Delivering A Sermon
Sermon does not end with it’s preparation but in it’s delivery and response. A well prepared sermon can be delivered in a boring manner. Preaching is the proclamation of the Word. It is not about reading our script. As such, preachers do well if they are well prepared for delivery and response of the sermon.
My purpose here is not to talk about the part on sermon preparation. I would like to focus more on sermon delivery. Firstly, we need to be familiar with our script. The sermon must speak to us and convict us before we preach it to others. If we are not familiar, we will be pausing too often. We would not be able to build up a climax in our sermons.
Second, we need to project our voice and use it to give life to our preaching. We must not mumble but project our voice with gusto. We can create a stereo effect of our preaching by mastering a few techniques. We need to learn to go and pause, fast and slow, high and low, soft and loud. Though this maybe seen as a technique, but it can come naturally if we feel for our sermons. If we preach with our hearts, our passion will overflow and it will be felt. Our sermons will come alive.
Thirdly, don’t quote too many verses. Some preaching are like reading a series of verses. People are so sick of flipping to so many texts that they give up. Use sparingly. This is not a teaching seminar. Two to three supporting verses should be more than enough for each point. I would probably use less than that unless I am doing a topical sermon.
Fourthly, use analogy, testimonies and illustrations wisely. It’s good to use stories especially if they are used appropriately. Stories help us to remember the points more easily and they can convince the audience more easily too. Real life testimonies make the sermon real. The worst case is to make people feel that our sermons are too holy beyond their reach.
Fifthly, leave room for the Holy Spirit. Don’t be too strict to follow our script. Speak naturally and allow the Holy Spirit to add in new things in our sermons. Sometimes, the Spirit of God can just remind us of fantastic stories that speak a thousand words.
Lastly, know what kind of response we want to achieve. Don’t just end with a prayer without a challenge. God’s Word demands a response from us. Don’t just end it with a summary of our sermons. Go ahead to challenge people to commit to God.
My hope is that preachers would not bore people with the Word of God but to make it come alive for the Word of God is living and active.
Preaching A Good Sermon
Preaching a good sermon good sermon is never easy. It should accomplish three goals. Firstly, it should convince our heads. Secondly, it should convict our hearts and lastly, it should challenge us to commit our hands. But all these must be done through the power of the Holy Spirit. Preaching is not about entertaining but it is about engaging our minds, enlarging our vision and hearts, and enriching our lives. Preaching is not about informing but it is about internalizing the Word of God, igniting our passion and inspiring our lives. May God bless all His servants who have this awesome responsibility.
A Forbidden Word
Have you ever wondered why Christians these days seem less committed as compared to the first century Christians? Try to get them to follow you and you may get questioned back. It’s not as simple as Jesus’ call of “follow me” anymore.
Perhaps, one of the most crucial reasons is the lack of preaching and teaching on repentance. Repentance has become a forbidden word in many churches. We focus more on love and grace of God. When we want to talk about repentance, we speak briefly about it. We go around it and dare not talk boldly about it. We don’t even dare to confront the sins directly. We are afraid that we would offend our members and chase them away from church. Gone are the days of John Sung, and the other great preachers.
The impact can be great on the church. Firstly, we compromise the holiness of God. We emphasize on the love and grace of God more than the holiness of God. But our God is a holy God and He calls each of us to be holy. People who truly understand the love of God would respond in holiness. They would repent from their sins. Secondly, we produce weak Christians. When there is a weak call for repentance, we produce carnal believers who are self-centred. They end up living their old lives and indulging in their sins. They remain attention seeking and create disunity in church. This problem also affects the quality of leadership in church. We would, as a result, produce weak leaders to lead the church. This deteriorating phenomenon is a worrying crisis that we need to pay attention to today.
Thirdly, we give a bad testimony to others. We are called to be the light and salt of this world but because of the lack of repentance, we are giving a bad testimony to others. In fact, it is not difficult to see heartbreaking behavior of our fellow believers today. It is really sad to see that some Christians are among the most prideful, snobbish, arrogant, egoistic, grudging people around. They expect others to live for them rather than to live for others. They expect others to wait upon them rather than to serve the people. They complain almost about all things.
We need to bring this word “repentance” back into our dictionary. God is still calling us to repent and live a godly life for Him. Will we be bold enough to heed this call today?
Reading Too Much Into God’s Word
As our audience gets more intellectual, there is a tendency for us to to make our teaching more and more academic. We try to find new “teachings” and new “meanings” from the Bible so that we can impress our audience. But as teachers of the word, we must be extremely careful for we will be judged more stringently than others. We must be careful not to read too much into the word of God. Some can end up expounding every word in a verse. Some use Hebrew and Greek so much that nobody understands. Of course, some actually have little knowledge of these native languages but they just refer to word study guide. But the usual problem is that while only certain nuance is only used in a certain context of the Bible, the teacher gives the whole spectrum of the meaning of the word used. While it may amazed the audience, biblically speaking, it is using a word out of context. The general audience today do not bother much, they just want something interesting. But as a teacher, we need to be careful. We are not called to be entertainers or brain teasers. We are to be faithful to the word and be a good workman approved by God.
Don’t get me wrong here, I am not against Bible study or going deep into the word of God. I am just cautioning against reading too much into the word of God. God has chosen to make certain things plain, so don’t read more than what it should. Anyway, as teachers of the word, we are not here to impress others, but to impress the word of God into the hearts of man. Don’t make the simple things of God complicated, let’s make the complicated simple.
