Sunday nights and Mondays are times of reflection for preachers. It is then that our deepest doubts sink into our thoughts as we ruminate over what we said in our sermons. Was it worth the time? Did I say things clearly? What did I miss in my presentation? We think about what didn’t seem to connect or what really felt like the right word at the right moment. We had an image in our mind of how that sermon was going to flow, who was going to appreciate it or be touched by it … sometimes we have envisioned correctly. Often not.
The response from people exiting the building gives us some insight, but that can’t be all. Truthfully we know some people are just being nice.
I really can’t speak for all preachers. Maybe not all of them come away from Sunday with such thoughts running through their minds … but I know many that do. Preachers are not only frail creatures, they are vulnerable. Easy targets for the critical barbs that can fly. Sometimes with only a look. Often not believing the kind remarks, which is really unfair to the parishioners. Preachers suffer at their own hands as they compare themselves with the highly visible and largely successful proclaimers. It is the preacher’s job to bring a Word from the Lord – an awesome responsibility. But that comes with a lot of expectations. And a lot of preachers quit.
I do try to read books about preaching. I listen to other preachers and read articles about preaching, wanting to do my best. My best is all it can be… it can’t be someone else’s best. I’m stuck with me… and whatever improvements God can make. I guess they are kind of old fashioned, but here are my core principles of preaching. These are for me, I’m not saying all preachers ought to adopt them…they just seem right to me.
*My sermons should never be far from the cross, the gospel, and how to give one’s life to the risen Savior. I know it seems fancy and new not to offer an invitation … I’ve thought about that a lot. But I think the very nature of the gospel is the open door, inviting Christ to come in. I want to do what I can to persuade people to give their life to Christ.
*My sermons should present a panoramic of the Bible over time. The most important book anyone has in their possession is the Bible. Knowing what is in that book is key to living the Christian life. That means a systematic approach through the Scriptures that covers the 66 over time.
*My sermons might contain some stories, some humor, and some cultural references – but they will not be known for that. I know today we are just supposed to tell stories, but I’m just more interested in people getting their Bibles open and see God speaking to them there. The bulk of my study time will be textual. I hear some sermons today that are shotgun references to a hundred different verses tied together by a story. I like for people to open up their Bibles to one place and just focus in there.
*My sermons will have points. One main point, but points that circle around that one main point. All of the professionals today say that people don’t want to hear points. If listeners can’t answer the question “So What?” at the end of my sermon I consider it a failure.
*My sermons do not have to be great to be powerful. My prayer before every sermon is something like this:
Lord, I have to have your help … I need you to help me. I pray that this sermon will be much more than it is, will help someone more than it appears it might, and will bring people’s attention to you and your son Jesus. I don’t have to know how. I can only leave it in your hands.
Really, some of the sermons I thought were complete duds were received so well and people expressed how much they meant. Sermons I think are awesome are usually meet with glazed eyes! Maybe there is something to the idea of becoming weak so God can be strong in us.
Sunday night is over, Monday is almost done. My attention will turn away from what Sunday was like to what this coming Sunday will be; leaving it all in God’s hands.
Thanks for reading,