One sometimes gets the impression while listening to a sermon that the preacher concerned is – whether gently or furiously – stirring a cloud of dust before our eyes instead of feeding us with the Word of God. Too many words – like darts which hit everywhere except the bull’s eye. I know these are harsh words and I myself have been frequently guilty of preaching in such a manner. But for the sake of improvement (and, more importantly, for the sake of the sheep who look up and are not fed) we preachers have to confront ourselves and face the fact that we often botch up the task of preaching. Here are some tips which might help remedy our failure in this matter:
*Precision – A sermon is precious. Every word counts. Don’t hide your meaning behind a multitude of words. Don’t let your sermon be all “sound and fury, signifying nothing.” A preacher must be a master of words, using the exact word to communicate the precise idea he has in mind.
*Pointedness – The preacher must speak from the heart to the heart. He must feed hearts and not merely inform minds.
*Passion – Logic on fire! Wake them up, don’t put them to sleep. Passion, however, is not a matter of raising your voice. It’s speaking with deep and genuine conviction.
*Persuasiveness – Logic on fire!
*Perspicacity – A sermon must be simple, clear and coherent, so that even a child can understand what you are saying. Sometimes a preacher assumes that just because something he says is clear and understandable to him it is also clear and understandable to his audience. That is not necessarily the case. He should put himself in the place of his listeners and see (or hear) his sermon from their perspective, and make the necessary adjustments.
*Planned – What I mean by this is that a sermon must be coherent. It’s often frustrating and wearisome trying to follow what exactly it is a preacher is saying while he wanders around and across the highways and by-ways of his subject.
*Preparation – “I will not offer to the Lord what cost me nothing.” Included in this is prayerful study. But more than this, your whole life is the true preparation for a sermon. The sermon should merely be the tip of the iceberg. A tree bears fruit in its season, but the whole year round it gathers all the nutrients and power and life-force it can from the soil, the water, the sun and the air, in preparation for the moment of fruit-bearing. This is where I think many preachers are mistaken. They think a week’s study is enough to prepare a sermon. They don’t realize that all of their lives is the preparation needed for making and preaching a sermon worthy of the name.
*Prophetic – a preacher must be conscious of the fact that he is forth-telling the words of God. He is expounding divine truth. The task of preaching is a sacred one. He cannot therefore engage in this task light-heartedly and without a view towards excellence. He must in dependence on the power of the Spirit preach as a dying man to dying men the words of life. How can he approach this task routinely and mechanically, as if it were ordinary and of no moment?
These then are the tips that come to mind as I reflect on the subject of preaching. And I realize no one is more guilty of not following them than I. These tips are therefore primarily meant for me. But I am posting them here because they might also prove helpful to others who also struggle with the difficulty of the task of preaching.