Preach For Transformation
Preaching is a very important element in worship. Yet it is also a time where it is most easily abused. If we are not careful, our pulpit can become a place for entertainment — a place to tell jokes and gain our popularity. It can also be a place to show our charisma and build our power. There are others who use it to say what they want or even use it like a ATM to draw their money from members.
For those who are more serious, they would teach instead of preach at the pulpit. Preachers can end up sharing a lot of biblical knowledge and even include a lot of Greek and Hebrew. This is not to say that all these are bad, but rather we should use it appropriately. We are not preaching to seminary students but church members at large. Besides the cognitive element, they also need the affective element.
The pulpit must be honoured because God has used it to bring transformation in the church. God forbid it to be abused. How can use the pulpit appropriately to bring transformation in our church? Here are some pointers to share.
1) Centrality and Supremacy of God.
God should be the centre of every sermon. It’s not the church nor the preacher, or any other human. God forbid the pulpit to be abused. It is time where the word of God is declared. Through the word of God, God is exalted and glorified.
2) True to the Text.
The sermon must be true to the text. It must be what the passage wants to say. Some preachers just choose a passage, but they say whatever they want. Even some may preach very well, but they are not true to the text. We need to go back and ask what God wants to say through His word first.
3) Derive Points from Text.
Besides being true to the text, we need to derive our points from the text too. From the different verses, we need to show how points are exegeted. Some points are just too far fetched these days. These points are from the Bible no doubt, but just not derive from that passage. Some might have confused topical preaching for expository preaching for that matter.
4) Surface Wrong Worldviews.
A lot of sermons these days focus on actions. There are steps as to getting something done. While these steps provide good handles, they focus a lot more on behaviour or methodology. As such, we may end up knowing more things we should do without knowing what is wrong with our worldviews. The risk is that we may be doing a lot of Christian thing without transformation from within. Bear in mind that we can only change what we know about ourselves. When we do not know what is wrong with our worldview, there is no way we can change. This is perhaps the greatest crisis of Christian faith today. We have many Christians who are actively serving but living untransformed lives. We think they are alright because they are already serving actively in the church. In our preaching today, we ought to surface some of the wrong worldviews the passage is highlighting so that the audience can reflect about their own thinking and perceptions.
5) Show Biblical Values and Principles.
Rather than showing the steps or methodology, let me suggest that we should in fact derive biblical values and principles from the passage. Instead of telling people what they should be doing to achieve something, it would be better to give people new attitudes they should adopt and the guiding principles that they need to consider when making decisions. In this manner, we help the people to be more mature in their thinking and get them to be responsible for their decisions. Life is never as simple as following a simple set of steps or methods.
6) Give Examples and Illustrations.
It would be good if the points of the sermon can come with relevant examples and illustrations. It is not necessary that the illustrations must be a joke. Sometimes we can be carried away by it. People end up remembering the joke but not the point we are illustrating. It is also important to find something relevant and suitable to the audience. An adult service may require different sets of examples and illustrations from the youth service. Life examples are good. They allow the people to see real struggles and how problems can be overcome with the help of God. People would tend to appreciate if preachers would reveal more about their own lives. It shows that they too are humans and are not perfect. But God can work something good out of them too.
7) Suggest Possible Applications.
Applications are important but they are often mistaken as things to do. After weeks of sermons, we can be overwhelmed by a list of things to do. How many things can we do every week? We can end up becoming a legalistic Christian. Applications can also be things to reflect. Through the renewing of our minds, our actions will be changed. It is important that our applications are getting people to start thinking before they start doing. Then there will be life transformation.
It is my hope that we will preach to transform lives. We may need to break away from our old molds and try out new ones. God has given us a great and awesome responsibility, so let’s treasure it and do it well.
Preaching to the Heart
Preaching is often taught technically. We learn about finding the main idea, the subject questions, the main points and sub-points. We learn to preach inductively and also deductively. We learn about exegesis and exposition. We use Hebrew and Greek. We spice it up with illustrations, examples and analogy. We put in our applications and response. Well, we may think that we have a great sermon after spending so much time preparing for it. But it may not have turned out the way we want it to be.
The problem may lie with the audience. They may not be attentive. It’s possible, but let us put this issue aside first. Let us also put the work of the Holy Spirit aside since it is a constant factor. God can surely work through any kind of sermons we preached. But here we need to address another aspect.
We all know that sermons are prepared through prayers and meditation besides the technical aspect. But how we deliver it is important as well. Due to the technical aspect of the preparation, many sermons are preached to the head. It may tickle our minds but it may remain as a knowledge. This kind of sermons are probably too cognitive. Some other sermons are targeted at the hands. They have various steps and methods to do the word. But we run the risk of doing a lot of things without being transformed within. Besides preaching to the head and hands, it is also equally important to preach to the heart. Our sermons need the Spirit of God, but they also need their ‘souls’. This is the emotive and affective elements of the sermons. Our sermons must be relevant, but they should touch lives too.
Preaching at the heart is not just a matter of content. Besides making the sermon meaningful, the delivery is important too. We can only give our sermon a soul if God has spoken to us and convicted us. The sermon can only become alive when our souls are in it. We begin to feel for the sermon and become passionate for God. We would feel the power of God flowing through us as we deliver His word.
We might not have been taught about this issue, but it is definitely a critical one. This prevent sermons from becoming boring and distant. It brings the word of God alive and close to our hearts. Work on this and see how the response may change.