When I began to discern that I was being called to become a Minister I remember thinking of the many tasks that I would be called upon to do. There were things that I knew I would love doing and things that would come easy for me.
As you may have noticed, I have no problem with actively participating in the fellowship of the church. I’m an extraverts’ extravert. I thrive in settings where I get to know people. I love to meet new people, to hear their stories and learn about their spiritual journey.
I also love the special honor of being part of peoples most important and sacred moments. It is truly a blessing to visit the sick, dying or struggling. Beyond that it is also an awesome privilege to celebrate with individuals some of the great moments in their lives, as if I was family. The first time I held a families newborn baby in the hospital I knew I was privy to scared ground. Spending time with families at the time of death seems to many to be a daunting task but it truly is a blessing in my life.
Working side by side with friends in mission is another easy role. It isn’t hard to go and spend time with brothers and sisters in Christ’s service. It’s fun and exciting to go out into the world and do the work of the Christ. Not only do you get a sense of accomplishment, but you also get to see lives changed by your service and the power of Christ.
The one part of ministry that was the most difficult to picture myself doing was preaching a Sunday sermon. Not long before I began to sense my calling to ministry I had struggled in high school speech class. The idea of preparing a sermon every week seemed like an overwhelming task. I really wasn’t sure if I had the intellect or creativity to do this week in and week out. There were a few things I knew I didn’t want to do if I was preaching.
I truly didn’t want to become the guy that bored people to death. Like most of you I had spent a few Sundays thinking to myself, “what did he just say?” (All preachers do this occasionally, some more than others.) Nor did I want to be frivolous from the pulpit. In seminary I remember hearing sermons that seemed to be a few jokes tied together with a Bible verse or two.
This begs the question, what makes a good sermon? What is the magic formula for a sermon that not only keeps people engaged, but also has some use in their lives? I haven’t fully figured this out, but I do have a few commitments that I thought I would share with you. Each week I try to:
- Base everything I say in the Scripture. God’s Word is sufficient for our instruction and we need to spend significant time reading, studying and pondering it.
- Be engaging and interesting. Sometimes this is from the Greek meanings of words or may be from the latest blockbuster movie.
- Make Scripture applicable to our lives today. As a preacher, I believe this is perhaps the most important and difficult aspect of preaching. The Word of God is real in our modern/post-modern world.
- Know when to stop. Sometimes a sermon can be short if you have made your point.
- Know when to go on. Sometimes it takes a bit longer to make a point and if you are interesting and engaging, it’s okay to sometimes go a bit longer.
- It’s okay for me to say I don’t know something. I have learned that it is better to be honest about my lack of knowledge than to try and avoid a question or make up an answer. Honesty and authenticity are critical.
Those are my commitments. Sometimes I uphold them and other times I fail. What are some of the things you think make a good sermon?
Perhaps this goes to “make Scripture applicable to our lives today”, but the best sermons have had a challenge for concrete action – the more specific the better. If we don’t leave with “homework” to apply to our daily life, the point of the message falls short. We live in a world of declining short term memory. Application reinforces the point you want to make. You do this most weeks – some weeks more specific than others. We’ll either listen and do it , or we’ll complain about it because it takes us out of our comfort zone. Either way the lesson sticks more than a sermon without any call for action.