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?