This perspective on preaching is meant to help a few pastors out there breathe a sigh of relief when it comes to effective preaching. Given the amount of attention given and training dedicated to some of these and other preaching methodologies, you would think it was a sin to not practice them. Call it a little mild push-back… here are 4 “Non-Sin” Sermon Practices:
1) Preaching with notes. It’s hard not to sound whiney & pathetic on this one. Here it goes… having 20+ uninterrupted office hours per week, a book allowance, team of researchers, graphic designers, teaching screen, green room & amazing worship team to help prepare, memorize and position you to deliver a 20-30 minute message with solid, relevant content are all very good things! The reality is most pastors, especially marketplace, bi-vocational and small church leaders, don’t have resources like these at their disposal on a weekly basis.
If this is you, stop comparing yourself to those who do (and stop resenting them while you’re at it). Develop a great team of talented volunteers. Use some notes and don’t feel inadequate about it. Don’t preach to your notes, either. Prepare well. There is no excuse not to… none. Know the audience you are trying to reach, connect with them in intentional ways and be true to God’s Word.
2) Not using “buzz” words. I remember about 10 years ago the word “paradigm” was the word of the day. Preachers and speakers seemed to fall all over themselves looking for ways to use it without appearing to try. Today, words and phrases like, “community,” “journey” and “track with me” are favorites as we sit down to preach at a cafe table, sipping coffee so as to be “real, relaxed and relevant.”
Don’t try so hard. People can usually see right through this. Avoid using and abusing terminology simply to sound folksy, professional, country, gospel, hipster, gangster, intellectual or any other way other than you… sharing Jesus with real people.
3) Not showing a video. “Check this out…” we say, as the lights fade and a touching, inspiring, hilarious or otherwise gut-wrenching movie clip or you-tube video seamlessly rolls. (I actually used the phrase, “Roll that beautiful bean footage…” one time. Sad, I know.) While people learn more visually than ever, and videos can help drive some points home, it really is okay if people don’t see a video during every sermon.
4) Getting emotional! The spiritualized “Ted Talk” style of preaching became the “norm,” maybe even the unspoken benchmark for preaching the Gospel to the 21st century audience about ten years ago. I get it… frothing at the mouth and yelling at people for an hour has long since proven less than effective.
Still, if the fate of lost souls, the hope of heaven, and the amazing grace of Jesus isn’t enough to move us a little emotionally, how can we expect others to be moved to any kind of action? (I know, Jonathan Edwards didn’t need emotional hype…) While stopping well short of winning an Oscar for Best Dramatic Performance, we shouldn’t be afraid to display some genuine emotion in the course of a message.
Bonus material: Don’t get me started on anyone over 30 wearing, let alone preaching in “skinny” anything.
Preaching has become more of an “art” than ever. This is a good thing. By all means, glean from the latest and most ancient sermon prep training and instruction. After all, the greatest story ever told is worth the effort. At the end of the day, being true to Jesus and His Gospel should be among our top preaching priorities as we seek to warn the lost (and the found) and awaken hope in this age of uncertainty.
What are your thoughts and suggestions when it comes to effective preaching?