It is to be hoped and presumed that all of us study for our sermons, that we are careful to say what the Bible says and not what we want it to say, and that we give our people good, solid, Scriptural truth. You, like I, however, may have had the experience of preaching a message that is biblically sound, carefully outlined, and seems to fall flat. Though we preach our hearts out and do our best, sometimes the truth just does not seem to get across. I hope the following suggestions will enable you to make your messages more meaningful to those who listen to you.
1. Completely Understand the Text
While there are some passages that are obscure, we must be sure that we completely understand what we are preaching before we try to communicate it to others. I am convinced that many times, our failure to reach our listeners is because we do not have a complete understanding of the truth we are trying to preach to them ourselves.
2. Carefully Explain
It is one thing to understand the truth yourself. It is yet another to make sure those who hear it understand it. You may have told your listeners the truth, but unless they understand it, you have not taught them the truth. Take into consideration the age of your audience, their background, and their culture. Use terms that relate to them to explain the truth of the Word of God.
3. Convincingly Apply the Truth
Many sermons are weakest in the area of application. Someone has said that the most important question we should ask when reading the Bible is the question, “So what?” Not, “Who cares?” but “So, what does that mean? What am I supposed to do because of this truth in the Scripture?” Again, I must consider the lives of those who listen to know how to apply the truth. The Bible concept of love would be applied differently to married couples, single people, small children, older folks, people in the Lord’s work, etc.
4. Clearly Illustrate
There are those who believe that the use of illustrations demonstrates a lack of study, that it is somehow weak and that our message is more milk than meat if we illustrate. I would encourage those individuals to consider the preaching of our Lord Jesus. He constantly illustrated. He told stories of lost sons, lost coins, and lost sheep. He used analogies of lilies, sparrows, and weather.
Charles Spurgeon said that illustrations should be to a sermon what windows are to a house. If there are too few windows, not enough light comes in and the house is dark. If there are too many windows, then the house is not strong and could easily fall down.
Some of the ways we can illustrate our sermons are:
- Specific incidents
- Stories: a good story that is on target can help the point sink in much more deeply for the listener and remain with him/her much longer.
- Visual aids: sometimes it is helpful to use people from the congregation to act out or represent a certain point. I often preach a sermon on lukewarmness. I have one person stand to represent a hot Christian, another a cold Christian, and yet another the lukewarm Christian. While they do nothing but stand there, I explain how each of them lives and the mere fact of their presence causes people to pay better attention.