OK, you put a lot of time and effort into constructing and presenting a powerful sermon. You have crafted the language in such a way that the theologically sound message comes through very powerfully. The preaching moment is now over. Many of these sermons live on through audio CDs or video DVDs, but there are a growing number of preachers who are leveraging the internet to gain a greater hearing for their sermon. In addition, these methodologies can increase the length of time that people rmember the message. Finally, it allows visitors to experience a little bit of the worship hour at your church.
OK, So what can A preacher do?
This is simple. You already have the audio of your sermon. Why not post it in its entirety to an Audio Podcast. Surprisingly many people, including preachers, listen to these sermons that are available online. Now there are paid services that bring together a number of preachers and there are free services that will require a little more technical expertise.
My suggestion would be to take your audio and get ahold of someone in your congregation who has a bit of technical expertise and have that one upload your sermons online. Then let your congregation know that sermons are now available. It shouldn’t cost much and it will allow your sermon to be heard beyond the four walls of your congregation.
Now you could simply post your sermon in text. You can do this to a service like SermonCentral or you can post it to your own blog (website). The nice thing about either option is that it allows your sermons to show up in Google search results. You can post a full text version of your sermon, summary, or perhaps an outline.
Again, grab ahold of a technically savvy individual in your congregation and get your sermons up on line.
Everyone uses YouTube. You can put your sermons up on YouTube. There are a number of powerful preachers who do this today. Go into youTube and simply type in preachers and you will see a number of them. If you already have a video recording of your sermons, then put them up there now!
In my internet consulting work, I always emphasize the necessity of getting an email list. You want to grow a list of people who you can contact at any time with inspiring and powerful messages. Sending a sermon summary (or outline or full mansuscript) will definitely help you to grow such a list as well as bless the people who are reading.
Get your congregation to sign up and then start sending messages to the congregation. An email list can be a very powerful way to “meet” with your congregation outside of the church.
Did you know that you can stream your worship service for free? Head on over to Ustream.com and check it out. Some stream services as well as many other kinds of things. Again you will probably need some technical person to help you, but more than likely you already have an audio/sound team that can handle this.
Everyone is on social networking sites. Even pastors, preachers, and evangelists make use of these pwoerful platforms. Why not create a “Facebook Fan Page” for your ministry and post links to the sermons as well as maybe summaries. There are text limits to Twitter and Facebook messages, but that only forces you to be succinct. Check them out and use them in your ministry.
You have put a lot of effort into the sermon, use the web to magnify them. If you have any questions do not hesitate to send me an email or write them in the comments. If you have used or plan to use the internet to magnify the power of your sermon, I would like to hear bout that as well.
John Piper has a very interesting sermon preparation method that reminds us that sermon preparation is not a science, but it is an art. You can read his article at this link.
He knows what he is going to preach about early because he has to let the worship leaders know. So he picks a title and a text early.
He says that if he is familiar with the text, he will begin working on it Friday. Yes I said Friday. (This is definitely not what you hear about in the seminary homiletics courses.) Piper begins Friday morning and works till late at night. Piper notes that he hasn’t had to work all night before, but has been up till 2:00AM.
Piper begins by asking the question “what does God want the people to hear?” He emphasizes the “text only” by reading the text in Greek and Hebrew. I am not sure where other materials fit in, such as commentaries, dictionaries, and other sermons. These materials must fit in by simply being a part of Piper’s general knowledge of the subject that no doubt comes from other reading, but that is only my guess.
So Piper’s exegesis is simply reading the text closely and writing out the things that God told him the people need to hear. This is an important consideration. Both prayer and also to attempt to find out what the people need to hear. There are a lot of things in the text, and not all of it is needful at this time by your congregation.
Another important point that I emphasize often is that exegesis is simply a close reading of the text. There are different methods, but you should come up with one that works for you. I would however suggest that you intentionally look at various aspects of the text. For example, the use of power, the theology of the writer and the people in the text, etc… No doubt Piper is calling on his vast knowledge of these subjects as he reads the text.
Newer preachers probably must start earlier in the week. While it works for Piper, starting on Friday is one unimagined disaster away from a “Saturday Night Special” where you have to throw something together on Saturday night before getting up in the pulpit Sunday morning. I would strongly suggest, especially for the new preachers, to move intentional sermon prep earlier in the week.
Next, at least do some initial analysis of the text before giving the sermon title to your worship leaders or the bulletin creation personnel. How many times have you read the text and it took a totally different turn than you expected?
Finally, find a way to intentionally interact with (not necessarily agree but interact with) your traditions (ethnic, ecclesial, national, etc). Now this should be done after the initial exegesis, but probably should be done.
