This is another one of the most popular questions. Whenever I have a seminar or receive questions through the mail, someone asks, “How do I know my sermon is ready for preaching.”
This is a very important question, but often our own misunderstandings of what “ready to preach” means can cause issues. For example, “Ready to preach” does not mean that the sermon can not be made better with more thought, study, and prayer.
What is interesting however are those who leave citing positions that I do not hold. Hence a couple of emails this week assumed that I teach the “seeker sensitive” marketing methods that were popular in the last decade. They are no longer on the cutting edge as the evangelical church has moved on to other tactics to foster growth.
At any rate, I must admit that it has been a while since I have written on the topic. Here is an article two years ago entitled God’s Grace or Mere Methods. Here is another one entitled Surface Needs or Real Needs written about a year ago. Then there is another one of a couple of years ago that I titled Seeker Sensitive Ministry and Felt Needs Preaching.
Essentially, I believe that the church runs into issues when it attempts to use marketing methods that are alien to it. Madison Avenue techniques are designed for Madison Avenue. They are designed to help marketers to market products.
Some techniques look at what people want. They then construct a product to give people what they want. In contrast, a “gospel oriented ministry” will not be constructed around what people want. In many cases we are so messed up we do not even know what we need. A Gospel oriented ministry will not construct ministries around what the people want. Instead it will construct around what the people need as enlightened by the Most High God.
My 5 year old child would eat candy every day if it were up to him. His “felt needs” are for more sweets and less vegetables. However, I know that would not be for his good and so I give him the vegetables. I give him water and juice instead of soda pop. I give him what he needs whether he feels he needs it or not. I give him what he would want me to give him were he to look at it from my perspective as his father.
Many of us are serving candy and soda pop to our people. We want the big church so we don’t tell them what they need, but we tell them what they want to hear. We throw a whoop on the end of some pablum and feel happy that malnourished saints enjoy our anemic messages.
Maybe some of our people are not growing as Christians because we are giving them candy instead of solid food. What is solid food? Yes forgiveness is solid food. Our need for the most high God to step in our lives. That is solid food. But also, sometime you gotta talk about the ethical requirements of “being Saved.” What is expected of one who has this spiritual power that God alone gives? Sometime you gotta talk about loving the unlovable. That’s solid food. Sometimes you gotta talk about blessing those that curse you and doing good to those who despite-fully use and abuse you. Yes that’s solid food. Sometime you gotta talk about our connection to systems of evil in this world during the rest of the week. Yes, That’s solid food.
We have heard about God getting us a new car and a new house enough. Now it is time to start hearing about a God that will use us to relieve suffering. We have heard about being blessed enough, now it is time to start talking about being a blessing. We have heard about God “hooking us up” enough, now it is time to start hearing about “You hooking someone else up!”
As preachers, it is time to move on so that the Good News can be good to somebody else beside just the folks sitting in front of you every Sunday morning. May the Lord bless us as we seek to preach the whole counsel.
the first of these myths is that Black Preaching is primarily about preaching style. Often when one thinks about what is Black Preaching and its connection to Black Worship, they think solely about black style. They think about a “hyped up” worship experience. As Sherman Cox has pointed out in his seminars on black preaching, “when one thinks about black preaching they normally think about style.”
the great problem is that style is a small component of strong Black preaching. In fact style can hide poor preaching. Have you ever listend to a preacher who was shouting, but was shouting about nothing? Style should always be totally dependent on content. Style should always be secondary to content. If you have to choose between style and content. Choose the content. Great content preached wholeheartedly, will bring its own style.
Great preaching is not about “yelling” or other stylistic components, it is about powerfully preaching the Word of God from the perspective of those who live with their “backs against the wall.” Our first myth that makes Black preaching solely about style trivializes the tradition and encourages the people to have a weak connection to truth.
It is interesting how many budding preachers turn on the television and think that copying the various personalities is effective preaching.Â Â They end up with superficial copies of some preachers.Â Sometimes they even copy preachers with incorrect or superficial theology.Â So you end up with a superficial copy of a superficial original.Â Certainly I am not saying that all television preachers are superficial or wrong, but there are many that are.Â So what can you do?
