Tuesday 4 November 2008

Preaching Sermons People Do Not Forget!

Preaching Seminar: Preaching sermons that people do not forget!

One of the highest compliments is when people come to you and say, “I will never forget that sermon that you preached on…” However all the glory must go to God because this can only happen by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This is vital in an age of information overload!

Why some preaching is boring and irrelevant, and some dynamic and exciting?
Why do some preachers connect with their audience while others do not?
How can we avoid preaching forgettable sermons?

Stuart Olyott; ‘Our Lord was a preacher, our Lord was an evangelistic preacher, our Lord was more than a preacher’.
Phillips Brooks; ‘Preaching is truth through personality’.

Five stages involved in preaching unforgettable sermons
1. The Importance of a Single Idea
2. The Intended Meaning of the Text
3. A Clear Sermon Structure
4. Doctrines, Illustrations and Applications
5. Sermon Delivery: Connecting with your Audience

· These communication skills can be used in many areas of life but our primary focus is preaching
· A Preaching definition: A public proclamation of the intended meaning of a specific Bible passage or text in a way that the audience understands.
· Example of Stuart Olyott’s genius for explanation: How would you explain this to a child?
· Other aspects not considered like the godly character of the messenger, training at seminary, different gospel ministries.
Our Lord was a Preacher
Mark 1:14 ¶ And after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."

1:35 And in the early morning, while it was still dark, He arose and went out and departed to a lonely place, and was praying there.
36 And Simon and his companions hunted for Him;
37 and they found Him, and *said to Him, "Everyone is looking for You."
38 And He *said to them, "Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, in order that I may preach there also; for that is what I came out for."
39 And He went into their synagogues throughout all Galilee, preaching and casting out the demons.

3:14 And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach,

16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

1. The Importance of a Single Idea
Many forms of communication have recognised the significance of the use of a ‘single idea’ in communication.
Aim for a single idea in preaching.
How do we develop a single idea? Through praying and preparation we think ‘What do we believe God wants to speak to a certain group of people? This can come through a specific Bible passage or a specific theme that you then search the Bible to find an appropriate passage. For example missions.
· Develop a title that communicates that single idea
· Often take your title from the Bible passage you will be using
· Develop your structure around that single idea.
Here are some examples of sermons I preached on the Doulos to capture the use of a single idea:
· Romans 8: 12-13, The Indwelling of Sin and the Holy Spirit in the Life of Every Christian (Pentecost sermon)
· Luke11:22-31,Ravens and Lilies (Theme was not worrying about the future)
· John 10:27-30,The Sheep of His Hand, Christians cannot perish and lose their salvation
Consider some Bible passages and write down what is the main theme and what title you would give a sermon from that passage
· 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
· Revelation 1:12-20
· Genesis 12:1-9
Explain the importance of a good title, one that communicates a single idea and also frames your sermon content.
2. The Intended Meaning of the Text
There are two words that need defining to help us understand our aim when preparing a sermon to be preached.
Firstly a sermon must always be taken out of the Bible by the reading of a passage and explaining what this passage means; this is called expository preaching. We must preach out of the Bible and not about the Bible in a loose way.
Secondly we must aim for exegesis and avoid eisegesis. What is the difference between the two?
Eisegesis= reading into a Bible text what is not there. For example, the use of mystical ideas, allegorical ideas etc.
Exegesis= determining the intended meaning of a text.
Here are three principles that can help us to accurately understand a passage:
· The wider context of the passage and its setting in relation to redemptive history. Give the illustration of a tulip flower to explain redemptive history.
· The context of the passage in relation to the rest of the book that it comes from. What is the literary style of the book? What was the historical context and purpose of the book?
· What understanding do other parts of Scripture shed on this passage (analogy of faith)?
The aim is to discover what a passage is actually saying.
Consider three passages and try to determine what these passages are normally explained to be saying? Determine what you think they are actually saying?
· The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)
· Hebrews 6:4-6
· The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31-46)

3. A Clear Sermon Structure

· A natural and unforced structure that flows from the chosen text (like unwrapping an orange, the segments cleave naturally)
· Three or four points (like a three legged stool or chair)
· Clear headings for each point (they summarise the main point)
Here are some exercises from the book of Ephesians; determine a clear sermon structure from these three passages with a clear sermon title and three headings.
· Ephesians 1: 3-14.
· Ephesians 2:1-10.
· Ephesians 5:21-6:4.