I would not take it upon myself to attempt to correct any preacher, especially one as accomplished as Piper, but I do think that just as he said “what works for me may not work for you.” Come up with your own method as you struggle with the text and the preparation process.
I will never forget my first homiletic class where the instructor told us to “analyze a sermon.” I had no idea where to begin and the whole idea seemed difficult. But I then found out that by analyze they simply mean look at the sermon “critically” and “closely.” Pull the sermon apart and look at the pieces individually. Then see how the pieces fit together. These are all parts of analyzing a sermon effectively. Sermon analysis works best when you are analyzing your own sermons. So in this article I want to give you some questions to ask yourself as you analyze your own sermons to become a more effective proclaimer of the Word of truth.
The first question you want to ask is what was the purpose of the sermon? Was it powerfully conveyed? Too often we either make the main point cloudy by not lifting it up high enough, or we simply do not have a decent idea of what our main point is. When you do either of these things that cloud up your main point, you will make it difficult for the people to know what you are teaching.
Was the sermon important? Some have questioned the idea that something can be true and not important. I do believe that there are things that are true, but are not important enough to be preached at this time, but you don’t have to believe that. Whether you believe everything that is true is important or not, whatever you preach, you need do clearly articulate how it is important. Don’t leave your people wondering or guessing. Help them to find this by your proclamation.
My homiletic instructor, Rev. Dr. Brad Braxton, used to tell us that we need to figuratively package the truth of our sermons into pouches that our people can take with us and use during their daily lives. It is one thing to teach truth, it is another thing to teach important truth, and it is best to present important and portable truth. Let your people bring that main point with them and be in a position to use it in their daily lives. Have you done that in the sermon?
First there are issues regarding the use of the Bible. Look at which scriptures are used. Are they used legitimately? Is it the correct scripture to use in this case? How are the scriptures used? Sometimes scriptures are used to illustrate truth. Other times they are used to establish truth. Sometimes they are illegitimately used as a springboard to what the preacher wishes to say. Sometimes the scripture even says the opposite of what the preacher said that particular scripture says. At any rate, listen to how the scriptures are used in the sermon. Ask yourself if the use of the scriptures are valid and helpful.
Related to this is the use of stories and illustrations. What stories are used to illustrate truth? Are they effective? What could be done to make the sermon better? Do the stories overpower the points of the sermon? Do the stories help the sermon?
Next you want to look at the structure of the sermon. What are the parts of the sermon? How do they fit together? What are the reasons for the parts? How does the sermon move towards ending? How is the introduction structured? There are many different ways of structuring a successful sermon, learning different methods will help you in your efforts to improve you own sermons. Always make sure that your own sermons move forward properly.
Ultimately there is not only one proper way to analyze the sermon. I am simply calling you to look very closely at the sermon. When you look at your sermons closely you may ask some of these questions, you may ask more questions, but in the end, please look closely at your sermons before and after you present them to your people.
A while back I wrote an article on associate ministry and how we must support the worship service. You can find that link here. After reading some of the results from our 2010 survey, I found two things. First, many readers of SoulPreaching.Com are in an associate or assistant minister slot. Some are paid and many are unpaid. The majority are considered clergy by their denomination while others are considered lay people. In any case, these people have felt the call to ministry that often includes the call to preach. However, in many churches there is simply not enough opportunities to preach for all of the unpaid associates and assistants. Some senior pastors work to make opportunities for these assistants, while other senior pastors simply ignore the issue. I also found that many people wanted more help for those in associate ministry. I pray this article will help in that regard.
The problem is that people who feel a call to preach and are not given the opportunity to preach often cause problems for the congregation. They sometimes start to fight with other leaders desiring their preaching opportunities. Sometimes they turn every time they are in the pulpit into a preaching moment. So they are reading the scripture, they turn that into a sermon. They announce they hymn, and that is a sermon. Yes, one who feels the call to preach and never gets an outlet for that call will feel frustrated and often will take it out on the congregation, pastor, and the other church leaders.
I was talking the other day to an associate about this very problem. This associate noted that those of us who are in associate ministry must first and foremost recognize that our role is one of support. Support the senior pastor. Support the worship service. Support the congregation. Our role in church is to “plug the gaps.” You may not preach but once or twice a year in the church, but you must in your role at church “support.”
But in order to be successful in that support role, you must be allow the Holy Spirit to help you find your ministry that you can lead. This ministry will more than likely be outside of the walls of the church, but does not have to be. Successful associates have found that Nursing Home ministry can be a valid and powerful outlet for their ministry. There are many of our seniors who have no one to visit them and have no way of getting to church. Perhaps you can bring church to them.
