Category Archives: Preaching Instruction

Should I Practice My Sermon Delivery?

By Barry L. Davis

When I first began preaching I was extremely nervous. I had no experience in public speaking and was terrified to stand in front of a crowd. My first sermon took place while I was a freshman in Bible College. A fellow student had a weekend ministry at a rural church and asked me to fill in for him one Sunday. Once I had all my notes together I had my wife sit on the bed in our room at the back of our mobile home, stacked up some books on top of a dresser to use as a makeshift pulpit, and asked her to sit and listen to me while I practiced my sermon. She said it was good, but I knew she was just being nice.

Soon afterward I was able to acquire my own weekend ministry and even lived in the parsonage next to the church. Every Saturday I would take my notes over to the church, stand behind the pulpit, and practice my sermon with the empty pews in front of me. As I preached I would make notations in my manuscript whenever I felt a change was needed. By the time Sunday came around I stood there with pages of typewritten notes with handwritten scrawls in the margins, words crossed out, and sometimes even reminders to pause – all of this was the result of my practice, and it worked well for me.

While these days I do not practice from the pulpit, or from a stack of books in the bedroom, I still go over my notes in my office, and oftentimes I will use a stand or something else at hand that will be close in height to the pulpit I’ll use on Sunday. I generally go over my notes on Saturday evening and again early Sunday morning. And just like the old days, I keep my pen handy and make changes as I go.

So, should you practice your sermon before you preach? I believe that you should. Let me share some reasons why:

  1. Your word choices will be clarified. – Some of the words that come from your mind through your keyboard do not translate well when you say them out loud. Hearing your sermon will help you know for sure whether you’ve made the right choices.
  2. Your timing will improve. – The cadence of your sermon is more important than many people realize. Practicing your sermon will help you to build a rhythm that will help your audience to track with you and what you are trying to say.
  3. You will not need to rely on your notes as much. – Your practice time will make you more familiar with your message, which means you will not need to look at your notes nearly as often.
  4. You will learn what to emphasize. – As you speak the words out loud, the concepts and truths that need the most emphasis will become clear to you. Many times they are different than what you thought they should be when you were writing down your notes.
  5. You will know what to cut. – There will be words, phrases, and entire sections of your message that you will find just don’t work. Often illustrations that seemed perfect on the written page just don’t flow with the message when spoken out loud.
  6. Your confidence will grow. – When the words start flowing and changes are made, you will become more and more assured of the message God is giving you to deliver. You have prayed, studied, initially planned your message, and now have refined it to the point that you know it will have a powerful impact on your hearers.
  7. You will gain a brand new perspective. – I’m going to add a new wrinkle here: You need to occasionally record your sermon (preferably on video) while you practice and also when you deliver it to the church. This will help you to hear and see the same thing as your audience. You will hear and see some things that you don’t like – but that is a good thing – because it will help you to know specifically what types of things you need to change.

I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions below!

 

 

Barry L. Davis spent two decades as a Senior Pastor and started the ministry of The Pastor’s Helper in 1997. The Pastor’s Helper strives to provide tools and resources to help pastors succeed in their ministry calling. His latest book is God-Driven Leadership: A Call to Seeing, Believing, and Living in Accordance with Scriptural Principles.

The Four Be’s of Preaching

Below is a summary of four of the most important things to remember when preparing a sermon.

  1. Be Biblical – It should go without saying that your message should be solidly based on Scripture. Unfortunately, in this day and age it does need to be said. I cannot tell you how many sermons I have heard that are based on opinion, culture, or entertainment, with only scant mention of Scripture. If the Bible is not the foundation of your preaching, you are not preaching, you’re just giving a speech.
  2. Be Intentional – I’m sure you’ve heard the old joke about the preacher who “went everywhere preaching the Gospel.” The reference is to preachers who cannot stay on point and go chasing rabbits throughout their message. There should be one main purpose to every sermon you preach, even if there are several points to the message that help you to convey that purpose. Read through the teachings of Jesus and you will discover, without fail, He always had one purpose and He never wavered from it – not even once!
  3. Be Relational – You must move from the text to the lives of your hearers. Scriptural preaching without application is only taking your audience to the halfway point. You must explain to your listeners how the text applies to their everyday lives and then challenge them to make that application. We want to take people from knowing the truth, to living the truth.
  4. Be Brief – While I’m sure to get some disagreement from this statement, in most situations you should not preach for more than 30 minutes. If you cannot get your message across in that amount of time, you might want to rewrite your sermon, or split it into a short series. While we might not have the full text of Jesus’ sermons, we know that what we do have are very brief, to the point sermons which honor the time of those He was speaking to.

