Despite its detractors & despisers, preaching has always been essential to God’s work and for God’s people. I don’t see that changing any time soon! I have been preaching for around 23 plus years. For the last 6 months I have been a listener. Looking for a local church I have heard a variety of messages and sermons. I do not think of myself as an expert but I wanted to pass on a few tips that I think will help preachers help listeners listen better. Here’s a few points to help your listeners listen:
Have a point and stick to it –
Wandering around may be OK at the mall or on vacation but in a sermon its hard not to get lost. If you don’t know “what’s the point” of the bible passage you are preaching on than it unlikely anyone else will either.
Structure the message so its easy to follow – Jumping around to other Bible passages seems to make it “biblical” but the other references end up being footnotes. I know that after a lot of studying, you can have a lot of material to present but tackling one portion at a time thoroughly serves the listener and the text better. Spend some time on developing the flow of the message with clearly marked transitions. Keep what you don’t cover for another time.
Have an introduction but move on!
The more I listen to preachers the more I can tell when material is warm up & “intro” – after 10 to 15 minutes of it I know I’m in for a long haul afterwards & that you have neither edited or balanced your material nor used your time wisely.
Point us to Jesus Christ and the gospel – I am not talking about superficial references or imposing something heavy handed on a text. As a recent sermon on pride I heard demonstrates, if you don’t bring out the Gospel connections all we end up is moralisms “this is bad – don’t do it.” Show me how Jesus and who he is and what he has done makes a difference.
Come to a conclusion and end it.
Bring things to a crescendo and not as its been said, endlessly circling for a landing spot or as if you’re puttering out of gas. When your done, your done. Finish it.
30 minutes is all my butt and bladder can handle.
I know, I know. As a media saturated, overstimulated middle-aged, American my brain is not used to long attention demands. The Puritans may have been able to handle 2 hours in a pew but I can’t. And none of you I have heard (nor myself) is Jonathan Edwards or George Whitefield!
Preaching is tough work.
It demands not only brains but heart. It is easy to be overwhelmed by the never ending demand on your time, energy and heart and soul. And yes, we will be compared to the “big names” either down the street or on the tube. However, there is no excuse for not being prepared. Of all duties and activities in the church this one is your responsibility. Carve out the time. You will be blessed and so will your listeners.