Another important ministry is the Jail or prison ministry. There are tons of inmates who have come to the Lord as a result of someone bringing the church to them. As an associate whether paid or unpaid, in many cases, you are an ordained minister. That standing opens doors of service. People need to heard the word of truth even outside of the walls of the church.
Have you thought about working at a downtown mission? Many missions have worship services that need preachers. Those who find themselves in such situations really need to hear the word presented. I can remember that when I preached consistently in a downtown mission it totally transformed my preaching in very positive ways.
How about publishing ministry? Do you have a book in you? Can you help the people of God by preaching the word in book form? If God has called you to spread the word, maybe you can spread it through the “printed page.” Remember that books can go where you could not go otherwise.
I would be remiss if I didn’t briefly add the internet ministry. There are tons of ministers who use the internet to spread a word of Hope. I get emails from people who send a thought through email. I am Facebook friends with people who use their status updates to talk about God’s love. Twitter, blogs, etc. They all are opportunities for those who have been called.
I actually have a minister friend who started a radio program in his local area. He found sponsors and now he “preaches” over the airwaves every week. He did not wait for permission or an assignment, but simply went forth and God blessed.
By no means are these the only ministry opportunities. What you will find, however, is that when you are successfully doing God’s work outside the church, more opportunities for service inside the church will materialize. Dear associate, go do the work that God has called you to do and watch God open more doors.
Finally, wherever you are be a light. You are at work and someone needs hope. Someone needs the light of truth. Someone needs to know someone cares. You are speaking to relatives, allow God to speak through your words of comfort and hope and power. Let people know you are a minister by your reliance on God and the truth.
If you have been called to preach, preaching once or twice a year in a church does not fulfill your obligation. Don’t allow bitterness to overtake you. Whether your senior pastor opens the door or not, please find an outlet for your ministerial work. God will bless it, and the whole world will be edified.
Preachers do not simply perform our written orations with great oratorical skill. We all have heard preachers with all the skills of great orators, but something in missing. The people shout, but there is something missing. The people are happy and sometimes feel as though this is an important component of the African American tradition. They love to hear the preacher and they may even understand the moment as merely something to enjoy as folk art. the worship service is nothing more than a show for this individual hearer and the hearer may not be changed. No we need transformative sermons.
Then there are the Bible lecturers who leave the people with a book full of notes. The people may know great things about Israel. They may know esoteric facts about Melchizedek and Revelation’s prophecies. However, great preaching is not merely about knowing more facts. It is about turning the page and becoming a transformed follower of the almighty power of God.
But here is the key, there are those preachers who may not have the eloquence of some of the “princes of the pulpit.” They may not have all the theological and biblical knowledge of some of those who turn the pulpit into a classroom, but they know something about the Most High God. They know something about the Spirit. They can sing with the slaves “I know I’ve been changed, angels in heaven done changed my name.”
How do they do this? There are two things I want to emphasize here. First, I want to emphasize the importance of a vital and growing connection to God through the enlightenment of the holy Ghost. The preacher needs to know the holy Ghost and needs to be connected to the third person of the Godhead. Don’t fall into the trap of attempting to preach in your own power. Negros may shout, or maybe they will be informed, or maybe both, but will they be changed by a transformative sermon?
To ensure transformational preaching, the preacher must have such a message that calls the preacher first of all to be changed. Stop only preaching about how someone else needs to get better…Have you ever preached in such a way that you have been convicted of your own sins and shortcomings? If not, you might see that your people have not either. so first, we need a vital connection to the Spirit. Next we need messages that touch our own hearts before we preach them.
Finally, if we are seeking to preach transformative sermons, then we need to make a scary and error prone move. We must have the audacity to move from what God did in the past tense, to what God is doing. Yes, we might say the wrong thing. Yes we might get it wrong from time to time, but there is much preaching that never says what God is doing today. If you want to preach a transformative sermon then you must first of all understand what the text said and what God did, but move from there to having the audacity to say what God is doing today, in your context, at your congregation.
There is a piety that leaves God in the book but does not allow God into the present. Does God today work with the weak and the hurting? Does God today, help us overcome the sins that bind us? Does God today attack structures of inequality and evil? Does God today stand with the hungry? That is the move that we are to make if we are to preach transformative sermons.
So let us seek that connection to the Holy Ghost. Let us preach messages that call for transformation and change in us as well as our people. and finally, let us have the audacity to name God and God’s work in our present circumstances. Then we will be preaching not as a “bible lecturer” or as a “orator,” but as a “prophet.” As a prophet, we will preach transformative sermons!