Enjoying the Journey
Preaching the Word of God is a grand privilege and great responsibility. For the faithful minister there is a joy and a soberness in standing to deliver the Lord’s message. The preacher’s objective is simple: to use Scripture and be used by the Spirit to point people to God.
Thirty-one years ago this summer I preached my first sermon. (At least I think that is what you would call it!) Now, after a host of meetings and messages, I am more conscious than ever of my need to become a more effective communicator of the truth. I need God! There is never a place to stop growing as a preacher, both in our understanding of Scripture and our delivery of God’s message. (Read more about that here.)
As a homiletics instructor I read a number of helpful books on how to first discover and then declare God’s message. It is good for preachers to read something on the subject periodically simply to stay conscious of the fact that we have not arrived. While there are many elements of sermon preparation and delivery there are three that are essential for effective preaching…
Effective preaching emphasizes exposition.
Exposition is simply the the explanation of the passage itself. It ensures that we are not saying what we want to say but what God has already said. Each preacher will have his own style of sermon construction but every faithful preacher must adhere to the plain teaching of Scripture.
Exposition is not a style of preaching – it is a commitment to say only what God says, nothing less and nothing more. “Preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2). Remember that is the only thing God promised will not return void (Isaiah 55:11).
There are all types of preachers in our day:
- The speech giver – gives a talk on some issue or topic
- The story teller – their message revolves around some story of interest
- The popular entertainer – concerned about pleasing the crowd and keeping people happy
- The idea presenter – speaks out of his own mind something that may be true but is not rooted in divine revelation, often seeking some Scripture to validate the idea
- The sermon deliverer – more consumed with his own outline and ability to share it than with the Scripture text itself
The Bible preacher’s sole concern is to accurately, honestly, faithfully convey God’s eternal truth and call the people to believe and obey it. Bible preaching has less to do with style and more to do with substance.
Effective preaching employs illustration.
There is a difference between being a good story teller and telling a story effectively. The Lord Jesus Christ was the Master-Preacher. He did not come to keep the masses entertained and yet and He employed object lessons, narratives, and metaphors constantly in His preaching. Graham Scroggie pointed out that in His teaching He used natural things, animals, plants, domestic and business items, agricultural typology, as well as civil, social, and historical references. Preachers must use the language of life.
The word illustrate means “to brighten with light.” Literally, let a little light in! If the Scripture text is the foundation of the sermon then the illustrations are the windows. Illustrations will shed light on your subject and help the audience to see what you say.
Effective preaching ends in application.
This does not mean that application is only given at the end of the message – if you wait that long you have lost the people! Rather, it means that everything we preach should aim at leading people to the application of truth to their own lives. What difference will the sermon make? Spurgeon said that the sermon does not even begin until the application begins.
Application should be woven into every part of the message – the introduction, the progression through the passage, the conclusion, the invitation, and the closing challenge as people leave. The end of our preaching is not the speaking of the preacher but the obedience of the people. God desires more than “hearers” – He is looking for “doers” (James 1:22), and we cannot expect the people to know what to do with the passage if the preacher does not.
Yes, it takes work to effectively preach the Word. It is the work of a lifetime, and it is work that has eternal consequences. May God help all of us who are called to be teachers to continue to be students.
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Read 4 Suggestions for Preachers given by Augustus Toplady.