Rhetoric & Homiletics: 7 Risk-Free Steps In A High Stakes Assignment

high stakes

The stakes are actually very high
when it comes to preaching on “Sunday Morning.”

— for several good reasons —

. . . . . . 

  • You are speaking about the everyday life and living of God’s people, who are expecting some help.
  • The spiritual health of the members determines the health of the ministry.
  • They are the church’s best representatives in the “secular worlds” in which they move.
  • They are the ones who most trust what you preach and teach and will seek to follow it.
  • First-time visitors decide whether to come back based on the effectiveness of the sermon.

. . . . . . 

#1 — Prepare & Repair: Not only take the time to prepare, but take the time to repair. By Saturday night and even on Sunday morning, look for what you can cut out because it is unnecessary, is a rabbit trail, unnecessarily lengthens the sermon, or doesn’t further the point(s). Also, think about what you need to add because you realize that you may lose your audience without it. “Cull” the sermon and/or look for ways to drive home the main point more succinctly, meaningfully, convincingly, or clearly.

#2 — Lean Lightly On Past Experience: Don’t let your past sermonic experiences push you into a sermonic rut. That includes no leaning on the previous preparation of a sermon on this-or-that passage, but not leaning on the sermonic approach — i.e. The classic “three points and a poem”). One of the elements that make preachers different (and also more or less effective) is that they approach a sermon differently. They may all be preaching on the same passage, but they homiletically approach that passage differently.

#3 — Make The Extra Effort:  Don’t being with the all too typical and trite statement . . . . “Open your Bibles to . . . . . ”  or “Today we are looking at . . . . .”  This coincides with the previous point.  Begin the sermon differently.  There are a good variety of ways to introduce where you are going to bring the audience.  “Pick up your game” and work on a better way to bring the audience into the message.

#4 — Collaborate To Generate: Get some input from others pastors (or even other valuable people) on the staff — “I’m looking for an illustration about . . . . ” / “What are you thinking when I make this comment . . . . ” / “If someone told you this, as you were going through a trial, what would you think of in your mind . . . . ” / What is your position on . . . . . Why do you take that stance? If you don’t have (and even if you do) other staff who can help you, then that is where “topoi” are even more useful.

#5 — No Moping:  God’s people didn’t come to be dragged down emotionally or spiritually by a pastor who is struggling himself (whether it be due to medical, emotional, spiritual, or financial issues).  God’s people are there because tomorrow is “Monday.”  “Sitting on the sideline bench with your head down” because life and living is going well inspires no one who is battling on the field every day in the secular world — especially these days!

#6 — Value Being Personal: I expected the other four pastors (and the school administrator and/or principal) to be in and around no less than 15 minutes before the first service. My vantage was that if you want to have a ministry in their lives, you will only have the time they are here on Sunday and Wednesdays — when they are present. During the week they are working in the world, and we don’t get to see them “Monday-Saturday.” In fact, over time, those who enjoyed that personal time knew that if they were there before the services, we were around to talk and “kibitz.” A pastor’s messages have more impact when there is a personal relationship operating alongside the sermon.

#7 — Show Respect:  Respect the fact that those in attendance have come out AGAIN to hear what you have to say.  Don’t beat up “the choir”!  They are there.  How many times did I repeat the words — “Faith Baptist Church” has a host of great people.  We are an irregular, “Regular Baptist Church.”  Don’t talk down to them, but preach and teach as one who really wants to help them live for Jesus.

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