Obviously this is not an exhaustive list, but it should help you to better plan your sermons and can be used as a grid through which you test your messages to see if they fit this pattern. I can guarantee you that if you actually apply these four “be’s” to your sermons you will see a dramatic increase in the response of your listeners.

I’d love to hear your comments below!

 

Barry L. Davis

 

Barry L. Davis spent two decades as a Senior Pastor and started the ministry of The Pastor’s Helper in 1997. The Pastor’s Helper strives to provide tools and resources to help pastors succeed in their ministry calling. His latest book is God-Driven Leadership: A Call to Seeing, Believing, and Living in Accordance with Scriptural Principles.

The Four R’s of Preaching

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Facing the task of sermon preparation each week can be daunting for any preacher. It can also, over time, become a monotonous burden if we let it. While there are those rare individuals who never lose their fire, and continuously produce God-inspired sermons with never a hiccup, that is not the case with most of us. The sad truth is that some of us fall into a pattern of preaching that might “get the job done,” but somehow lose our purpose in the process.

Some of us need to be reminded of the great calling God has given us and remember the privilege we have to address a group of people each week, no matter the size, who are hungry for a Word from God and are expecting us to deliver it.

Consider the following statement from the great preacher Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

“The work of preaching is the highest and greatest and most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called.”

If that declaration is true, and I believe it is, we need to always keep that calling from God at the forefront of our minds and hearts as we prepare to address those under our care each week. To help us do that, I am proposing Four R’s of Preaching that should stand as a reminder and a guide for those of us who are privileged to share God’s Word from the pulpit.

1. Reverence

I have noticed a lack of reverence coming from some of our pulpits. Sometimes a preacher will allow the message to be more about him than it is about God. We need to approach the task of preaching with an understanding that we are mere spokespersons for the Great and Mighty Creator of the Universe.

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe. – Hebrews 12:28 (ESV)

While preparing our messages and while preaching them, we must remember Who it is we are doing this for, and make sure that He features prominently in our message. We are not calling people to follow us, but our God and Savior. We must come to the sacred text and to the pulpit with a sense of awe and wonder, as well as with recognition that God is watching every word that we utter.

2. Responsibility

We are given a great responsibility. God has called us to lead men and women to His Son, Jesus Christ. He has also called us to teach and disciple those who have already accepted His wonderful offer of salvation. This is not something to be taken lightly. When we are preparing our messages we need to always remember to give the time and effort necessary to communicate God’s will clearly.

If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously… – Romans 12:8b (NLT)

The preacher who takes this responsibility seriously will always makes sure to be prepared, to have studied diligently, to have prayed fervently, and to have the needs of the people and God’s solution to those needs at the forefront of every sermon.

3. Respect

If you do not respect the people you are speaking to, not only will they pick up on it, they will turn a deaf ear to everything you have to say. I am well aware that some of the people in the audience might be people who have done you or your family wrong, or given you reasons not to have much respect for them. I get it, I really do!

On the other hand, even if you can’t respect the person, you can respect the message God has given to you and deliver it in a way that is meant to lift people up, rather than bring them down. Consider that those who may have wronged you need this most of all.

Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. – Romans 12:10 (ESV)

When you show honor to those in your congregation by showing respect to them, to God, and to His Word, you will have come a long way toward leading others toward spiritual insight and personal growth.

