As faithful preachers of the Words of everlasting life, we must know God’s truth, experience it in our own daily lives, and conscientiously share it with others. Our listeners must receive the truth, apply it, and be changed by it.
In order to accomplish this task of “speaking as the oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11), we must diligently learn how best to communicate the truth to others.
As the preacher grows spiritually, so his preaching will grow, and so the church will grow. It is not enough to have the authority of the Word behind the sermon; one must also give evidence of the power of a life lived under the authority of that Word, else we be hypocrites. A preacher who is not willing to preach to himself as he speaks; will not long get a hearing from others.
In our gospel preaching, we will seek to honor the Lord, not glorify ourselves or try to show people how learned or clever we are. It is the Word of God which saves, and not the preacher. The preacher is the tool of God to reach the alien sinner.
An outline of a sermon is not a message any more than a recipe is a meal, or a blueprint is the building. What a sick man needs is beneficial medicine, not a lecture on better health. Therefore, in our preaching the good outline, let us be certain that the solution of Christ shines clearly through. Do not lay a foundation for a skyscraper, and then proceed to build a chicken coop on it. Be sure you know what the precise aim of your lesson is, and that the audience sees it vividly.
God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33) but sometimes preachers are. Whether the audience detects each sub-point or minor division is not that important, but the preacher must know where he is going and how to get there. Once your theme is announced and introduced, stick with it and develop it. Propagandists often depend on “glittering generalities, but preachers of the gospel must be precise and specific. There is power and authority in precision.
The effective minister of the Word uses his words the way a craftsman uses the correct tools. We must strive to use the right words for the right job to help people understand, comprehend, and obey.
“The preacher sought to find the right words and to write words of truth correctly” (Eccl. 12:10). So must we. Clear preaching begins with clear thinking. Give yourself much time to think through the text, the purpose, and the development of the sermon. Study diligently, outline carefully, illustrate appropriately, and deliver the lesson sincerely. Avoid fuzzy thinking and aim for precision.
Never assume that your listeners know more about spiritual things than they really do. Spiritual and biblical illiteracy abound.
Good preachers own waste baskets and use them. They realize that not every “good idea” can or should be worked into the sermon, lest the lesson become a clutter of unrelated thoughts. Better that the audience get a hold of one or two meaty truths and put them to good use, than that they become lost in a maze of sermonic material and have no spiritual perception to show for it.
After finishing your preparatory work, step back from it and ask yourself: “So what?” What difference will this make in anybody’s life if this sermon is preached? If your response is hazy, go back to the drawing board. Are you preaching because you just have to say something, or because you truly have something to say?
If the purpose of gospel preaching is to save souls and edify those saved (and it is), then the preacher is an impertinent thief who uses the pulpit to show off his “eloquence” or merely to entertain his hearers. Somewhat like John the Baptist, the preacher must “decrease” while the Word of God “increases.” Preach the message, not for the salvation of your sermon, but for the salvation of lost souls. Do not just try to preach “great sermons,” rather strive to magnify a Great Savior.
Wisdom is not born of complexity, but is born of simplicity. Do not “muddy” the message. Let the truth of the Bible shine clearly through your sermon. Stand not in front of the cross, but behind it. “God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14).
In proclaiming the one faith, each preacher must still “be himself.” Do not mimic nor copy someone else, no matter how much you admire him. Plagiarism has been defined as the lowest form of larceny and the highest form of compliment. The faithful preacher will milk a great many cows, but he will make his own butter. Mark Twain was correct when he said: “Adam was the only man who, when he said a good thing, knew no man had said it before him.”
Be yourself, but be your best self. Be true to God’s Word, be true to others; that is the best kind of originality.
It is not enough for the gospel preacher to love the truth, he must also love the people to whom he speaks (2 Tim. 2:24-26). The door of approach is more easily opened to people when they know how much you care for their souls, and it is often quickly shut if they can only see that you are concerned with how much you know.
Preacher, remember that God’s Word is never wasted (Isa. 55:11). It shall always glorify him. You may never see the harvest, but someone else will, and God will be glorified. His Word shall not return to him void. People, dying in sin, need the gospel. Give it to them. Do not obscure the message. Do not apologize for it. Do not think that you can have better manners than the apostles. Preach boldly, with love in your heart (Eph. 4:15) and have the spirit of Christ.
Finally, my fellow preacher, do not think that the work of preaching will do honor to you, but rather that you must and will do honor to the work of preaching.