THE ART OF PREACHING A GOOD SERMON
Apostle Caleb McIntosh, author of the book Thirty Minute Sermons, shares how to go about preparing and preaching an inspiring and memorable message
Preaching a great, memorable and life-transforming sermon is an interesting mix of theology (what we are actually saying) and rhetoric (how we say it).
Homiletics is ‘the art of preaching or writing sermons’. However, preaching is the actual delivery of the sermon or message. Homiletics can also be defined as ‘the science and art of preaching a sermon’. The use of the word science has everything to do with the systematic study and preparation in the construction of the sermon. The art has to do with the actual delivery of the sermon, taking into consideration the personality, temperament, character and disposition of the preacher.
The main ingredients of a good sermon are as follows:
1) The Preacher – The preacher is key in the process. He or she must first be called by God and anointed by Him to preach and proclaim His message. The preacher must be prepared through prayer, fasting and diligent study of the Scriptures, in order to be equipped to preach.
2) The Purpose – What is the purpose and the occasion? This will determine the theme, content, style and delivery of the sermon. The purpose and occasion will contextualise the sermon. Is it a mid-week Bible study, conference, convocation or revival service?
3) Exegetical Excellence – Making certain that the sermon is biblically sound and rooted in the theology of God’s Word, and not in human ideas. The sermon must be Christ-centred. That is, the saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ must be woven into the fabric of the message of the sermon.
The sermon outline should be developed with the following four rhetorical processes in mind:
- Explanation: “What does this passage mean?”
- Argumentation: “How do you know this is the meaning?”
- Illustration: “What do the truths of this passage look like?”
- Application: “What do the truths of this passage have to do with my life?”
These four rhetorical questions appeal to the whole person to whom we are preaching: Explanation appeals to the intellect; Argumentation appeals to the reason; Illustration appeals to the imagination, and Application appeals to the volition and will.
4) Real Relevance – The message of the sermon must be relevant to the audience and congregation to whom it is being delivered. It must meet needs in a number of ways:
- Motivate the audience
- Challenge them in some way
- Offer solutions to some need
- Present God’s healing power
- Present God’s solution to a human problem
The Main Ingredients of a Good Sermon
5) A simple structure – Arrange your ideas into a simple structure and plan such as this:
a) Text (Scripture reference)
b) Theme / Title
e) Main Body (This usually has three main points)
f) Conclusion, Challenge and Altar Call
Make sure that you can remember your main points. If you cannot remember them, your audience or congregation will not, either. Try and make the sermon well organised and easy to be followed and understood. Remember, ‘the mind can only retain what the seat can endure’. People will be polite and sit there and listen to you, not because you have captivated them with your oratory and eloquence, but just out of respect for you.
6) Delivery – Preach the sermon with passion, compassion and pathos. Pathos is a feeling of tenderness and love for the audience and congregation. As a preacher begins his or her sermon, they must be sure the opening sentences grip the minds of the hearers and audience. We can make our introduction effective by:
- Relating a personal story and referring to recent events
- Making a startling statement
- Exploring a contemporary issue
- Probing a common need, and promising some benefits and solutions
7) The Conclusion, Challenge or Altar call – The sermon should always end with a Challenge or Altar Call. If God has given you a message, it will meet the needs of the audience and congregation. The success of the sermon is measured by the effectiveness of the Challenge or Altar Call. In the conclusion, you do not introduce new material; you exhort your listeners to respond to the proposition and sermon. NEEDS AUTHOR INFO?
The Main Ingredients of a Good Sermon
Historically, the Christian sermon has always followed the reading of Scripture. In a very real way, the sermon is a response to the Scriptures read. In the Scriptures, the preacher has heard God speaking in such a way that he or she is inspired to proclaim that message.
Therefore, good preachers strive to engage the biblical passages seriously, in a manner that is interesting, inspiring and relevant.
When a sermon includes all the above ingredients or elements, and when the Holy Spirit is present in the anointing, something supernatural happens. The words spoken in preaching come alive, and the audience comes to faith in Jesus Christ. Amen.
Apostle Caleb McIntosh is author of the book, Thirty Minute Sermons, serves as the Presiding Apostle of Bibleway Churches UK, and pastors two churches. He is married to Yvonne, and is the father of two children, Rachel and Nathanael.