1. Without a clear, discernible, and simple structure, your sermon will feel longer than it actually is.
2. Don’t short-shrift the exposition, but the quicker you move from point 1 to point 2, the shorter your sermon will feel, even if it’s not a short sermon. Ideally, your exposition should be a bit longer under each successive point. This will also lend the feel of a narrative arc to your sermon, a sense of build and climax.
3. An exegetical outline is not a homiletical outline. When it comes to the outline, remember to think in terms of proclamation, not just in terms of structure/data. Sometimes the difference in composition is just a well-placed verb.
4. Your homiletical outline should reflect a sense of symmetry (think alliteration, repetitive form, etc.), not because it helps people remember your sermon points – as a rule, sadly, they won’t – but because it forces you to think more compositionally, substantively, and even artfully about your sermon.
5. If you’re not a great extemporaneous speaker, a manuscript can keep you from crutch words and phrases (um, uh, er, “you know”) and make your preaching more polished and thus more listenable.
6. If you are a pretty good extemporaneous speaker, a manuscript may keep you from making eye contact and compassionate connection and make your preaching feel more robotic and thus more lecture-like.
7. A sermon is not a lecture.
8. If you manuscript your sermons, remember that you’re not writing for the page, but for speech. Adjust language, construction, development of arguments, etc. accordingly.
9. The sermon preparation process should be as much devotional as exegetical.
10. Sermon prep works best when it is prayerful.
11. Engaging introductions are important, but if you take too long to get to the text, you may give the impression the text is not setting the agenda for the sermon.
12. Preaching Christ as moral exemplar is fine and biblical, but it is not the same as preaching Christ.
13. The word “gospel” is not magic. Don’t mistake using the words “the gospel” for actually preaching the gospel. To steward the Spiritual power of the good news well, you must actually articulate the news – cross and resurrection, at a minimum.
14. Verse-by-verse is a perfectly fine mode of exposition, but it’s not the only one.
15. Sometimes verse-by-verse exposition falls short of biblical preaching, like when it misses the text’s context, and especially when it misses the text’s Christ.
16. A well-worn cliché worth remembering: A text without a context is the pretext for a prooftext.
17. There are generally three contexts for every text: the immediate, the biblical, the Christological.
18. Remember, the verse numbers are not inspired.
19. The most common point of application in the apostolic preaching is “Repent and believe.”
20. Don’t underestimate what good illustrations can do, but don’t overestimate them either. The power in your sermon is not in a well-turned phrase or a well-told anecdote but in a well-preached gospel.
21. Illustrations make your exposition “visible” to the mind’s eye of your hearers. Furthermore, they help hearers rest from exposition and engage a different portion of their brain. Good illustrative content makes a sermon feel more substantive, more full, and more aimed at the whole person.
22. Some of you should remember to smile.
23. Some of you should remember to cry.
24. Some of you think preaching just means yelling, and you’re way beyond the age of knowing better.
25. A succession of cutesy stories is just a hokey standup routine masquerading as a sermon. (Looking at you, older preachers.)
26. A succession of intellectual ruminations is just a theology lecture masquerading as a sermon. (Looking at you, younger preachers.)
27. Both of the above approaches are just opposite ways of “preaching ourselves.”
28. If you disdain creativity, you could probably stand to be more creative.
29. If you prize creativity, you could probably stand to be less creative.
30. Pay attention to what you’re doing with your hands. Pay attention to your tone of voice. Varying your gestures and modulating your voice suppress a “monotone effect.”
31. The sermon length sweet spot for the vast majority of us is probably 35 minutes, give or take a few minutes. This is not so much a capitulation to the short attention span of modern audiences as it is a preacher’s ability to economize in his presentation and be merciful to his audience. Most of us are not as listenable as we think we are.
32. Too-long sermons are sometimes the result of overcooking, the preacher trying to say everything about a text that is possible to say, which is not the point of a sermon. Too-short sermons are usually the result of superficial preparation. Beware both extremes, but for the favorer of short sermons, remember that, unfortunately, the sermon is the most Bible most of your congregation will get each week. They need a good, deep look, not a quick glance.
33. Law-heavy sermons please the flesh, but cannot save or sanctify a heart.
34. Law-heavy sermons are excellent at provoking conviction, but grace-heavy sermons both convict and comfort.
35. Grace-heavy sermons console, but they also empower.
36. Mind the imperatives and the indicatives and learn to distinguish them well. A stubborn distinction between law and gospel is part of what makes Christian preaching Christian.
37. When you are done with your sermon prep – ideally, before you have preached your sermon – ask whether there is anything distinctly Christian about it. Could your informational Old Testament sermon be preached in a Jewish synagogue? Could your inspirational New Testament sermon be preached in a Mormon setting?
38. Every text of Scripture has a road that leads to “the great metropolis of the Scriptures,” which is Christ (Spurgeon). The preacher’s job is to find that road.
39. If, after as much toil as time and energy allows, you cannot find that road, “make one” (Spurgeon). It is better to clunkily preach Christ than not to preach him at all.
40. Topical sermons are fine in theory, but in execution, topical sermons should entail the exposition of a central text on that topic.
41. Good expositional preaching passively trains churches how to study their Bibles.
42. Preaching through whole books of the Bible should be the normative diet in congregational worship.
43. Preaching through whole books of the Bible exposes the congregation to texts they might not encounter of their own volition and challenges the preacher to present texts he might otherwise wish to avoid.
44. Preaching through whole books of the Bible nurtures a deeper love of God’s word among the congregation, as well as a sense of endurance (Rom. 15:4).
45. At first, congregations will listen to your good preaching. Over time, however, if they do not experience you as a caring shepherd, even your good preaching will have little effect. They will wonder if you even believe it. But: “If they believe you love them, they will bear anything from you” (Baxter). Even a bad sermon now and again.
46. If you listen to the same preacher or two, you’re going to end up sounding like them – for better or worse. If you cannot listen widely, choose wisely.
47. As in writing, in preaching it takes a while to find your voice. In the beginning, you will (even unwittingly) sound like your favorite preacher(s). Over time, however, your true voice will begin to emerge. It will be a neat discovery.
48. A preaching of Christ that feels formulaic and one-note is not always a failure of hermeneutic but often a failure of spirituality. A preaching of Christ that feels formulaic and one-note is frequently the result of a personal relationship with Christ that is formulaic and one-note.
49. The preacher must take personal care during the week that he is not simply engaging in a relationship with the idea of Jesus rather than with Jesus himself.
50. A feeble, flawed preacher preaching a fallible sermon can nevertheless deliver a powerful Savior that scares devils, shakes strongholds, and saves sinners from death and hell. Many might preach the gospel better than you, but nobody can preach a better gospel.