The goal of preaching is FAITH in the lives of the listeners.
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. – Romans 10:17
Sunday night each week is a mixed bag of feelings for me. As a preacher, each Sunday morning I deliver a sermon that I have spent time, emotion, conviction & repentance and prayer preparing. The reality each Sunday evening is that I must start again the next morning to be ready for the next Sunday. If I am not careful, the preaching preparation and delivery can become little more than a scripted process each week. Though the sermon preparation process may not be glamorous, the impact of the sermon in the lives of people is literally a life and death matter. Jerry Vines and Jim Shaddix define preaching as “the oral communication of biblical truth by the Holy Spirit through a human personality to a given audience with the intent of enabling a positive response” (Power in the Pulpit; p 27).
What is this positive response? FAITH. The goal of preaching is faith. Wayne McDill wrote, “In the biblical view, the only appropriate response to the revelation of God is faith. This means that the aim of preaching is to make God known in order to call for a faith response in the hearer” (The Moment of Truth; p 14). Biblical faith is best understood as taking God at His Word and living like it. If I believe what God has revealed in His Word then my actions will demonstrate my faith.
Preaching must do more than entertain or even educate. Preaching must affect the will of the listener and bring conviction and illumination to the listener’s life. How can a preacher try to make sure that his sermon can be used by the Holy Spirit to strengthen his listeners’ faith?
- Pray for God’s wisdom and direction about what text to preach.
- Make sure you have an entire text. Expository preaching, I believe, is the preferable style of preaching because the Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures in context not in a hit and miss fashion. Therefore, the preacher needs a complete text from which to preach … whether that is one verse or one chapter.
- Identify the main idea of the text in its original context. This will help the preacher make the main idea of his sermon reflect God’s main idea of the biblical text.
- Explain what the text means.
- Illustrate what the text means. You only need to illustrate the points you want them to remember.
- Give clear ways for your listeners to apply the text in their lives.
- Remember that the hermeneutics and homiletics both serve the purpose of investing the truth of the biblical text in the lives of the listeners. Clever outlines and dynamic stories are not what change people’s lives. The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to change lives.
- Be yourself in the pulpit. Honesty and empathy will help the preacher connect relationally with his listeners.
- Prepare as if the results are all up to you. Preach as if it all depends on God.