I don’t listen to too many online sermons. Recently, however, I downloaded a sermon from a popular sermon hosting website since I had a long drive in front of me. I simply downloaded one of the “popular” sermons on a text I was preaching in the future to help me start thinking about it. To put it bluntly, the sermon was very bad. It was full of speculation, abounding in moralism, and completely lacking any gospel or grace. I was reminded that being popular doesn’t automatically mean true to the gospel!
To be fair, though I do try to preach Christ in every sermon, as well as avoid speculation and moralism, I don’t for a moment think my sermons are awesome or groundbreaking. I’m always trying to learn more about good preaching. As I mentioned here before, Julius Kim’s Preaching the Whole Counsel of God is a good help for preachers as they seek to preach Scripture in a Christ-centered, applicable way. One section I recently read again is the part where Kim talks about the actual process of writing a sermon – specifically the subpoints. Here are a few of his helpful principles for this part of sermon writing (which have to do with preaching as well):
Simple: Adopt simplicity over complexity. Overloading your audience with information that is irrelevant will undermine your sermon. Eliminate details that are not supportive and clear. Use language that is universal; that is, it appeals and is accessible to all types of peoples, in all times and in all places. Your goal is maximum comprehension through clarity….
Specific: Express yourself with words and sentences that are distinct and focused on the main point. When you are specific in your statements, hearers do not have to fill in the gaps. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. This requires you to be precise in your language, removing any ambiguity or mystery that may hinder your hearers’ comprehension….
Succinct: Aim for brevity both in the presentation of ideas and the length of sentences. While being succinct will often be influenced by the message you want to get across, editing ruthlessly will always benefit both speaker and hearer.
Sympathetic: Reveal your care and kindness throughout the sermon. It may be obvious, but being a sympathetic preacher is important. Much of your sensitivity and care will be shown in your delivery, but having sympathetic content is just as important. …A pastor is one who laughs and cries with his sheep. You are a shepherd first, preacher second. Preaching should be viewed as one of the main tasks of the shepherd, not something that defines you.
Sensitive: Anticipate and answer the potential questions and objections that may arise in your hearers’ minds and hearts as you preach. Good preachers make wise assumptions about what their hearers will be thinking and feeling at different moments in the sermon. Put yourself in the shoes of the hearers, asking yourself, What would I be thinking at this point in the sermon? …Predict interior questions and objections, propose answers to questions and objections in order to persuade and convict.
Kim did have a few more suggestions than these, but these are the ones I especially appreciated (and try to work on myself!). If you’re a preacher and need another helpful book on preaching, I do recommend this book. It’s a great tool for learning more about how to faithfully, clearly, and lovingly preach the Scriptures – and specifically the One who is at the center of the Scriptures!
The above quotes are found on pages 158-160 of Preaching the Whole Counsel of God by Julius Kim.
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)