In our previous post, we discussed 7 Essential Practices for Effective Pastoral Ministry. We will now begin to break each one of them down individually. In our first installment, we are going to discuss the most important job we have as pastor – preaching the sermon on Sunday morning. Mark 13:10 says, “First the gospel must be preached to all nations”. Our number one job as pastors is to preach the gospel. For many, the only time they hear anything about the works of Christ are on Sunday mornings. This twenty minutes on Sunday morning is our opportunity to proclaim Christ, encourage our congregations to be the “hands and feet of Jesus”, and cast a grand vision for the church. We’ve all been there: our schedules get packed full, we rush around trying to be everywhere at once, not taking the time to really do the work that needs to be done to ensure that what we are going to say on Sunday has the level of excellence that God deserves. These seven tips will help us prepare and deliver a powerful sermon that bears fruit for the kingdom.
- Grounded in Scripture.
First and foremost, the sermon must be grounded in Scripture, otherwise we are not sharing the gospel as we should. Begin with the Scriptures. Unfortunately, we get busy and often turn to the commentaries first. Give proper time to interpret the Scripture to ensure that your congregation hears the Scriptures.
- Spend appropriate time of prayer and meditation.
Our sermons should be bathed in prayer. If we don’t meditate and pray during this process then we are not opening ourselves up to the movements of the Holy Spirit. Pray, also, for the people who will hear your sermon. Pray they hear God speaking to them and are motivated to go out and do something about it.
- Speak to your community and the challenges it faces.
Our communities need to hear how the scripture can help them face the challenges that they are facing. You need to meet you communities where they are. Spend time in your community. Know what its challenges are and how the Scriptures speak to those challenges. Write your sermon at the local coffee shop or library. Just as Paul spoke to the churches he was responsible for, we must address the issues our communities are facing.
- Be prophetic and speak to the culture.
We should always speak Gods truth and show how God is working in our society and culture. Luke Timothy Johnson claims the church today has lost its prophetic witness to society. Our people see our culture on the news and social media, but that is often presented with a bias. How do the Scriptures speak to the challenges that people face in our culture?
- Embody the sermon.
Be convicted about what you preach. Your audience can tell when you don’t truly believe the words you are saying. Work on your delivery style. Video or record yourself before the sermon to see where your delivery fails to come across clearly. Embody the sermon outside of church. Don’t preach on service then let someone see you refuse to serve someone in the community.
- Expect a response from your congregation.
You don’t have to do an alter call to get a response (truth is you may not get a response from that). Instead, make the alter available for prayer time after the sermon. Conclude your sermon with a call for them to take on some action or mission within the community (and ask them to report back).
- Ask for critical criticism.
Have someone you trust be willing to tell you where you could have done better. We need that criticism so we can identify our shortcomings and work to improve. This works best if you can have a couple of people but only have one turn it in so it can be anonymous. Ask for details, not just superficial comments. Accept the criticisms in love; then get to work to be a better preacher.
These are just a few good habits that we can use to improve our sermons. We believe that, if we take these steps, we will greatly improve our ability to write and deliver a sermon that speaks to our congregations and shares the Gospel in a way that honors God and our positions as pastors. Remember to reach out and find a colleague to meet with, either in person or online, to hold each other accountable to being a more effective pastor.