Six Preaching Essentials

What is necessary in a good sermon?

Here is a checklist of five essentials.

1.  It must be interesting.  If people aren’t interested they won’t listen very long.  Interesting includes funny along with many other possibilities.  If you want to know what’s interesting, have a quick look through the main TV listings.  TV budgets are huge – they only want to show things people will be interested in!

2.  It must be Biblical.  I am assuming this is a Christian sermon.  The New Testament is our key source for Jesus’ teaching – if we ignore it then we may be simply creating a new religion from our own heads.  So what have people come to hear – the best thoughts of “me” or something from Jesus?

3.  It must be true.  Yes – it can be both “biblical” and “interesting” and “untrue”!  Gossip may be very interesting and totally untrue.  A series of assertions may be bolstered by Bible verses (proof texts) but it still may be untrue.  Is it really true in the real world or is it only true in my fantasy faith world?  Is it what I “want” to be true?  Am I missing something important by not facing what is really true?

4.  It must be relevant.  Not everything “true” or “interesting” is “relevant”.  Interesting irrelevancies are trivia.  How does what I say connect with, and affect, the actual lives of my listeners?  If I have the privilege of an audience, then I should certainly make sure my words are relevant to them.

5.  It must be motivating.  A sermon is not a news bulletin.  Nor is it merely the next installment of a teaching course.  A sermon is intended to produce change – ie the cycle of reflection, prayer, action.  Sometimes this is called “application”. Clear, specific pointers are not always necessary, but they can help as long as they are not presented in a prescriptive way.

6.  It must be Spirit-Filled.  A sermon is a message from God.  When Jesus spoke, the people pressed around him, hungry for the word of God, (Luke 5:1).  It was because he spoke in the power of the Spirit that their hunger was satisfied. The Bible promises that God will bring his word to us through his servants, and when we preach our aim is to serve him.  We should not presume that each of our words is a word from the Lord, but in preparation and delivery, we offer ourselves to be used by him.

What would your six essentials be?

And why did angels sing?

Here’s a great poem by my friend Jeannie Kendall who is minister at Carshalton Beeches Baptist Church.  You can read more about it on Jeannie’s blog, Marvellously Made

And why did angels sing

Not weep

At all the sacrifice

Of glory channelled

Into fragile flesh?

And why did angels sing

Not weep

If they but saw ahead

The tiniest glimpse

Of total darkness on a Friday

Where evil seemed to laugh?

And why did angels sing

Not weep?

Because they saw

Behind the pain

That was to come

The love

Beyond all else


Jeannie Kendall

Hello, I’m Roly, and I’m going to be your guide.

“Hello, my name’s Roly, and I’m going to be your guide through the scriptures this morning.”

With those words, our preacher today opened his sermon.

What a lovely way to begin!  What a lovely idea!

As our “guide” he was acknowledging that he had a head start on us, but he wasn’t setting himself up as MasterBlaster.  He had been over the terrain in preparation; he had given it some thought; he was going to try help us negotiate it.

His services – like that of a guide – were offered.  We might choose to hire a different guide, but these were his services.  There was a humility about the opening.

And we were going on a journey together – the introductory words were also invitational. I looked forward to the journey, to surveying various aspects of the landscape, being made aware of some of the potholes, and also being led to some great vistas.

There are of course many ways to preach a sermon, but I found this opening to be engaging full of opportunity.

What do you think?

If you are a preacher, how would you feel using it?

If you are a listener – what effect does it have on you?