4. Doctrines, Illustrations and Applications
Now we move from the example of the human body with the skeleton in place to putting flesh on the bone. The substance of the sermon to be preached needs to include doctrines, illustrations and applications.
In the New Testament letters, especially the epistles doctrine always comes before application. For example in Ephesians Paul discusses gospel doctrine for about the first three chapters but then deals with applying this in the daily lives of first century Christians for the next three chapters. This is a good pattern for our sermons to follow.
John Owen (From page 93 of JI Packer’s Among God’s Giants)
“It would be an uncouth sermon that should be without doctrine and use”

Illustrations abound in the NT, especially in the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. For example read Matthew chapter 5-7 and the Sermon on the Mount and note how many illustrations he uses with following applications. Make a list of the illustrations used and then make a list of contemporary items that could be used for sermons in the 21st Century.

· Doctrines correctly labelled and explained (like coat hangers)
· Biblical or contemporary Illustrations for each point
· Applications for each point that are non-fuzzy

Now go through the three Ephesian passages again and for the three headings you have used, identify the doctrines, illustrations and applications you could use. Discuss these in small groups.
5. Sermon Delivery: Connecting with your Audience
Well prepared sermons are greatly needed, especially ones that have been bathed in prayer. However a sermon only truly becomes a sermon when it is preached and Martyn Lloyd Jones often said that there are three people involved in the delivery of a sermon.
A. The Preacher
B. The attentively listening congregation
C. The Holy Spirit.
We must always pray for the help and power of the Holy Spirit, without which sermons will be lifeless and will not bear long term fruit.
Once I asked a man who had been training up preachers for decades to give me feedback on a sermon he heard me preach and he gave me a lesson to remember for a lifetime. He said that sometimes “I was more concerned in getting the sermon out that I had prepared than in getting the sermon across. Also that sometimes I connected with the congregation very well and other times I did not”. He explained that our aim must not be to simply give out what we have prepared but to ask ‘Am I connecting with my audience all the way through the sermon?’This is a valuable lesson for all of us.
Here are three questions to ask yourself before, during and after each sermon. Also do not be afraid to ask congregation members for feedback.

· Was your speech and delivery clear?
· Were your explanations simple? Could a ten year old child understand your sermon?
· Did you connect with your audience all the way through the sermon?
These three questions answered and applied honestly could transform most preachers and their preaching!
How do we close a meeting?
A song full of relevant Bible content related to the message and then a benediction taken from the NT. There are many but 2 Cor. 13:14 is most suitable for most occasions.
What about altar calls and forced responses?
Are they found in the NT? There is now problem in making yourself and others available for enquirers but not to demand a public show of hands or even worse to believe those who have responded are genuinely converted. Jesus said ‘By their fruits you shall know them’ and it takes time for fruit to grow and for others to know if a profession is genuine. However we must not sow scepticism concerning people’s profession of faith because we know of a certainty by the Holy Spirit that we are saved by the blood of Jesus.
In summary, there are been five main stages identified for preaching sermons that will not be forgotten. This goal may seem unattainable for many of us, but at least it is the right goal to prayerfully aim for. These stages are:
1. The Importance of a Single Idea
2. The Intended Meaning of the Text
3. A Clear Sermon Structure
4. Doctrines, Illustrations and Application
5. Sermon Delivery: Connecting with your Audience

Exhortation from Richard Baxter; ‘We must preach as a dying man to dying men and preach as if you would never preach again’.

