies before. They’re simple and unoriginal, but helpful points that I have gathered from various points of training in my pastoral ministry.
1. Let the text shape the sermon.
Every sermon begins with the text, and from there we go where the text leads us to go. It’s the text, not the preacher, that sets the tone, the structure, the agenda, and the emphasis of the sermon.
2. Practice careful hermeneutics.
When it comes to studying the Bible it doesn’t matter what the text means to me, it only matters what the text means. It is our job to discern the accurate interpretation, and we do this by interpreting scripture in its literal, historical, and grammatical understanding. Exegesis (to bring out) not eisegesis (to put in)!
When it comes to studying the Bible it doesn’t matter what the text means to me, it only matters what the text means.Tweet
3. Determine the sermon idea.
After we have properly observed the text and interpreted the text we now begin our process of developing the sermon. Remember, we’re not coming up with our own sermon idea and then pushing it into the text, we are following the text where it leads us. As we do, we will discover the main theme or emphasis of that passage.
4. Write an outline with clarity and simplicity.
The emphasis here is on organizing the sermon, and the best way to organize our sermon is to write everything down. An outline of the text is a means by which to deliver a sermon with clarity and simplicity, and what we write down should reflect the goal of biblical exposition – read the text, explain the text, and apply the text (in context!).
5. Develop the content of the sermon.
This is where we put the meat of the sermon together. Again, everything should reflect the goal of exposition (reading, explaining, and applying). Establish the context, stay true the literary structure, make things plain and understandable, and lead people to see Christ in the text. There are a number of structural elements that help us with the content such as a proper introduction and conclusion, illustrations and word studies, etc. The emphasis of any sermon structure should always be to properly explain the scriptures so that we can know what God wants us to know.
6. Pray without ceasing.
As preachers we cannot separate our preaching from our praying. We are to give ourselves continually to both prayer and the preaching of the Word (Acts 6:4). Pray for yourself, pray for those whom you will be preaching to, and pray for God to be glorified and His gospel exalted as you represent His Word.
7. When preaching, be yourself.
It is important that we not allow admiration to lead us to imitation. It is inevitable that we will reflect our influences, and we should study other preachers in order to improve our own skills. But when we preach we should be who God has made us to be not someone else. Use the voice, the personality, and the gifts God has given you.
8. Substance is more important than style.
Whatever our personality and style may be in preaching, the most important thing is that we are delivering the Word of God accurately. If we are not careful we will celebrate the style of preaching over the substance, identifying good preaching by the passion or articulation alone instead of the actual substance of the message. Let’s be passionate in our preaching, but let’s be more concerned about accurately giving God’s people what He intended for them to have.
In preaching, substance is more important than style.Tweet
9. Urgently plea for gospel decisions.
All preaching should bring people to a response. The preacher should never manipulate responses or manufacture decisions. We are, however, to plead for people to respond to God’s Word sincerely and urgently. As Richard Baxter said, “I preached as never sure to preach again, as a dying man to dying men.”
10. Preach only for the glory of God.
Preaching is not about us, it’s all about Jesus. He that glories must glory in the Lord. Don’t preach for amens or for admiration. Preach only for the glory of God. JH Jowett said it best, “What we are after is not that folks shall say at the end of it all, ‘What an excellent sermon!’ That is a measured failure. You are there to have them say when it is over, ‘What a great God!’ It is something for men not to have been in your presence, but in His.”