4. Restraint

Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. – Proverbs 17:27 (ESV)

There are at least two ways we can apply this:

1) There is a great temptation for some preachers to deliver personal rebukes from the pulpit. Rather than confront a person in private, during the sermon they will bring up something this person has done wrong and then go on the attack. They normally won’t mention the person by name, but everyone knows who they are talking about. Don’t do this…EVER! There is nothing wrong with confronting sin from the pulpit, and we are called to do just that, but never, ever, do it in a personal way, or in a way meant to embarrass or demean an individual. If you need to deal with a problem, take the person out to coffee or meet in your office and discuss it one-on-one.

2) To use an old term, some ministers “go everywhere preaching the Gospel” from the pulpit. They have trouble sticking with one subject and go from one topic to the other, never really landing on anything solid. Here is something to remember – when you go into the pulpit, have one point. You might have three steps to this or four reasons for that, but there must be an overarching thought or purpose that you want to get across. Don’t stray from that. You don’t need to preach the whole Bible every week.

This week, as you prepare for the weekend, make sure and remember the Four R’s! It will help you more than you can know, and you will become a better preaching in the process.

 

I welcome your comments below.

 

Barry L. Davis

 

Barry L. Davis spent two decades as a Senior Pastor and started the ministry of The Pastor’s Helper in 1996. The Pastor’s Helper strives to provide tools and resources to help pastors succeed in their ministry calling.

 

 

 

The Power of Preaching

POWER

By Barry L. Davis

Approximately 50 times a year I stand up in front of a congregation and preach. I have been preaching for many years, and in my early ministries preached twice each Sunday. In other words, I’ve preached thousands of sermons, and chances are, you have too. For most of us in pastoral ministry, preaching is considered, both by the preacher and the parishioner, to be the most important thing that we do.

I always spend a great deal of time in preparation for that half hour or so that I am privileged to communicate on Sunday morning. In fact, I find it one of the most significant things that I can spend my time on, and that is why I have dedicated my life to doing it. The reason I do what I do in this regard is because I fully believe in the power of preaching to change people’s lives – and if I didn’t believe that, I’d quit doing it.

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. – 1 Corinthians 1:21 (ESV)

He isn’t saying here that preaching is foolish, but that it appears foolish to those who seek wisdom through philosophical or other means. It appears foolish to those who are perishing because the main message being preached is one of God being murdered upon a cross. But God makes it very clear that through the preaching of His Word His power is revealed and it is the means by which people will be saved. We see a good example of this in Acts 14:1:

Now at Iconium they entered together into the Jewish synagogue and spoke in such a way that a great number of both Jews and Greeks believed. (ESV)

Paul and Barnabas were not offering sermonettes, or simply nice sayings to make everyone feel good, but were preaching in the power of God so that people’s lives would be changed. And lives really were changed as a result of the message they gave and the spirit in which they gave it. The exact same can happen when you preach God’s Word in power.

In this article I am using the word “PREACH” as a framework to help us understand how God uses this powerful tool, and hopefully to impress upon you the power that preaching can have over your unchurched friends. What I want us to do is see how God used preaching throughout the history of Acts and elsewhere and how He still uses it today.

PROCLAIMS

When we proclaim something we are making some type of an announcement. In preaching we are proclaiming the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In a nutshell, we are giving the good news of the Gospel of Christ. Let me give you just a few examples from the book of Acts.

And as they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. – Acts 4:1-2 (ESV)

And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus. – Acts 5:42 (ESV)

Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. – Acts 13:38 (ESV)

In these three examples alone we see the proclamation that Jesus is the Messiah, that Jesus offers us forgiveness of sins, and that Jesus rose from the dead. We will see these same themes proclaimed by the apostles and others throughout the entire New Testament.

