5 Things I Want From a Sermon

After listening to a sermon, I thought about what I want in the sermon. Here are a few of the primary things that I want from a sermon. I especially want these things from a black preacher preaching a black sermon.

1. One Thought

Please have only one main thought and supporting thoughts. As I think about some of the more difficult sermons that I have listened to I begin to realize that often the preacher jumps from thought to thought without giving adequate exposition to any of them. If there is more than one main thought give me some kind of handout so that I can remember it. If it isn’t worth remembering it probably isn’t worth hearing.

2. Something to Take Home

Give me at least one thing to take home. Preferably it will be the main point of the sermon, but if not I will probably only pick one thing and forget everything else. Please help me determine what I should remember to take home.

In addition, give me something that I can apply when I get home. Theory is good and necessary, but if you don’t apply it, most of us will not be able to use it. My homiletics professor said that we should make sure that the Gospel is portable.

3. Do Not Bore Us

Do not bore the people. I am coming more to the conclusion that boring the people is sin. If you can’t make the Gospel exciting you probably are doing something wrong! Please note that I am not speaking of sensationalism, but something is wrong when a reasonably connected member who has come to hear a word from the Lord is put to sleep.

4. Know Your Sermon

Know Your Sermon. Practice your sermon. In addition don’t steal anyones sermon without giving proper credit and making the sermon your own.

5. Illustrations that Do Not Confuse

Do not use illustrations only a PhD can understand. I saw one sermon where the preacher put up a CAT scan of a Brain. It didn’t clarify anything and probably caused many minds to think about something else.

If you have 300 people in the audience and you preach for half an hour that is 150 man-hours that are spent listening to the sermon. Don’t waste those 150 hours!

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Sherman Haywood Cox II

Sherman Haywood Cox II is the director of Soul Preaching. He holds the M.Div with an emphasis in Homiletics and a M.S. in Computer Science.

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Mitch Baker - February 5, 2007 Reply

Yes & Amen on all points. My professor of Expository preaching said the same thing: Preach one point and preach it well.
Use at at least one story or illustration that accentuates the point – people will remember stories a lot longer than a sermon, but it they are truly related, they will remember the connection between both. He also encourages us to preach only 20 minutes saying, if you can not get your point across in 20 minutes then you are not going to get it across in 30 minutes or one hour for that matter.
He did understand the working of the Holy Spirit and sometimes sermons might go longer – but he cautioned us to be aware of what was the Holy Spirit and what was the flesh.

Roger Tise - September 1, 2010 Reply

I agree 100% with every element and point of the article. Any preacher MUST keep on point and maintain the interest of the listeners. If the people are not “engaged” mentality, emotionally and spiritually with what is being shared they will quickly “go to sleep”. There are more ways for someone to “go to sleep” than just a physical, eyes closed and snoring, state.

Although I really hesitate to go there, I am going to respond to the supposed “20 minute” rule that constantly comes down from the “authorities” at the seminary.

First of all, if the people are feeding on “spiritual food” during the week they will have an adequate appetite for more (not less) on Sabbath morning.

Secondly, to borrow a phrase, “…sermonettes make Christianettes…”.

Third, there should be NO hard and fast rule regarding the amount of time that a Spirit-filled sermon message should consume, within reason of course.

Fourth, there is far too much valuable worship time being consumed by too many other things and long-winded announcements and never-ending prayers that uplift nothing, or no one, other than the person in love with their own voice (work of the flesh) being heard.

Lastly, ALL of those seminary “authorities” make regular speaking engagements as speakers at Camp Meetings. I have yet to see a single one of them speak for only 20 minutes! In fact, a huge percentage of them are poor orators and break every rule that they proclaim and teach. I have sat through sermon messages of far too many of them that became more of an endurance than a blessing.

As a lay pastor I NEVER preach less than 35 to 45 minutes, get invited back again-and-again, never have anyone depart before I have delivered the message that the Holy Spirit has inspired AND have no plans to deliver little “devotional thoughts” for people to simply have a “feel good” experience from. And, above all else, I constantly hear; “…I wish our pastors would preach like you preach…”. People are starving for Spirit-filled messages and far too many of the “authorities” are suggesting to just give them a little 20 minute sample. That is bad counsel.

Respectfully,
Roger

Sherman Haywood Cox II - September 1, 2010 Reply

Lastly, ALL of those seminary “authorities” make regular speaking engagements as speakers at Camp Meetings. I have yet to see a single one of them speak for only 20 minutes! In fact, a huge percentage of them are poor orators and break every rule that they proclaim and teach. I have sat through sermon messages of far too many of them that became more of an endurance than a blessing.”

I think I know which seminary you are referring to. I do not know enough about it to know if they truly teach that you should preach 20 minutes. After having said that…

I normally argue that your average preacher should stay in the 25-35 minute time frame. I say that because many preachers have a difficult time staying on one subject and still preaching for an hour or more. However, that is not to say that there are some powerful preachers who preach an hour routinely.

But from my experience those preachers who can preach powerful coherent sermons for an hour or more are few and far between.

Let me also say, you said that many homiletics instructors break the rules that they teach. I have found this to be true as well. This is not just by the poor speakers but also by the very successful preachers. There is one preacher I am thinking about now who is a very effective preacher. However, his homiletics training demonstrates that he either doens’t know why he is effective, or he doesn’t want to tell the students why he is effective.

George Larry - September 1, 2010 Reply

Do not place a time limit on your preaching!

Preach a Great Spirit Filled Sermon and time will take care of itself. Many great preachers preach for an hour. I disagree with any human being placing a time limit of 35 or 45 minutes on the work that the Holy Ghost is attempting to do.

Sylvester Warsaw, Jr. - September 1, 2010 Reply

Eventhough, for the most part, I, agree with the insights, my main question to preachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ is, ” why do we preach? To build our own kingdom by preaching to itching ears for numbers or to preach to hearts so that the Holy Spirit can transform lives, thereby, bringing glory and honor to God the Father building His kingdom?” It has been my experience that effective preaching address issues of the heart where we live and as a result people have something to chew on throughout the week. Some of the best sermon illustrations are Biblical illustrations. People should leave the worship experience more hungry then when they came because they want another encounter with Jesus. Once you’ve had an encounter with Jesus you want more of Him not less. Your appetite to be in the presence of God should increase. Eventhough, I, personally preach only about thirty minutes the length of time you preach is between you and God. But let me warn you, don’t make the people happy twice, once to see you get up and the other to see you sit down. Those of us who preach must preach under the anointing and influence of the Holy Spirit and that doesn’t negate preparation. There’s nothing worse then a can sermon being unprepared.

Akinwale Chebuka - September 2, 2010 Reply

One thing that I feel is also essential is the need to bring people to the cross. I was raised in the Black Church, but I never heard a good salvation message as a youth until I attended a camp for inner city children, where White Presbyterian ministers actually explained to me the meaning of John 3:16. This was during the days of segregation, so I went back to my traditional Black church where I heard plenty of whooping messages, but there was no emphasis on salvation, or living a transformed life for Christ. I eventually drifted from the church and became a Muslim, until I was presented with the message of salvation again by Black ministers when I attended college.

Now as a minister of the Gospel, I feel that preaching style should never overshadow the primary message of salvation and faith in Christ that the world needs to hear clearly and distinctly.

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