Preaching the sermon is the cornerstone of the pastor’s work. Most everything throughout any given week points the faithful minister toward Sunday’s message. So it’s reasonable to say that the pastor should give a fair amount of concentration to what he will deliver.
I’ve already dealt with crafting a sermon in another article. In this discussion, I’d like to focus on the important points of delivering that message. Let’s look at five practical principles of preaching that make or break the sermon:
1. Capture your people’s attention.
Grabbing an audience’s attention is imperative in any public speaking situation. Preaching is no exception. If you want your people to keep up, you have to get them to follow first.
Do this with a crisp opening statement. You might want to use some kind of illustration or icebreaker. However, stories can sound trite if overused.
I’ve found the best opening statement for preaching is something that informs my people about what they’re about to hear. Sometimes I’ll give a startling statement on what I’m speaking on for that session. Simple statistics or relevant facts do the trick nicely. People are always curious about how things relate to them. Give your people a real reason to listen further.
2. Transition smoothly.
Don’t linger too long on your introduction. That’s a good way to lose your listeners. Slide naturally into the body of your message by using transitions. I normally write my transitions in my notes so that I can remember how I get from the introduction to my first point. I do the same between my main points. This gives the sermon a more polished feel when I deliver it.
3. Preach your points.
This may seem like a given. But I’ve heard too many preachers wander from their message, chasing the proverbial bunny down its trail. Don’t do this.
It’s okay to wander a bit. Just don’t let it become habit. If what you prepared this week isn’t important enough to keep you on the main point of your sermon, it’s possible your preparation time needs a little work.
The point is, if you’ve prepared something, preach it and nothing else.
4. Illustrate your sermon well.
A good story or personal anecdote can really cement a point. If your people can see that your sermon actually has practical value they will be more likely to listen. Illustrations are practical applications of your points. Use them to bring a “real-life” feel to your message.
Also, try not to read your illustrations. There are few preachers in this world who are talented enough to pull it off. However, a naturally delivered story or object lesson can go a long way to giving your sermon that organic feel.
One caveat on illustrating your message: don’t overdo it. Too many times I’ve seen preachers deliver messages that were nine parts funny story and one part material. That’s fluff, not a sermon. Don’t do it.
5. Convince with your closing.
The closing is the most important part of preaching because it sews up the last few stitches of the beautiful garment called the sermon. This is where you get a chance to apply the message to your hearers so that they can better apply it to their own lives.
Use what you’ve preached to spur your people on. This is less about telling them what to do and more about encouraging them to do it. You don’t want to insult their intelligence. At the same time, they need a little prodding to get them running into their next week.
Just a word of advice: don’t be too proud to beg. If what you had to say in your sermon was really that important, then you should desire more than anything for your people to follow those instructions you just gave them.
The point of the sermon is to change the way people think. So convince your people why they need to follow the principles you just laid down.
What does this all mean? Make sure you put as much thought into sermon delivery as you do into crafting your sermon outline. Preaching is too important to leave to chance.