This is the final post in the series discussing notes on Dr. Charles Adams’ class entitled “Preaching, Black and White.” Specifically the lecture entitled “do’s and don’ts.” Teresa Fry Brown wrote up notes from that lecture on page 164 and 165 of her book Weary Throats and New Songs. We have had nine articles in the series:
These tips can help any preacher become a much more effective one. You can read any of the above articles simply by clicking the article titles.
This is a very important question. I have heard sermons from 5 minute sermon-ettes to 1 1/2 hour lectures all under the term “sermon.” Personally, I attempt to preach between 25 and 35 minutes. I think that longer than that and people tend to only remember what you said towards the end, shorter than that and you can’t really lay down the groundwork to say something significant.
However, this is a personal thing. I have heard some strong preachers preach on a very interesting topic for an hour and have wondered where the time went. I have also heard dry ponderous presentations that felt like 2 hours when it was really 30 minutes. So I guess we have two points. The first point is to say something significant and needed and helpful. If you present something significant in an interesting way, then you will have few people disappointed in your length.
However your average preacher would do better to preach shorter sermons because it is easier for the people to process and it is easier for the preacher to stay interesting.
Teresa Fry Brown continues onto another point as she presents Charles Adams’ 9 suggestions to preachers found on page 164 and 165 of her book Weary Throats and New Songs. This one has to do with imitating other preachers.
The thought here is to strive to be yourself. Certainly one can learn from other preachers. I have written about this in many other articles. Just as the Jazz musician listens to other musicians, certainly we will listen to preachers and gain something from them. However, it is very problematic to imitate someone, especially when one has heard the one that you are copying. The people have come to hear you preach so you preach. God has called us to preach in our own gender, ethnicity, and denominational tradition. Copying will short circuit your creativity and make you redundant. If I want some big name preacher to preach, I will get them, but if I have called you, I want you. Let God speak to the people with your voice.
In this article we continue discussing simple strategies that will greatly increase your effectiveness as a preacher. The next one is something of special interest to those of us who are especially prone to CP (Colored People) Time. I don’t necessarily believe that there is a correlation between melanin and tardiness, but there is amongst us an ongoing realization that too often we are not on time. To increase your effectiveness, you must be punctual.
We cannot say enough about being on time. Being on time is a necessity. It informs members of the congregation that you take ministry and their time seriously. While it is true that circumstances arise in all of our lives that force us to be a little late at times, but timeliness in the matter of preaching ought to be our habit. Arriving late makes it seem as if you were preoccupied with more pressing matters than both the Gospel and the people; what could be more important than these things?
To Conclude, being on time will demonstrate to the people that you take your role as a preacher seriously and that you think that their time is important. If at all possible be on time and watch your effectiveness as a preacher increase.
While God plays the most significant role in the preaching task, the preacher must aid God in the work. Preachers can follow some simple strategies that will greatly aid the preaching moment. In the next 4 posts we will look at a few of these simple strategies. The first is to simply be present.
Simply arriving at a preaching engagement, is a powerful statement. As a minister, or ambassador of Christ we face many arduous circumstances, hindrances, and devilish detours all aimed at derailing us from spreading the gospel. Thus in a very real sense simply showing up and being present at the preaching moment is a powerful proclamation of God’s keeping power. Showing up also demonstrates that the preacher sees the preaching moment as more important than creaturely comfort. So be present because when you show up you are saying, “God is more powerful than Satan, and Good is more powerful than evil.”
In addition, the preacher ought to be present or have presence. Being present does not just mean being in attendance, it means having presence. To have presence one ought to participate in the worship service. This can not be done from within the study. While it is important to have moments for meditation, I believe that it is important for the preacher to participate in the worship service with the congregation. It sends a bad vibe to come out only when it is time to preach. It is like saying I am the main attraction and all of the preceding means of worship are mere opening acts. Moreover, being present in the service allows the minister to read the congregation and make necessary adjustments. In addition, the minister’s presence in the worship service helps the congregation gather a feel for the minister. This helps to lessen the anxiety or tension within the first few moments at the podium. One should be present in the worship service if one is to be an effective preacher.
To repeat, being present demonstrates the power of God over circumstances becuase the devil didn’t want this service to happen and yet God ordered our steps to be at the appointed time. Also, being present in the worship service allows the preacher and the congregation to get a feel for one another as they all approach the climax of the service in the presentation of the Word.
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