Over the years I have heard a lot of sermons; some have been good others, not so much. If you are a preacher then you, like me, want to get better. In this post I’ll take for granted that we understand that no sermon will get off the ground unless it is preaching the Scriptures. If you are not doing this then anything I write here will not help you. What follows here are 5 simple, practical preaching helps. As I study preaching and preachers these things are present in consistently helpful, good expositions.
1.) Drop the Hook. The hook is a question mark. We too often forget that the sermon is a conversation. We (the preachers) are in a homiletical dialog with our hearers. Think about a conversation you’ve had recently. Has one person talked for 45 minutes straight? How did that go? Can you imagine that? Preachers, you have to mix in some questions so that your hearers will have to answer them. Then you show them in the text what the answer is or you reason through the principles to help them get there. You might ask,”What does a lack of prayer say about your view of yourself?” This crucial step makes the person actually answer in their minds. You could just say, “A lack of prayer indicates that you believe that you are self-sufficient.” However, that crucial step, repeated dozens of times during the sermon helps to keep people tracking and finding the answers in the Bible. I encourage you to drop hooks liberally.
2.) Open the Windows. If you want to improve your preaching then you need to use word pictures and illustrations. These homiletical tools are like opening windows in a musty basement. They get fresh air in. Your sermon should not smell or look like grandma’s basement. Open some windows. Hang some nice art (word pictures). Put on some fresh paint (use current events to show the culutral idols, etc). This whole world is stamped with God’s creative seal, therefore find how it illustrates, elucidates or further communicates your point and go and get it. If you want more help on this read Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. You could also read Thomas Watson; my man was a homiletical artist. I also found this book helpful. Open windows in your sermon.
3) Point the Finger: This goes along with the first point, you have got to engage people. If your sermon is propositional (and it must be) then it must call them to believe something, address something or do something. Mixing in some 2nd person “You!” is very helpful. Of course that could go overboard so you want to mix it up. I have found Mark Dever to be a very helpful example of this. He has a ton of phrases that he uses, such as: friend, brother, sister, you, we, church, single person, married person, Christian, men, women, children, etc. Thoughtfulness here will only help you hit the mark.
4) Show your Scars: The preacher is most effective when the sermon’s truth has gripped him. He not only needs to know the subject but he needs to believe it. As a result the sermon will seep down into his life and get ahold of him. This brings about conviction, repentance and change. It is healthy and helpful to model this as a pastor. I should also say that taken to its extreme this could lend itself to a public personal show every week. This would become a distraction and problem. Be gripped by the truth and then show how it grips you, in so doing don’t make it about you.
5) Bottom-Line It: Sometimes we as preachers can spend a lot of time explaining concepts; and for some people these concepts are new. If you work through a lengthy explanation and then just move on some people will get it but others will not. I was just listening to a friend preach yesterday and he did a fantastic job explaining the context of 2 Corinthians. And then he said, “The bottom-line is this: in any state of mind Paul is not selfish. He loves the Corinthians. He love is always upward and outward. (2 Cor. 5.13).” It was a very succint statement to put a bow on a lengthy explanation. You can’t miss that.
These are things you can do right away and they will bring immediate impact. As I look back on sermons that have seemed to have the most traction, they have most often been the ones when I have faithfully unfolded the passage, gotten out of the way, and let these 5 friends loose. Give it a try; I guarantee it will work. If not, then I’ll give you a full refund.