I know what some ministers are going to say when they read the title of this article. “You don’t need anyone to tell you how to preach, all you need is Jesus.” I absolutely agree, with the second part of that statement; all you really need is Jesus. However, it’s a pseudo spiritual mind that thinks you don’t need anyone to teach you. The apostle Paul compared God’s people to a body for a reason. All of us are here to supply something to someone else, whether it is a simple encouraging word or financial assistance. There is no use for mavericks in the body of Christ. I am a Christian and Jesus is in me, therefore I have been given wisdom and knowledge by Him in order to supply it to those who are in need. That is my work as a pastor and teacher. With all that said, don’t be ashamed to learn something from someone else that could possibly help you to assist someone else in need. Besides, if we didn’t need anyone to teach us how to preach, our congregation wouldn’t need anyone to teach them biblical principles on how to live.
Speaking in public is a task in itself, but ministering the Word of God to a group of people can be very intimidating. I remember my first sermon like it was yesterday. It lasted a total of eight minutes and I stuttered all the way through. That was ages ago, and I’ve grown from being incredible nervous to actually embracing the opportunity to speak. Nowadays, I actually have to find a stopping point so as to not put anyone to sleep. My intentions here are to make preaching a sermon a little less daunting and a little more pleasant. I have put together five essentials to delivering a good message, and if you stick pretty close to them I’m sure you will be satisfied on the big day.
1. Saturate your message in prayer
Always remember to ask the Lord what He wants His people to learn when it comes to the message at hand. This is an important step whether you preach regularly or just on occasion. The easiest sermons to preach are always the ones that God wants you to preach. It seems elementary, but you would be amazed how many times ministers try to dig up a sermon out of nowhere just to embarrass themselves behind the pulpit. Trust me; both I, and friends of mine have been there before. You must understand as a Christian that prayer fuels every inch of our lives; so when it comes to preaching the Word of God, do yourself a favor and seek His will concerning the message. You will be amazed that God will give you the message every time.
2. Stick with the topic or theme of the message
Now God doesn’t always give us what we are supposed to say word for word. He requires us to actually use the brains that He gave us to put it together. I guess it’s His way of keeping us from getting lazy. There needs to be a topic or theme to the message that you are preaching. Whatever the idea is that God puts in your heart must flow from point to point. I can’t tell you how many agonizing hours I’ve endured sitting through sermons that had no direction. I apologize if that offends some people but let’s face it, no matter how spiritual a congregation is, if they can’t keep up with your message, you will lose them. Also, contrary to popular belief, as long as you are preaching a message that is easy to listen to, it doesn’t much matter whether it takes thirty minutes or an hour to finish, people will listen. I have heard men preach that I wished would hurry up and sit down, and then others that I could listen to for two or three hours. The difference is the flow of the message and whether or not the theme stays consistent. Going down a rabbit trail every now and then is alright because people love a little comic relief or a nice story, but make sure your sermon still gets where it was supposed to go in the first place. As my wife says, “Tie it all in and bring it around nicely.”
3. Educate yourself on the topic
Now that you’ve heard from God, and have your theme worked out, it’s time to study. Keep in mind that the Bible is your ultimate source of information. I say that for all of those sticklers out there who roll their eyes at ministers who read other books. Always make sure that you study scripture to preach your sermon because if you do not, then all you are doing is giving a self help motivational speech. In that light, however, it is perfectly fine to read other books written by men who have Jesus in them as well. There is nothing wrong with educating yourself, that’s how we grow. God speaks to us in countless ways, so we would be amiss to ignore such a significant method of communication as information from other people. I have minister friends who have written books and have illuminated certain scriptures that I had never seen in that way before. It is definitely a good idea to learn what other people think and see concerning the Bible. The strong’s concordance is one of many wonderful study tools that will help you learn just how the original texts were meant to read. Also, grab yourself a biblical dictionary and encyclopedia if you so choose and get a wide perspective on the text you are studying. Just keep in mind that the Bible should always be the foundation no matter what else you read so as not to go off on a tangent of unbiblical principles.
From firsthand experience, I know that the average church member is not going to embark on a week-long study session after hearing you preach, so make sure that for every point you have in your message that you use at least two or three scriptures that will support what you are trying to say. With that said, make sure that you have in your notes a whole lot more than that just in case you encounter someone who wants to know more. Having many supporting scriptures in your notes will help you make sure that what you are saying is totally true to scripture so that you don’t make the mistake of “fitting” the Word of God to your own ideas.
4. Make your outline
Now you are ready to write your formal outline. This is the piece of paper that you will have in front of you while you are speaking. Depending on who you talk to, this could be an issue of controversy. You wouldn’t believe how some preachers will belittle a person who uses notes. Newsflash: Not everyone has photographic memory or speaking savvy! So, if you don’t have to use notes, great, and if you do, then that’s great too. Whether you use a notebook, sticky notes, or your laptop just make sure it’s readily accessible and easy to read.
It is definitely appropriate to have a base scripture. This is kind of like the thesis of the entire message, a verse that will sum up what you are trying to get across. Sometimes I use one and sometimes I don’t, it isn’t life or death. However, if you are just starting out or not very experienced it would probably help you keep with your theme.
Once you have your base text, write down the points that you want to make that will support your overall message. There is no rule for how many points to put in your sermon. I have had some speaking engagements where I only used one point and then there have been others where I had ten. It just all depends on what God has laid on your heart to say. Writing these points down will also help you keep to the topic so that you don’t have to worry about bouncing all over the place. Make sure that every point fits with your main theme and that they are all supported by scriptures. It wouldn’t hurt to make sure you allow for a summary in your notes, so long as it doesn’t take as long as it did to preach the sermon.
You have prayed all week and God has spoken to you. You have given yourself to studying the topic. You have your outline and all of your points written down. Now you are ready to do what God called you to do from behind the pulpit. It is important that you respect the place in which you are standing, so don’t let yourself fall into the ego zone. However, have confidence in knowing that you have heard from God and that He is using you in that moment to preach for Him and He is not going to let your words fall to the ground, because they are ultimately His Words.
Preach with passion. My public speaking teacher in high school taught me that if the message doesn’t move you, then it won’t move anyone else. Most preachers who yell are not yelling because they are mad but because they are passionate about what God has put in their heart. I’m not saying you have to scream your message, but make sure you feel what you are preaching or no one else will.
Last but not least, follow your outline. You don’t have to be stringent about it, but let your outline be a guide so that you don’t get too far ahead of yourself or lose sight of what you are trying to say.
Now that you have those five rules under your belt, go have fun doing what God has called you to do and preach the gospel to the entire world! I admire any man or woman who will stand up and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. Don’t be scared or intimidated, but treat the opportunity as an honor to be a mouthpiece for the Creator of the universe. God bless!