To know if you were successful at something you’ve tried, you have to know what you were seeking to accomplish. This is true in every area of life but especially in preaching. This is why I nail down two questions before every sermon. These two questions are an essential part of my sermon preparation process, and I want to share them with you.
1. What is the objective for this sermon?
When you think back on a sermon you’ve preached you should know if you met your objective. Nothing is more frustrating than putting lots of work into a sermon and having no way to measure its effectiveness. But to assess the sermon you need an objective to measure it against. And to meet an objective, you must have an objective. So what exactly is a preaching objective?
A preaching objective is simply what you want the sermon to do. A sermon should be more of a verb than a noun. A sermon should work. It should accomplish things.
But your sermon only accomplishes...
As a preacher you should never shy away from tough topics. If the Bible addresses an issue, you should too. You want to help your people have a holistic view of how biblical truth intersects with every aspect of their lives. But the more controversial the topic the more important it is to handle it with care.
In the last couple years I have preached on topics ranging from what the Bible teaches about alcohol consumption, to sex and sexual issues, to marriage, and financial giving. Along the way, I have learned a few things about how to approach these types of sermons, and I would like to share with you. Here are 9 tips for preaching on controversial topics:
1. Avoid shock-jocking. Some preachers use sensitive topics as an opportunity to use crass language and coarse humor. Their intent is to capture attention and foster interest in the topic, but this is unnecessary. If you are covering a sensitive topic it probably engenders enough interest in itself.
Depending on your...
As preachers we must guard against pride. It is a trap that can destroy our effectiveness and our ministries. But we need confidence in order to boldly proclaim God’s word. A tension exists between pride and confidence.
Most of us would say that being confident in our abilities is generally good, but being prideful in ourselves is detrimental. We know that the Scriptures contain harsh warnings against pride. You can be a confident person without being prideful, but it often seems like a fine line.
A closely related character trait to pride and confidence is fear. Fear can be a huge inhibitor. Most of us bounce back and forth between pride and fear. Sometimes we’re prideful of our accomplishments looking for others to notice how awesome we are and validate us. Other times we are insecure in our abilities and fearful of what other people might think. We like confidence because it seems to be a good middle ground, but it is difficult to stay there...
There are few things more vulnerable than preaching. If you do it right, it is a moment when you bare your soul for the world to see. So it makes sense that you wonder what people think of your preaching. You want to know if your sermon worked. Did God use it to move people? Sometimes you just want someone to tell you that you did great so you don’t feel as awful about your mediocre sermon (we’ve all been there).
Most of us walk away from a sermon we’ve preached with this resounding thought: Validate me, tell me how great my sermon was because I need to feel worthy as a person!
Categorically positive feedback is acceptable from your mom or your spouse. Everyone needs someone cheering them on. But you have to pursue more meaningful feedback from others if you want to get better. You should seek feedback that actually makes a difference. You want the kind that tells you if your sermons are doing what they’re supposed to do – making an impact.
In our effort to become better preachers we often learn from the best preachers in our generation. We watch the superstars and take notes gleaning all we can from them. This, by the way, is a good thing. While you should never seek to copy someone else or become them, you can always learn a great deal from studying best practices. But we have a lot to learn not only from our contemporaries, but also from those who have gone before. One leader and preacher who we can learn a great deal from is Paul.
Paul, the Apostle, was not only a top notch theologian who wrote a huge part of the New Testament. He was also a missionary, pastor, church-planter and movement leader. We can gain a lot from watching his life and ministry. Here are 5 practical things preachers can learn from Paul:
1. Paul relied on the prompting of the Holy Spirit. The discussion of whether churches should carefully plan out their ministry strategy or rely on the Holy Spirit’s guidance creates a false...
The days leading up to a sermon can be very stressful for a preacher. Your sermon content is on your mind constantly. The responsibility of preparing a sermon can be daunting because when Sunday comes you have to deliver. You need a plan, a guide, a schedule to keep you on track. Here’s why you need a weekly sermon prep schedule:
As a preacher you never want to procrastinate and put off your sermon prep. But things come up and you have to deal with unexpected events. Your study gets interrupted and it’s difficult to stay on schedule. A written sermon prep schedule is an objective measure. It can help you stay on track with your prep. If you get behind, you’ll know it. If you get ahead, you’ll know it. Sometimes writing the schedule down is half the battle. This helps you avoid scheduling other meetings on top of your most important preparation times.
It is easy to...
How you begin your sermon is vital. It can mean the difference between your listeners checking out or deciding to pay close attention. The things you say at the beginning of a sermon are what your listeners subconsciously use to build a framework for your whole message. If your thoughts are murky and unclear, you’re laying an unstable foundation.
But the way you end a sermon is just as important. If the closing of your message is disorganized and unclear, then your listeners will walk away feeling the same way about your message – that it was disorganized and unclear. I’ve written extensively about the important role you play as the communicator in setting the tone for how your audience perceives your message.
When I first began preaching I would prepare relentlessly for the first five minutes of my sermon. I wanted my opening thoughts to be perfect. I would prepare the opening remarks and the body of the sermon with careful detail. But when it came to the end of...
This is the last post of a three part series on the benefits of preparing sermons in a team. Part one discussed the different reasons why a lot of preachers prepare their sermons solo. Part two examined what happens as a result of preparing sermons alone.
For this final post I want to give you some practical tools for how to get started preparing your sermons in a team. This practice changed everything about the way I prepare sermons and enriched my preaching experience.
It’s important to recognize what constitutes a team. For the purposes of sermon prep, a team could be a structured group that meets regularly or it could be an unstructured collection of people that you seek out to collaborate with. The point is that you are intentionally broadening the preparation process to more than just you.
Our preaching team is made up of our pastors who preach in the main services, the service programming coordinator, other staff members and a note...
Some preachers alliterate their outlines making all their points begin with the same letter. Sometimes just the main points are alliterated, other times the sub-points are alliterated, still other times the sub-sub-points are alliterated. At one point it was taught as a great way to organize your message and really get your listeners to remember. To make it stick, alliterate! was the mantra. But we don’t see as much alliteration anymore. But does it make a difference? Alliterate or not, does it matter?
Here’s why alliterated outlines are almost always absolutely atrocious:
1. They make your message seem contrived. Alliterated outlines can appear contrived and forced. Like the preacher just needed a matching, neat outline so he grabbed whatever word fit the others regardless of whether it was actually the best word that communicated the meaning he wanted. Like this:
God wants three things from you:
1. Surrender2. Service3....
If you haven’t read part one of this series, make sure to check it out. In that post I discuss four reasons why most preachers prepare their sermons alone. In this post I address the question of why it matters because you may be asking… So what if I prepare my sermons alone, what difference does it make?
When I went from solo preparation to a team based model my sermons improved dramatically. They became much more connected to my listeners. I am convinced that a purposeful team approach with intentional input from others at every stage of preparation has been THE thing that has most improved my sermons. In the final post of this series (part three) I will discuss exactly what this looks like for me and offer suggestions on how to get started. Before I get to that I want to address one question:
What’s wrong with preparing Sermons alone?
If almost everyone does it this way, then how could it be so bad? If you prepare your sermons alone...