Sunday, September 18, 2016

How To Avoid Being Labeled a Boring Preacher

The goal of this short essay is to provide ten practical tips on how to avoid being labeled a boring preacher. 

First, preach the Word of God with passion and conviction.  As Alex Montoya points out, “Passion is the power, the drive, the energy, the life in the delivery of the sermon.  Without passion, the sermon becomes a lecture, an address or a moral speech.”[1] The apostolic mandate is to preach the Word not to merely teach the Scriptures (2 Tim. 4:1-4).  Lloyd-Jones once told someone, “If you do not know the difference between preaching and teaching then you have likely never heard a sermon before.”

Second, use vocal variety throughout your expository message.  If someone attempts to deliver a sermon in a monotone manner it will likely put the congregation to sleep during the first fifteen minutes.  

If the preacher goes back and listens to his sermons on their I Pod they should be able to determine if they employed good vocal variety throughout the sermon.  It should be noted here that an emphatic point can be made by lowering one’s voice (like Rick Holland) or by declaring the truth in a demonstrative way (like Paul Washer).

Third, prepare a sermon manuscript not academic lecture notes.  If one’s sermon notes could be mistaken for a theological journal something’s not right.  It is critical to remember that when writing a sermon you are preparing an oral manuscript to be heard with the ear.  John MacArthur’s sermon manuscripts on “Grace To You” look much different than his books on the same texts of Scripture.

Fourth, do not just explain the text without using proper illustrations, applications, and/or exhortations.  The Master’s perfect example of balanced preaching is exemplified in the Sermon on the Mount.[2]  Our Lord states the truth, illustrates the truth, and applies the truth throughout Matthew 5-7.  We would be wise to imitate his pattern to the best of our God-given talents.

Fifth, use word pictures to help your congregation see what you are teaching them from the inspired text.  According to Jack Hughes a word pictures is “any word, phrase, story, analogy, illustration, metaphor, figure of speech, trope, allegory, graphic quotation, historical reference, cross-reference, or comparison used to help the listener, see, imagine, experience, sense, understand, remember and/or relate to abstract facts.”[3]  Word pictures help paint truth for the mind’s eye.  Thomas Watson was a master when it came to using word pictures throughout his sermons and books.  One such example should suffice; “An impatient man is like a troubled sea that cannot rest.  He tortures himself upon the rack of his own griefs and passions, whereas patience calms the heart, as Christ did the sea, when it was rough.”[4]

Sixth, avoid needless repetition. Utilizing a good thesaurus will help the preacher restate the same truths without sounding like a broken record.  Having said this, sometimes you will want to restate your main sermon headings for clarity and emphasis.  Hence, this sixth point is a principle not a hard and fast rule.  

Seventh, read widely and deeply.  Those who practice this principle will expand their vocabulary and will often be more multifaceted when speaking publically.  For example, I naturally gravitate to illustrations about history and sports.  By reading broadly it will help me better connect with a diverse audience.

Eighth, preach a wide variety of genres. If variety is the spice of life literary genre is the “spice” of biblical preaching.   In his book, Preaching With Variety:  How to Recreate the Dynamics of Biblical Genres Jeffrey Arthurs agrees, “I believe that a sermon’s content should explain and apply the Word of God as it is found in a biblical text, and a sermon’s form should unleash the impact of that text.”[5] 

Ninth, utilize various moods when preaching and teaching.  Do not just make indicative statements.  Verse 2 tells us that we are to long for the Word like a newborn infant.  Ask questions and employ the interrogative mood.  For example, do you have a voracious appetite for the Scriptures?  As suggested earlier summon God’s people to a proper biblical response by employing the imperative mood.  Say things like, “Choose this day whom you will serve!  As for me and my house we will serve the Lord!”

Tenth, be a thoroughly biblical expositor because nothing is more relevant or exciting than the Word of God.  Many preachers wrongly believe that they need to make the Bible come alive (contra Hebrew 4:12).  When you speak, speak the very oracles of God for the edification of your hearers and the glory of God (1 Peter 4:10-11).  What you believe about Scripture will be clearly revealed every time you stand behind a pulpit. "Preach the Word- in season and out!"

[1] Alex Montoya, Preaching with Passion (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 2000), 12.
[2] See Stuart Olyott, Ministering Like the Master: Three Messages for Today’s Preachers (Carlisle, PA.: 2003).
[3] Jack Hughes, Expository Preaching with Word Picture With Illustrations From the Sermons of Thomas Watson (Ross-shire, Great Britian, Christian Focus Publications, 2001), 33.
[4] Ibid., 33.
[5] Jeffrey D. Arthurs, Preaching with Variety: How to Recreate the Dynamics of Biblical Genres (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Kregel Academic, 2007),  13.