I preached my first “Big Church” sermon 20 years ago. I’ve been preaching, teaching and communicating ever since. I’m not expert or highly sought after speaker. I actually preach less these days in my current church role than I ever have in the past. However, I thought I would give 10 off the cuff observations and preaching tips. I’ve preached hundreds of sermons and listened to more. If you’re a preacher, teacher, speech giver or communicator of any type this series of posts might be helpful. Hopefully they will be though provoking. They may even make you mad. That’s all OK!
1.) Start with the audience, not with the text.
I hear pastors and seminarians pontificate all the time about “letting the text drive your preaching”. This is usually accompanied with a rant against topical preaching and followed by an exhortation to only preach expository sermons. (For the casual reader: expository preaching verse by verse through books of the bible…this definition is poor in of itself.)
Here is what I’m NOT saying: That the scripture isn’t primary when you’re preaching. It is. All my opinions are but flimsy dandelion pedals in comparison to the truth of the Bible. It just isn’t the best starting place. Jesus even began with the audience. What does the audience need to hear? If you’re a pastor who is shepherding a local church consider your audience. What are the struggles or areas where people need to be encouraged? What sin and folly needs to be addressed? Where is there misunderstanding and a need for doctrinal teaching? What tensions do skeptics and non-believers wrestle with? When you’ve identified how the scripture can enlighten, inform, challenge and in some cases rebuke the audience (including the preacher!) let the scripture do the speaking.
Preaching verse by verse through the book of Luke for 3 years isn’t “preaching the whole counsel of God”. You’ve simply ignored what the other 65 books have to say!
When I got my first gig as a Youth Pastor I spent the first several months preaching verse by verse through Revelation. How stupid was that? Sure the kids learned different eschatological viewpoints, but they didn’t know crap about making wise choices or the gospel either.
I’m not against expository preachers – some of which I listen to regularly. I’m against expository guys acting as if they’re the only preachers being faithful to God and His Word.
2.) Make your goal transformation, not information transfer.
Yes, I know – I can’t transform anyone! Yes, that is the job of the Holy Spirit. However, I can preach in such a way that change is the goal, not mere information transfer.
There is something I want you to consider when thinking about this principle. I believe the scripture is critically important. Does the skeptic? Does the new believer? Does the 13 year old who came to church for the first time with their Christian friend? Most of the time the answer is no. If they did, they would bring well used Bibles with highlights and notes in them.
So, help them see why it is important. Help them see why it is valuable. Help them see how it is helpful. If they begin to see that it is helpful, they’ll begin to see it as important.
When you preach or teach – create tension that needs to be resolved. Ask questions that demand answers. Make your audience desire – even demand – to know what the Bible says on the matter. Then allow the scripture to resolve the tension and answer the questions.
Feel free to share your thoughts or ask questions in the comments below. I’ll be posting the other over the next few days.