Rhetoric & Homiletics: 40 One Sentence Tips About Sermons

Here are 40 one-sentence tips about preaching. 

They are all mine, but maybe not unique to only my thinking.


  1. The first sentence is the most important sentence. [1]
  2. The more the sermon sounds like you speak, the more effective it will be.
  3. The more ideas you try to communicate in a single message, the more likely that one or more will be unnoted or discarded.
  4. There is no such thing as spending too much time with God’s people before actually speaking. [2]
  5. A great sermon is recognized by an audience that understands that it really applies to their lives.
  6. You don’t need to address every question that may come up when preaching.
  7. Not answering some critical questions that will come up in the minds of an audience is like them leaving the table still wishing the meal included one other dish.
  8. If you say that this is the most important sermon you have even given, then probably a lot of people have missed out on it over the years.
  9. A good sermon, with a poorly stated “Big Idea,” isn’t a good sermon.
  10. Asking a series of questions is not sermonic application. [3]
  11. The longer your message, the less likely the audience will mentally hang around to listen.
  12. The simplest way to get a heart’s response is to share a truth that your heart responds to.
  13. A sermon is not a lecture.
  14. Knowing what the passage teaches is easier than effectively communicating what it teaches.
  15. The later you start thinking about the upcoming message, the less time you allowed for it to grow on you.
  16. A sermon is only as valuable as the reason people are there to listen.
  17. There is no rule against taking a lot of time for application.
  18. The introduction is where the audience finds out that the message is worth their attention.
  19. Sermons are a poor place to talk about how discouraged you are.
  20. Sunday’s message is not the place to engage in small talk about you, but a place for great talk about His desire to lift up them — come “Monday morning.”[4]
  21. Applications should be as diverse as the audience.
  22. The simplest way to have fewer people come to listen is to be hard to listen to.
  23. The most important question the audience has is, “So what?”
  24. Effective preaching and leadership influence are connected.
  25. There is a time to stop talking, and it is probably earlier than you have concluded.
  26. Variety is part of our being, and not changing up the various preaching-teaching themes is called monotony.
  27. You are there for God’s people; they are not there to make up your audience.
  28. “Boring” often means that it is unrelated to one’s life and living.
  29. Reading is what you do with a book, not what you do behind the pulpit.
  30. Nothing much happens after “12:00 noon.”
  31. Don’t preach as if you need to tell God’s people everything you learned in the study.
  32. “No one” has ever criticized a shorter sermon (but they have said . . . .).
  33. It’s disrespectful to waste or misspend the time of an audience.
  34. One “weak-bad-sad” message does not an ineffective preacher make.
  35. If you think that your audience lost you “15 minutes in,” they probably did.
  36. Sometimes “hour sermons” feel like minutes, and at times 20 minutes feels like an hour.
  37. “Stories” you use over and over had better be the best singular way to illustrate the point.
  38. Contemporary illustrations best relate to contemporary people. [5]
  39. Preaching-Teaching is both a gift and a developable ability.
  40. People who say that preaching is dead say that because they have not heard good preaching.


* See below for some others tips you may have wanted to be included.

1. Avoid beginning with — “Today we are looking at Repetitions 99:1”. While you may say that to alert the audience to where they need to turn to in the Bible, follow it up with that first sentence that begins to draw them into the sermon and its importance/relevance.

2. Get out of your study and mix with those you believe need to hear what you will say in a few minutes.

3. Application is not asking a series of questions at the end of the message: “What would that look like if we saw that in the family. or “How would our passion for souls change if we did that?”  or “Does that change the way you think about your job or money?”

4. As my son has often said,” I need a good ‘meal’ after a week of working and walking in the world.”

5. Check out “Today’s Illustrations


* Some other one-sentence tips dealing with . . .

  • Some preaching is answering questions no one is asking.
  • What does that passage say that other passages touch on, but do not focus in on its unique contribution.
  • Not everyone in ministry is gifted in the ministry of preaching.
  • We are not as good as we think we are.
  • When the point is made, move on.
  • If the audience is lost, remember who is leading them.
  • If you are unclear or lost, be assured those listening are (I believe that is a Haddon Robinson point).

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