I have studied every sermon preached in the book of Acts and the most common theme by far is Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and the events surrounding it. From this fact we learn that the power of preaching is found in the message that we are proclaiming. And what we are called to proclaim to the multitudes is that God has come in the flesh, lived a sinless life, died on the cross as our substitute, has risen from the dead, and now sits in glory at the right hand of the Father. Please keep this in mind as you prepare your future sermons. While there is certainly a place for messages on family life, being a good boss/employee, and many other topics, central to everything we preach must be the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

RESTORES

[1]Peter Jenkins began a 5-year, 4,500-mile walk across America in Oct. of 1973. First published as two articles in National Geographic, his memoirs then led to two best-selling books. Two years into the journey, he stumbled into an Alabama revival and ended up accepting Christ. Jenkins says: “I grew up in Connecticut in a very quiet, official, East Coast Presbyterian church. My parents believed, and they made their 6 children go to church and Sunday school. I wanted a religion that had emotion in it – I wanted a religion that had life, action, and the kinds of things I found in the kind of music I loved. When the revival began, this guy from Texas named James Robison came out screaming and preaching and throwing his arms around. There was sweat dripping and everything. He was dressed in a three-piece suit and cowboy boots. The two of us could not have more unalike. I was this young man with sun-bleached reddish hair down to his shoulders and an unshaven beard. But I honestly felt like when he was preaching the gospel, a huge sword was slicing me into a whole bunch of pieces. He was saying, “Joining a church won’t make you a Christian any more than joining a Lion’s Club will make you a lion. From the day you were born, you wanted to do your own thing and you were rebellious against God. If you really want to really know God, you’ve got to repent of this rebellion which the Bible calls sin.”

I could relate to that – I thought I was a pretty good person – I thought I was in search of the truth. The more I heard this stuff, [the more I realized that religion is not the answer; salvation is. You just have something inside of you that knows when you hear the truth. All of the things we think about ourselves, how we define ourselves—all that is insignificant when it comes to what’s going on in our soul. James gave me one of the greatest gifts anybody could have ever given me – He led me to the Lord.

Preaching is not just proclaiming the truths of the Gospel; it is applying those truths of the Gospel to individual’s lives so that those lives are restored. Peter was quoting the prophet Joel in his first sermon and this is what he said:

“Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”Acts 2:21b (ESV)

What was he saying? He was saying “I’m not proclaiming Jesus to you as a theory, but as a reality – not as a God who wants to condemn you, but as a God who wants to save you.” Preaching should bring restoration to those who have never known God as well as to those who once knew Him but have checked out for some reason or other.

EQUIPS

I’ve attended some churches where we never received any teaching beyond the most elementary doctrines of the Christian faith. The members didn’t know how to apply their faith to their everyday life because no one ever showed them how. One of the things that makes preaching powerful is that it can and should be used to equip those who are already believers in how to live their faith, share their faith, and know their faith intimately.

Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God. – Hebrews 6:1 (ESV)

This maturity of understanding spoken of here comes only when the servant of God preaches and teaches the deeper things of God to the Christian community. It is our job as Christian leaders to make sure that our flock is learning, step-by-step, the deeper things of God.

(Paul saying farewell to the elders in Ephesus): …I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house.Acts 20:20 (ESV)

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. – Ephesians 4:11-12 (ESV)

While we talk a lot about evangelism, we must realize that our job isn’t over until we have fully equipped those who have been won to Christ. If you are staying true to your calling as a minister then your members should walk out of church every week better equipped than they were the week before. If that’s not happening, something is wrong. I certainly wouldn’t limit this equipping to the weekend sermon, as there should be plenty of other opportunities available, but it definitely begins for most churches in the corporate worship time.

ASSURES

There is nothing more comforting than knowing that you are a child of God, that your sins have been forgiven, that you are bound for heaven, and that God loves you. Preaching is powerful, because it takes the comfort of God from the Word of God and brings assurance to His people.

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”Acts 2:38-39 (ESV)

The promise of forgiveness and salvation is given as an assurance to all who turn to the Lord. I’ve been in churches where the minister actually said, “I hope that we’ll be saved…we’ll just have to wait to find out.” That is utter hogwash and goes completely against the mandate that God has given to His preachers. We are given the power to proclaim that God not only makes promises, but that He keeps His promises, and that we can live for Him because we do so with the assurance that we are His children now, and we will always be His children.

