I love preaching. I love everything about it. I love preparing to preach. I love behind the pulpit. I love evaluating a message afterwards. I love listening to sermons.
I think a lot about preaching.
In preaching, there are a lot of factors to consider in how to construct a sermon: genre of the passage, length of the passage, the audience, etc.
But four things that don’t change for me are certain goals I have in every message.
- To be faithful to the text
You must begin by going to the text with reverence and not importing opinions onto the text, but prayerfully and carefully trying to understand the text for what it has to say.
The Apostle Paul addresses the temptation for people to be drawn to unfaithful preaching in 2 Timothy 4:2-4: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
- To preach the gospel
I’m reminded the word of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:2, I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. Sermons cannot lose sight of the gospel. No matter what else is covered in a sermon, it needs to always go back to Jesus and the grace the he offers to sinners, the life he offers to those dead in sin. No matter how practical a pastor wants to make a sermon, the most practical message of all is that you need Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the father except through him (John 14:6).
- To explain how the text applies to life
When I started preaching, I think this was one of the things that came hardest for me. But it’s also essential to preaching. Without application, a sermon isn’t a sermon, it’s a lecture.
The Apostle James said to be doers of the word and not only hearers, adding: the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing (James 1:25).
- To be clear
A sermon is useless if people can’t understand it. I’ve listened to many sermons and found myself thinking “what is he talking about?!” No idea is so brilliant that it can’t be comprehensibly communicated. I think lack of clarity is often a byproduct of a lack of preparation.
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Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.