by HADDON ROBINSON
Some Valuable NOTES on BIBLICAL PREACHING:
People come to a sacred appointment on Sunday morning; bewildered by seductive voices, nursing wounds that life has inflicted upon them, and anxious about matters that do not matter, they come to listen or a clear word from God that speaks to their condition.
2 Timothy 4:2 - "Preach" means to "cry out, herald, or exhort". It should so stir a man that he
pours out the message with passion and fervor.
A sermon should be a bullet and not buckshot; it is the explanation, interpretation, or application of a single dominant idea that is drawn from the passage of Scripture and that can be expressed in a short, pregnant sentence as clear as a crystal, without vague, ambiguous words, in the most exact, memorable sentence possible that is winsome (sparkles) and compelling (grabs hold of the mind). Defining an idea is like packaging fog. It has a subject (what am I talking about?) and a complement (what am I saying about what I am talking about?)
In the sermon, each idea is either explained, proved, or applied.
Explanation = what does this mean? It may be a story to be told or a subject to be completed to clarify or amplify. It may be inductive (idea at the end, following self-discovery) or deductive (idea at the beginning). Three worlds are brought together: the ancient world, the modern world, and our particular world.
Validation = Is it true? State a proposition to be proved. Define important terms in language the audience understands, because a mist in the pulpit becomes a fog in the pew.
Application = So what? What difference does it make? Give the implications of the biblical
principle to be applied.
A. W. Tozer said in "Of God and Men" (1960, pp. 26-27):
"There is scarcely anything so dull and meaningless as Bible doctrine taught for its own sake.
Truth divorced from life is not truth in its Biblical sense, but something else and something
less... Theological truth is useless until it is obeyed. The purpose behind all doctrine is to secure moral action."
Always write the conclusion with the purpose of the sermon in mind. The purpose states the
reason why the author wrote this and what you expect to happen in the life of the hearer as a result of preaching this sermon. A sermon is not to be like a firecracker to be fired off for the noise it makes. It is a hunter's gun, and at every discharge he should look to see his game fall. Never be uncertain about where the sermon will land. Produce a feeling a finality and clarity.
Use short words (one syllable) and short sentences. If a sermon seems deep, perhaps it's because it is muddy. Think in detailed pictures.
To nail a truth into the mind requires that it be hit several times. To illustrate a point, move from particular instances to generalized abstractions, and vice versa. Render truth believable by throwing light on the subject and making it vivid, clear, convincing, dramatic, and experiential.
Help people to recall impressions of their past experiences and to visualize themselves being in a probable situation.
Manuscripting the sermon improves preaching, for writing makes a man exact in thought and in speech. Use words that are as brilliant as a sunrise, not as drab and worn as an anemic worm, words that have punch and sparkle. The delivery needs to sound like a lively face-to-face conversation with direct eye contact and wide deliberate gestures and expressive vigorous tone of voice (that varies in pitch (inflections on the scale), punch (volume from loud to a whisper), progress (contrasting rate of delivery), and pause (thoughtful silences that give an opportunity to think, feel, and respond, or to create suspense)) so that the speaker and listener feel in touch with each other.
Step behind the pulpit in an unhurried, confident manner, then start with a bang; be alert, friendly, and interesting. Capture and command attention and raise needs in the first 30 seconds with a familiar thought, a rhetorical question, humor, a story, or a startling fact or statistic. Make people sit up to listen. Grab them by the throat by surfacing felt needs quickly. Sermons catch fire when the flint of a person's problems, questions, and hurts strikes the steel of God's Word, causing a spark to ignite that burns in the mind. Listeners should realize that their pastor is talking to them about them. Maintain a sense of tension, the feeling that something more must be said if the message is to be complete.
Quoting from Aurelius Augustine of Hippo:
"The teacher of Holy Scripture must teach what is right and refute what is wrong. In doing this, he must conciliate the hostile, rouse the careless, and tell the ignorant about current events and trends for the future" ... so that his hearers become "friendly, attentive, and ready to learn."
"... the highest priority should be placed on clarity. What advantage is there in speech that does not lead to understanding? Therefore, good teachers avoid all words that do not teach; instead, they must find words that are both pure and intelligible."
"There is an analogy between learning and eating: the very food without which it is impossible to live must be flavored to meet the tastes of the majority."
"To teach is a necessity, to delight is a beauty, to persuade is a triumph."