Wednesday, July 24, 2013

10 Preaching Tips (Part II)

This is the second half of my two-part post on 10 Preaching Tips (part I here).

 6. Recognize Preaching as Spiritual Warfare

This is a point that I did not grasp or understand when I started preaching. We often prepare our messages in a bubble. We think about how good our content is going to be; we think about how if people would only listen, understand, and apply it, their lives would be great. But there is one issue: we have an enemy. We have a real enemy. He labors against our efforts. Do not think Satan is inactive when we are preaching. Do not think Satan sits idly by while you prepare your sermons. Preaching is an act of spiritual warfare. 

In Matthew 13, Jesus tells and explains the story of the sower. In the story Jesus highlights some seed that has been thrown on to the ground. The seed represents the Word of God. However, there are enemies to this seed taking root and growing and producing fruit. There are the trials and tribulations of this world that threaten to choke the life out of the seed. But Jesus mentions another enemy - the devil. The evil one comes and snatches the seed that has been planted (13:19). Satan wants to actively snatch seeds of the Word off the path as we are throwing them down. You are not simply exchanging ideas with people when you preach, you are engaged in a war. This battle we are in is not flesh and blood, it is spiritual in nature, and we have an enemy (Ephesians 6:12).

7. Avoid Adding Too Much Content

One of the temptations of every preacher is adding too much content. Too much information can be bad. We can leave our congregations and hearers confused, overwhelmed, or lost in a sea of content. This does not mean we should "theology-light" or shy away from digging deep; however, it means that we do not have to throw everything we know about a subject into one sermon. Take for example this post. I could list more than ten tips for preaching. There are countless things that could be said about preaching (some of you have probably thought of them as you have read this). But I kept the post to ten tips. I also broke the ten tips into two posts, instead of one big post with all ten tips listed. Do not overwhelm those who are listening to you preach or teach with so much content that all of it is lost. 

8. Balance Your Exegesis & Application

This has been and will always be, a constant point of emphasis for me. When I started preaching, I was application heavy. I would read a passage, skim over the surface of it with my explanation, and then move to the "so what" factor. But the more I learned about the Bible and theology, I went the opposite direction. The more knowledge I acquired about theology, the less application I gave my hearers. This is a dangerous seesaw. 

The healthiest approach to preaching is a balance of Scripture exegesis and interpretation, with pointed application for the hearers. Yes, we must dig into the text, and highlight crucial doctrinal issues that emerge, but we also must show people how this touches their lives. We cannot only talk about what the Bible says, we must show people how to incorporate it into their families, workplaces, thought-life, and the rest of their lives. Always check your sermons when you finish preparing them for healthy balance. 

9. Marinate Your Sermon, Don't Microwave It

This tip comes with two applications attached. The first, we need to prepare messages with time in between preaching them, that we can digest what we plan to say. Preparing a message on the weekend you are to deliver it is not wise. You may get away with doing that a few times, but if this becomes a habitual pattern, it will reflect in your preaching. Everything is better marinated and cooked slowly. I would rather have a pork tenderloin that has been marinated in a crock-pot all day, than a microwave dinner cooked in one minute and thirty seconds. The meals your congregation needs to be fed and healthy, are the ones you have been marinating for more than a few days, not microwaved. 

The second application of this tip: we need to marinate our messages in prayer. The is a neglected part of sermon preparation. We should be prayerful every step of the process. Sermon preparation should be filled with prayer. Thinking through application, working through the text, and preparing to deliver the message should all be bathed in prayer. As you are actually preaching, inward prayer groanings should be an accompaniment to your sermon. Marinate your sermon, don't microwave it.

10. Expect Some People To Dislike Your Message

Not everyone is going to be a fan of your messages. This is not easy for us to accept. One reason is that a sermon becomes like our child. We have nurtured, cared for, and labored over that message. We do not want anyone telling us our baby is ugly. However, we must understand the nature of our message causes many to turn away. The cross can be a stumbling block. The cross is foolish for some people. There are many professing believers who struggle with worldliness. Do not be surprised when you offend people with a call to repentance or holiness. People do not like having their sin pointed out, even when you are pleading with them to flee to the Savior. 

George Whitefield is one of my heroes of the faith. I love reading his sermons, and about his life. Whitefield is widely considered as one of the most gifted and anointed preachers to ever live. He had incredible ministry success. However, this gifted and anointed man had detractors. There were actually times when he preached where people hit him with rocks, mud, and even human feces. If you have not experienced that in any of your sermons, then you face less resistance than Whitefield. As preachers, we need to develop thicker skin. We often develop hard hearts instead of thick skin. We do not appreciate people disliking or questioning our messages. Friends, we must prepare our messages and deliver them knowing not everyone will love them. This puts us in good company, because not everyone loved Jesus' sermons.

This concludes the tips. These 10 Preaching Tips are not exhaustive. There are many more helpful things that could be said about preaching. I hope my list can be profitable for you and your growth as a communicator of God's Word. May we never forget, that we are proclaimers of the excellencies of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:9). We have the greatest message in all the world. Let's work hard to sharpen our skills, and pray for God's power to rest upon us as we teach the Scriptures. 

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