You do it every week. Maybe you do it several times a week. Preaching. You are, by trade, someone who speaks to others. After a while, it can become easy to slip into preaching mode, without doing some self-assessment and taking stock of how you’re doing. For that reason, here are five questions to ask about your preaching.
- Is it from the Bible? Most importantly, preaching must be from the Bible. Without the Bible, there is no such thing as meaningful preaching. What are you left with? Your opinions? A self-help seminar? Financial advice? A science lesson? Maybe there is a place for financial advice, scientific facts and some self-help tips, but ultimately, everything must come to rest upon the Bible. This is God’s Word. This is what we have to rely on, believe in, and proclaim. As you analyze your preaching, ask, “Am I telling people what the Bible says?”
- Is it clear? You may have a crystal-clear outline. You may have a beautiful idea of what your sermon is going to sound like. Is it coming out okay? Clarity of communication is more important than the elegance of communication. There is a place for adding finesse, but it is more essential to effective communication that you are being clear in what you say. Ask yourself, “Is what I’m saying making sense? Is it logical? Is it forthright? Is it plain?”
- Is there an obvious theme? When someone actively listens to a good sermon, they should be able to walk away with a clear idea of what that sermon was about. They may not be able to recall the exact outline, or specific wording, but they should be able to remember the theme. For this reason, it’s important that your sermon be designed to communicate just one theme. One. Not three. When someone asks a listener what the sermon was about, the wrong answer would be, “Uh. Well he talked about Christian liberty, and then about love. And then there was a bunch about evangelism, or missions or something.” One theme. Make it obvious.
- Is the length appropriate? There is no law about the length of sermons. Some people will tolerate one-hour sermons. Others will tune you out after twenty minutes. Don’t attempt to impose your own idea about how long your people should endure your preaching. You should be able to sense this. If you’re dissatisfied with their sermon-endurance level, perhaps you can build up their stamina over time. But you’ve got to have something meaningful to say. Make sure that you’re identifying the right length, and sticking with it. You may have a lot of material prepared, but people are only going to listen to so much.
- Does it connect with people where they are? Preachers are legendary for their ability to talk right over people’s heads. Whether they’re using lofty vocabulary, reading from dry commentaries, or discussing esoteric themes, some preaching styles are notoriously detached. How about yours? Does your congregation of, say, working-class attendees care about what you’re discussing? Is there a connection with their daily lives? Does your vocabulary match their own? Do you identify with their needs and struggles? If preaching is to be effective, it must connect with people. Don’t preach to a congregation you wish you had. Instead, talk to the people that you do have.
The good news about preaching is that it’s a work in progress. Whether you’re a golden-mouth orator, or are hardly able to hobble two sentences together, you can always improve. Your public speaking ability is important, but not nearly as important about the content of what you’re speaking. The most important thing is that you are faithfully teaching and living God’s Word.