1. Keep It Conversational
Today’s audiences generally prefer a more casual approach to preaching … something more akin to a conversation about God’s truth. Calvin Miller says that this conversational approach is like saying to the audience, “Draw up your pew and let’s have a coffee- and-doughnuts communication.” Bryan Chapell calls this “heightened conversation,” by which he means the “heightening (not changing) of your normal speech” in order to communicate important matters like the biblical message. The conversation is heightened by intensifying your facial expressions and body language so that you become more animated without losing the conversational tone.
2. Change It Up
People tend to get bored easily. We must make sure that our sermon delivery doesn’t help them with that tendency. Variety can help us here. Monotony kills speeches of any kind, including sermons. Vary your voice pitch and volume, your gestures and movement, and your facial expressions. Watching tapes of your sermons will give you a clear picture of what holds the audience’s attention and what does not. Viewing yourself develops in you the ability to detect patterns of monotony that kill communication.
3. The Way You Talk
Incorrect grammar doesn’t honor the pulpit if it hinders communication. James Cox argues that many congregants are troubled by hearing messages filled with poor grammar. Consequently, preachers should “aim at correctness, availing themselves of reliable English grammars and of the regular services of friendly critics who will help them clean up their mistakes.” If you have developed poor grammatical habits, commit to improving your communication skills. Unpolished speech may work fine in informal settings, but the Lord may choose to use you with a different audience. Will you be ready to communicate effectively with this new audience?
4. Put It to Memory
You should work hard to know at least some parts of your sermon well — to memorize these parts. Memorization is hard work and takes time, but every sermon is made better by at least some memorization. Introductions and conclusions should never be read or delivered while depending on copious notes. These two elements of the sermon are critical and need special attention. You may wish to memorize the biblical text as well. It is an effective way to convince your audience that you have invested time studying the passage. When using stories as illustrations, we encourage you to memorize them. Delivering a powerful illustration or story by reading it can prove to be counterproductive.
5. Technology and Your Delivery
Even if you are technologically challenged, someone in your church can probably help you. We encourage you to use technology to enhance your preaching of God’s Word. There are cautions, however, with using technology in a sermon. Audience tolerance comes into play here. Some more traditional churches find it hard to change worship practice, including sermon delivery. Knowledge of your audience will inform you of their tolerance level. Even if they are traditional, you may be able to introduce them to a little technology at a time. Moreover, as teachers we have discovered that students think PowerPoint presentations in the classroom can be helpful, but only to a point. When the teacher depends only on PowerPoint, the students grow tired of it. They prefer variety and often a more personal touch to the delivery. Don’t become so predictable in your sermon delivery that the people know exactly how everything will go every week. Use technology effectively, but don’t overuse it.
6. Leave Your Audience Wanting More
Recently I sat beside a friend, a retired pastor, while both of us listened to a very long sermon. My friend had carried on a preaching ministry during a time when long sermons were the norm, but he had learned a few things by experience. When the sermon finally ended, I asked him what he thought of it. Being very kind, he replied that it was a good sermon except that the preacher passed by many good stopping places without stopping. Effective sermons make every word count. Shorter sermons are probably more difficult to craft than longer ones, but they are also more effective. By avoiding long sermons, your audience will be more inclined to listen to you while you speak. Leave them wanting to hear more rather than wishing they had heard less. If you prepare solid, biblically-based sermons with interesting illustrations and challenging application that can be delivered in under twenty-five minutes, you will capture your audience.
— by Terry G. Carter, J. Scott Duvall, and J. Daniel Hays, adapted from their book Preaching God’s Word. The Preaching God’s Word Video Lectures are available now and will help you prepare, develop, and deliver more powerful sermons.
How to Use This Book
Want to become a stronger preacher? The 15 video lessons in Preaching God’s Word walk you through the steps of powerful preaching, from exegeting the biblical text to making contemporary application for your audience.
Skills you will develop:
- Develop application that will work for your audience
- Select and use impactful illustrations
- Preach effectively from any of the biblical genres
- Deliver must-hear sermons
Get your copy of the video lectures today: Preaching God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Preparing, Developing, and Delivering the Sermon. To dig even deeper, pick up the Preaching God’s word book as well.