You can be trained.Â Now I do not wish to argue that seminary is required, although it can be very helpful, but I do wish to argue that you need to begin a lifelong training program if you going to be an effective communicator of the Gospel.Â So what do I need?
1) Preaching Training.Â Learn how to put together an effective sermon.Â Learn the fundamentals of an effective sermon.Â Learn how to preach in such a way as to encourage understanding of the message.Â You can find a number of books that will help you in this endeavor.Â I would encourage you to sign up for my own Supercharge Your Sermons course and/or download our free ebook You Can Preach: 7 Steps to an Effective Sermon.Â If you do these things you will be well on the way to constructing effective sermons.
2)Bible Training.Â Learn the contents of the Bible.Â What was said and where.Â All of these things will inform your preaching.Â Start a Bible in a year program.Â Read it daily.Â Read it for sermon ideas as well as for inspiration.Â Read the Bible!Â Let me also encourage you to do a forgotten practice…Memorize Scriptures.Â You may have done it when you were young, start doing it again.
3)Theological Training.Â Learn the basic teachings of the Bible.Â What does the Bible teach?Â How does the Bible Teach it.Â What are your denominational teachings?Â How do they inform your understanding?Â Are you in agreement with them?Â Why or why Not?Â These are some of the questions that will indirectly inform your preaching and provide depth.Â Read aÂ theology text and some of your denominational literature.
4)Christian History.Â Some hate history, but it will provide depth to your sermons.Â It will also help you to understand the same basic questions that come up over and over in history.Â It would also be helpful to know about your denominational history.Â Read a book here.
5)Pastoral Care. All preachers are not pastors, but most are assumed to know how to do some basic pastoral care.Â Once again.Â There are a number of books on the subject that can help you in this.Â People will come to you wondering how they can make the principles you spoke of in your message real in their lives.Â Â You need to spend a bit of time understanding this question if possible.
Great preaching doesn’t happen immediately.Â It takes time.Â And over time you will get better and better.Â Begin a training program that will make you a well rounded preacher.Â This will help you be more true to your God and the people you serve.
I was talking to a laymember the other day who was very excited about a sermon he had heard. The member gave me all four of the points of the sermon and was excited about applying the sermon to his daily life. Interestingly enough, he searched on the internet to try to find this sermon and other sermons by the same preacher.
The preacher was a white American preacher. This preacher didn’t yell. His voice did keep a pleasant rising and lowering due to a natural conversational tone. The preacher didn’t whoop or use any other “stylistic” components of the African American Preaching Tradition. So What did the preacher do?
The preacher did three things that I have written on in other posts that can help any preacher’s sermons. The first thing he did was had clear and easily identifiable points. The people did not have to guess about what was important, the preacher simply told them. The preacher clearly defined the points and clearly defined what he meant by the points. We as preachers cannot expect anyone to remember our points if they don’t even know what they are.
The second thing the preacher did was clearly illustrated the points with stories. Each and every main point had a story connected to it. These stories were memorable and clearly connected to the point. Sometimes we tell stories that are only tangentially related to the point. Stop doing that. It takes away from your message. However, if you have a clear point and a relevant memorable story, you are well on the way to a sermon that people will remember.
Finally, the preacher’s stories were more intense as the sermon continued. The layperson told me that each story and point was “stronger” than the other one. Please note that I am not talking about yelling to manufacture intensity, I am talking about the content being stronger. So point two was stronger than point one, and point three was stronger than point two, and point four was stronger than point three. Here was a use of the “whooping curve” without necessarily whooping. We must leave people with the strongest content at the end, and that content should be related to the point illustrated and the main point of the sermon.
Here was an effective preacher who had content that the people remembered. And the people were ready to apply it to their daily lives. If we are to learn from this preacher, we must clearly define our points, illustrate them well with stories, and make each point progressively intense. Then the people will understand and be ready to apply the sermon.