Friday, March 30, 2012

Preaching: A Beginners' Guide (3)

  1. From sermon to preaching
The sermon is not a work of literature. It is not designed to be read word for word, but to enable you to think through and develop your message. A written sermon will form the basis of preaching, but preaching is more than a sermon spoken out loud. The sermon will provide a basic framework, but the preacher must not be too bound to it. There should be an element of unpredictability in preaching. The preacher will need to learn to improvise within the basic structure and flow of the sermon as he interacts with the congregation.

If using notes, don’t bury your head in them from beginning to end. Maintain eye contact with the people in order to really communicate with them. If not using notes, don’t be tempted to skimp on preparation and leave everything to the spur of the moment. Think yourself clear. Pray yourself hot. Let yourself go!

  1. What to avoid
Don’t try and pack too much in. You don’t have to dump all the results of your preparation on the people. Be selective. Stick to the main point.

Don’t preach over the people’s heads. Remember that your job is to make the complicated simple, not the other way round. Explain big words and unfamiliar concepts.

Don’t preach for too long. Enough said. Hopefully.

  1. Preparing ourselves to preach
Our task is to enable the people of God to understand and feel the truth of Scripture in order to practice it. To that end the preacher must pray, think and feel his way into the text so that his preaching becomes a living performance of the message. This does not mean that the preacher "play acts" his sermon. But we must reflectively apply the sermon to ourselves before we preach to others, 1 Tim 4:16. Preaching should be a vivid enactment of the drama of redemption, where God's Christ-centred Word is proclaimed to his people in the power of the Spirit.

  1. The Holy Spirit and preaching
The Bible emphasises the importance of the work of the Spirit in relation to preaching. Paul testifies: ‘our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance ...’ (1 Thessalonians 1:5, also 1 Corinthians 2:1-5).

Empowered by the Spirit at Pentecost, Peter preached and 3,000 people were converted, baptised and added to the church. Pentecost inaugurated a new era of the Spirit. As such it was an unrepeatable event. But there was still need of further fillings to empower gospel preaching (see Acts 4:8, 31).

The Holy Spirit gives preachers clarity of thought, boldness of speech and heaven-sent authority. The Jerusalem church prayed, ‘Now, Lord ... grant to your servants that with all boldness they may preach your word’ (Acts 4:29). Their prayers were answered — ‘they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness’ (Acts 4:31).

The Spirit’s empowering presence enables preachers to proclaim the Lord Jesus with boldness, liberty and life-transforming effectiveness. His presence makes preaching an event where the God of the gospel is encountered in all the fullness of his grace and power. This is what makes preaching ‘theology on fire’. Both preachers and people must seek God for this and rest content with nothing less.

* From a talk given at a Preachers' Workshop, Zion Baptist Church, Trowbridge. 

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