CONVICTS

Stephen Kingsley owns a carpet cleaning business and he offers a special service for removing pet urine odors. To show potential customers their need for the service, he darkens the room and then turns on a powerful black light. The black light causes urine crystals to glow brightly. To the horror of the homeowner every drop and dribble can be seen, not only on the carpet, but usually on walls, drapes, furniture, and even on lamp shades. One homeowner begged me to shut off the light: “I can’t bear to see anymore. I don’t care what it costs. Please clean it up!” Another woman said, “I’ll never be comfortable in my home again.” The offense was there all the time, but it was invisible until the right light exposed it. It would have been cruel to show customers the extent of their problem and then say, “Too bad for you” and walk away.  He brought the light so that they might desperately want his cleaning services.

In the same way, God shines the light of his commandments through preaching, not just to make us feel guilty and leave us that way.  He has a cleaning service to offer—salvation through Jesus Christ.

Peter preached: Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out.”Acts 3:19

The power to preach is found in its ability to convict us of sin, lead us to repent, and to experience the refreshing waters of salvation. I will never forget week after week, coming under the preaching of a powerful spokesman for God and having my sinfulness come to the surface. Did that anger me? No! It helped me to realize that my life was headed down the wrong path and that only Jesus could make me whole again. We must not be afraid to preach to convict those who are away from the Lord, as well as to those who have professed faith in the Lord but, to use an old and almost forgotten term – backslidden – so that they will turn back to Him.

HONORS

[2]Recently, a Kansas City pharmacist was charged with diluting cancer treatment drugs, Gemzar and Taxol, in order to make a larger profit. So far there are 20 felony counts against the pharmacist, Robert Courtney. He admitted to diluting the drugs during a period of time spanning from November 2000 to March 2001. This man held life-saving power in his hands and for the sake of personal gain diluted it to the point where it could not help people.

We can do the same with God’s life-saving truth if we do not respect and honor Him in the message we proclaim. The words said from the podium must always be said in such a way as to bring honor to the God we claim to worship. I don’t have a single verse to give you to illustrate this – to get a sense of the honor and esteem with which these early preachers spoke of God you would need to read through the entire book of Acts, and actually the entire New Testament. We obviously don’t have space for that, but we need to recognize that the real power of preaching is derived from the one whom we are preaching about. If we are going to see results God must be honored by every single word that comes from the stage – and we need to be committed to doing that every week.

[1] “Peter Jenkins Finds Jesus While Walking America,” accessed January 12, 2015, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/januaryweb-only/1-6-22.0.html.

[2] USA Today (8-28-01)

 

Barry L. Davis

 

Barry L. Davis spent two decades as a Senior Pastor and started the ministry of The Pastor’s Helper in 1996. The Pastor’s Helper strives to provide tools and resources to help pastors succeed in their ministry calling. His latest book is God-Driven Leadership: A Call to Seeing, Believing, and Living in Accordance with Scriptural Principles, from which this article is derived.

10 Things You Shouldn’t Say to a Pastor Right After the Sermon

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By Thom Rainer

I’ve actually assembled more than ten things church members have told pastors immediately after they preached. But these are ten responses where pastors have had the most visceral reactions.

  1. “I am going to be late for lunch because you preached so long.”
  2. “You must not have had much time to prepare that sermon.”
  3. “My former pastor preached a much better sermon from that text.”
  4. “I wish {fill in the blank} would have heard that sermon.”
  5. “You act like you weren’t feeling well while you preached.”
  6. “I’m sorry I fell asleep while you were preaching. Your voice just puts me to sleep.”
  7. “Your subject/verb agreement was incorrect three times in your sermon.”
  8. “I wish you wouldn’t preach from the Old Testament.”
  9. “Let me tell you what you missed in your sermon.”
  10. “Are we ever going to be done with this sermon series?”

Pastors often take 10 to 20 hours to prepare a sermon. They pray for God to speak through them. They preach with conviction and fervency. And then they hear one of these sentences.

These ten responses are close approximations of what pastors have actually told me. I am sure there are many more. Let us hear what they are.

 

ThomRainer

 

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on March 2, 2015. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

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