Three Points for Preachers
You can’t say everything but you have to say something. Be content to say something the text says and make sure that your audience hears, understands, and appreciates that teaching through your exposition, explanation, illustration, and application.
I’ve been around for awhile. I’ve preached many sermons and I’ve listened to many sermons. Like just about every pastor who sits under the preaching of someone else, I’ve done my share of critical analysis (in the confines of my head), kind of like those sports commentators who tell the audience how the athlete should have done things, while they sit in their booths.
I thought that since I have a few observations I might as well write them down. Maybe they’ll be helpful to preachers. Maybe not. You be the judge. I will say that these observations have to do with textual sermons rather than topical ones.
I’ve titled my piece “Three Points for Preachers.” The first thing you will note is that there are more than three points in the list below. That’s because three points don’t always fit the text and in this case do not serve what I have to share. In sermon construction sometimes three points work, sometimes two points, sometimes four. Sometimes no points work best because you’ll want to ride the wave of the narrative and covey the power of literary climax. I could have organized my thoughts in three points but my ingenuity would not have served my message well nor have served your understanding of it. The same goes for handling a text of Scripture. Points can get pretty misshapen and confuse rather than make clear.
Here we go.
- You can’t say everything but you have to say something. There will be insights that will excite you in your study and that you will want to share. But you have to draw the line and not overwhelm your listeners so that they latch on to nothing. Be content to say something the text says and make sure that your audience hears, understands, and appreciates that teaching through your exposition, explanation, illustration, and application.
- Stick with your text. Exegete the passage you lay before the congregation. Minimize introducing other texts and certainly don’t start exegeting them. Stay on site. You don’t need to prove your points by amassing biblical support, even through rattling off a litany of scriptural references. Those references may form or reinforce your conclusions but that’s for the kitchen not for the dining table. Minimize quotes from scholars, commentaries, and authors you have found relevant. Again, allow these sources to inform you and form your message but consider they may distract, particularly if they are lengthy.