Young preachers have their work cut out for them.They sense a call to preach. They may go to school or sit with their pastor to learn some basics about preaching. Many scholars and pastors write books on the subject.
But the only way to really learn how to preach is to, well, preach. Even so, young preachers would do well to have a paradigm from which they work to approach their sermons. This will help not only them, but their listeners that they so want to see know and grow in Christ.
Invest in study and prayer.
We will see a verse in which the apostle Peter told the congregation in Jerusalem that the apostles would “devote ourselves to prayer and ministry of the Word” (Acts 6:4). Preachers of the Word must spend time investing in prayer and the study of the Word long before they spend time investing in the preached Word. The truth is, for many who choose to be expositors of the Word (a definition I’ll explain momentarily), a thirty-minute sermon can take 5-10 hours to prepare in coming before the Lord and His Word.
The apostle Peter mentioned prayer first, and for good reason. Preaching is a supernatural act! We are not simply dumping information, we are praying for transformation through what God has said. A.J. Gordon noted:
Our generation is rapidly losing its grip upon the supernatural; and as a consequence, the pulpit is rapidly dropping to the level of the platform. And this decline is due, more than anything else, to ignoring the Holy Spirit as the supreme inspirer of preaching. We would rather see a great orator in the pulpit, forgetting that the least expounder of the Word, when filled with the Spirit, is greater than he.
While some look at the power of preaching coming from a certain type of personality, a certain twist of a phrase, being a stand-up comic that intersperses Scripture in from time to time, or other human-driven motives and methods, preaching is a supernatural act that needs bathing in prayer. D.L. Moody got it right:
I’d rather be able to pray than be a great preacher; Jesus never taught his disciples how to preach, but he did teach them how to pray.
Intention. Preaching needs a plan. What is your intention with your sermon? This involves much prayer and study of the text at hand. If you preach expositionally, you will certain have the parameters of the text from which to proceed. But given that the Spirit has inspired the Word, you must engage in persistent prayer and study of the passage. Cull your sermon down to one main point or intention. Even if you use multiple points, they should all feed the main intention.
Inform. Yes, preaching is about information. You are passing along propositional truths. Grammatically, these are known as indicatives—truths and objective facts of what God has revealed in His Word. “Christ has died, and has risen, and will come again” is an example. This speaks to what has been done.
Be careful not to bring every last thing you’ve culled in your study. You risk being a fire hose on your unsuspecting people. They point is not to show how much information you know, but the goal is transformation by the Word and the Spirit (Romans 12:1-2).
Inspire. This brings passion to the propositions! This gives heat to the light of God’s Word. To preach God’s Word without the corresponding passion will not inspire. The Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:14 says, “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died” (NIV). That inner drive, that inner compulsion, that inner desire to rally the troops! This must be present—without it, it will land flat. And there’s no reason this should ever happen. It’s the Word! Preach!!
Illustrate. Preachers must connect biblical truth to present-day situations. Illustrations aren’t selling out, as if the Word is not sufficient! It is—and we must illustrate how the Word is brought to bear to the culture today. Spurgeon brings his usual insight:
In addressing my students in the College long ago, I was urging upon them the duty and necessity of using plenty of illustrations in their preaching, that they might be both interesting and instructive. I reminded them that the Saviour had many likes in his discourses. He said, over and over again, “The kingdom of heaven is LIKE”; “The kingdom of heaven is LIKE.” “Without a parable spake he not unto them.” The common people heard him gladly, because he was full of emblem and simile. A sermon without illustrations is like a room without windows. One student remarked that the difficulty was to get illustrations in any great abundance. “Yes”, I said, “if you do not wake up, but go through the world asleep, you cannot see illustrations; but if your minds were thoroughly aroused, and yet you could see nothing else in the world but a single tallow candle, you might find enough illustrations in that luminary to last you for six months.”
Illustrations bring light onto the truth being preached. You do not want to leave your people in the dark, do you?
Infuse. I use this word as a way to infuse the power of the Word by the Spirit into the lives of the believers through application. It’s the ‘so-what’ factor. “OK, you’re telling me this today—so what?” Again, this is not taking over for the Holy Spirit. Whereas the ‘inform’ aspect is about the indicatives, the ‘infuse’ part deals with the ‘imperatives’—the commands. “Walk worthy of the gospel.” The Ten Commandments. “Go, and do likewise.” These commands are infused via the information and illustrations given. You then inspire through the Spirit’s work in your heart concerning what God has revealed in Scripture.
Yes, young preachers have their work cut out for them—but if you have this paradigm before you, it will make the sermon easier on you—and your dear listeners.
Thoughts? Do you remember your first sermon? How have you changed from then until now?