Although I have been in seminary for quite some time now, I didn’t deliver my first sermon until several months ago. Ever since that time, I have been continually reminded of how important it is to improve upon my ability to deliver God’s word to His people. While there are several ways to do this, I think that including three key components in each message that one delivers can be integral to making a sermon great. Here are three components they should have:
1. Personal Stories.
Because the nature of sermon delivery can incorporate moralistic edicts that convict people about sin and bad habits, it is important that pastors discuss their own struggles and triumphs when they teach and preach. Doing so helps the congregation understand that they are human and therefore flawed. Additionally, personal stories can crystallize the congregation’s knowledge of how God works with people. Rather than being confined to the biblical text, the congregation’s awareness of God can result from living examples.
2. Biblical References.
When a pastor delivers a sermon to a congregation, it needs to include biblical references. This is the case for many reasons, including the fact that the pastor is often making claims about how people should behave. If you are attempting to exert this type of ideological and practical authority over people who claim that the Bible is the foundational text that guides their modes of thought and praxis, your sermon should include textual references that legitimate the claims you’re making. In my sermon regarding the importance of drawing people who do not know God to Him, I cited I Timothy 2:3-4 to provide proof that the claim I made was biblical.
3. Exegetical Analysis.
Although including biblical references in a sermon is important, pastors should go beyond merely including such references in their work. In addition to biblical references, they should do an exegetical analysis of the text. An exegetical analysis is one in which a critical explanation of a biblical text is provided. To complete an exegetical analysis, the pastor must examine a passage of scripture in context of its historical, cultural, political, and linguistic significance. Doing so is very important because when passages of scripture are read to the congregation, the people need to understand all of the factors that gave it shape and substance. Without a context or background, the words of the scripture will mean little to nothing. And even if meaning is being constructed from the words of the passage being read, the congregation is likely to misinterpret them as a result of not knowing things such as the original meaning of the terms being used as well as the cultural codes that determined the way people conducted their everyday lives.
If you want to improve the quality of your sermons, there are a variety of things you can do to realize this goal. By following one or several of the principles outlined above, you may find that both you and your congregation get more out of the sermons you deliver. Good luck!
Jocelyn Crawley is a 29-year-old college student currently pursuing a Masters of Divinity degree in preparation to become a pastor. While her writing interests are diverse, topics of intrigue include politics, history, literature, and religion. She holds B.A. degrees in English and Religious Studies. Her work has appeared in Jerry Jazz Musician, Nailpolish Stories, Visceral Uterus, Dead Beats, The Idiom, Thrice Fiction, Four and Twenty, Kalyani Magazine and Haggard and Halloo. Other stories are forthcoming in Faces of Feminism and Calliope.