W.H. Griffith Thomas on preaching; ‘Think yourself empty, read yourself full, write yourself clear, pray yourself keen, then into the pulpit and let yourself go’.

A time for questions…

Book recommendations

Preaching and Preachers Lloyd Jones
Puritans JI Packer
Puritans Lloyd Jones
To read any sermons by Lloyd Jones, Spurgeon, Calvin, Whitefield or Edwards.
The Reformed Pastor by Baxter
The Art of Prophesying by Perkins
Preaching Pure and Simple by Stuart Olyott
Ministering Like the Master by Stuart Olyott


Jem said...

Hi Kevin

This is great advice.

I think you alluded to it anyway but the old adage of know your audience goes a long way as well.



Kevin Bidwell said...

Did I include that phrase 'know your audience' or do you suggest that it should be added?
Thanks for the comments,

Jem said...

Hi Kevin

I think the words you used were "Connecting with your audience" and I suppose to connect with them you have to know something about the people you would be speaking to.

To give an example - A youth leader was doing some evangelistic work on the streets with young people and as a way to start a conversation they were giving away cereal bars - he was asked by one lad if he had any Special K - and while the youth worker was trying to look through his bag the lad informed him that Special K was Ketamine a drug usually associated with Raves (normally given to horses as an anesthetic)

So I supposed it would be good to know if you would be preaching to young people, old people, Christians, non-Christians, City Business Men, Factory workers etc. etc.

Therefore it would be good idea to add "Know your audience."

God Bless

Kevin Bidwell said...

Very helpful. This will form the foundation of some material I have been asked to write for an Australian Presbyterian Minister who is equipping pastors in Thailand and Burma who have had no training. This feedback is valuable. If you know of anyone else in church who would be interested in reading this material and making critical comments, please get them to read the blog and publish their comments. Ultimately this hopefully should be for the good of these pastors. Oh, and by the way...keep off those Special K bars.

Wheelie said...

Which is good, and methodical, and very logical chaps.

Hi Jez. :) and 'Ullo Kev. Long time no see er.. or read :) Sorry to interrupt.

I've always been a proponent that someone, for all that they are - or lack of, can be a voice for the holy spirit. You guys make it sound a bit complicated?

But then I've hit you in mid conversation.

My experience is that structure and form and planning are good, and pretty darn helpful, particularly when teaching. Personality helps too.

As 'an audience' the guy that appeals to me is the one who stands on a park bench, cold, and wet, and goes with it. Intellect optional :)

Kevin Bidwell said...

Nice one wheelie! Maybe Jem can give you a more informed reply?

Jem said...

Hi Wheelie

Just a quick note.

"the guy that appeals to me is the one who stands on a park bench,"

But I am sure he would only appeal to you if he (Stage 5) connects with his audience.

"cold, and wet, and goes with it."

You would have to clarify what you mean by "and goes with it."

Goes with the flow?
Goes with his heart?
Goes with the scriptual meaning?
Goes where the Spirit leads?

Intellect optional :)

God doesn't say we have to be Intellectuals, He says "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

I will PM you with a more detailed reply

God Bless


Wheelie said...

I've not checked my mails yet, but, in love, I wasn't having a go at anyone. Errr....

I've travelled throughout the uk and preached. Lived and loved and eaten with the congregations.

Sometimes, and quite unwillingly, as people lovers we're taken apart from the very people we love - and that's the people we need to get through to. Occupational hazard I guess :) But those in front of us ARE the people we love. All of them.

Logic is good in preparation, but makes for rubbish expression. I'm tempted to say 'go with the heart' but even that is inadequate.

Am I making any sense?

Kevin Bidwell said...

Hey Wheelie,
My understanding is that we to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. This means that we need faithful pastors who will expound the Scriptures to present the 'intended meaning' of Scripture and not their opinion. Then we must doers of that Word. This can only happen in the context of being a member of a local church. Are you a member of local church? If not, why not? Just asking because this is what the Bible commands. What are your thoughts???