What makes a good sermon?

18 12 2007

Preaching is the big fat elephant in the room. Most preaching is appalling, disconnected and boring and yet no one talks about it. We all pretend that everything is ok.. we wouldn’t want to offend the preacher. They are doing there best and all that… But I think we need to talk about it. What actually makes a good sermon? What is it we want to hear? I have been asking people what they look for and they state the following 4 points:


bible-cool.jpgFOUNDATION// The sermon is grounded in the Bible. The Word of God is brought to life! So many sermons are dominated by stories about holidays or the latest movie, or interesting observations on the world: but leave out the Bible. Getting back to the foundation. But as one person warned, you cannot assume that people will know the Bible stories.. so assume low understanding of the Bible.




ACTION// The second thing is that it totally applies to their life. That at the end of the sermon they are left with this feeling like they need to take action. This means being challenging.



funny-hat.jpgMEMORABLE// Third characteristic is that the sermon is memorable. One way suggested to make this happen is to use physical illustrations.. so use a prop.. something that will be a bit different. But gotta be careful that people only remember the illustration and not the message!




EXCITEMENT// And the final point shared was that the preacher is personal. They share there passion. What is it about the scripture that fires them up? They are real, in touch with the issues of the community. They preach with conviction and power: not from themselves, but by the Holy Spirit!


So what do you look for in a sermon?




7 responses

19 12 2007
Phil Zamagias

The most common problem I see with preaching today is that it focuses on ‘me’ rather than Jesus. People want to hear a tonic for the day rather than be reminded of the saving work of Christ on the cross. It makes preachers look for gimmicks rather than substance. It makes preachers wary of offending people by declaring them sinful in God’s eyes. It allows people to leave church ‘self-justified’ rather than rejoicing in Christ’s love for them.

Busy lives for preachers and the high expectations of them ‘being all things to all men’ results in them not spending enough time in preparation, reading, praying and crafting sermons. The result is pop-culture talks that have a Bible verse tacked on to legitimise them as sermons. If preachers become entertainers rather than teachers of God’s Word, they can’t complain if their congregations lack commitment. Preaching involves leadership. Leadership in teaching, discipling and loving people so that they are presented ‘mature in Christ’.

See http://www.whitehorseinn.org for examples of how to present the truth of God’s Word. IMHO, Phil.

PS The role of a preacher is not to tell people what they want to hear but to tell people what God wants them to hear.

19 12 2007
Beth Boisvert

One of the things that bother me is when a preacher says “you” throughout the whole sermon. As in “you need to do this,” “you are doing this wrong,” etc.

The mark of a good sermon? One in which the preacher recognizes that s/he is a struggling sinner just as much as each person in the congregation, and the sermon is aimed at the pulpit as well as the pew.

19 12 2007
Rosalie (Hild)

My response is to the messenger as much as the message. This, of course, makes written sermon texts difficult and makes the spoken (blog-posted) sermon come alive in the accent and passion of the speaker. Something that is more difficult to convey over cyberspace is if the words of the preacher are lived out in his or her community so all who walk alongside can see. Briefly:

Do you mean it?
Do you live it?
Can I do it too?

Rosalie V. Grafe (Hild)

19 12 2007
19 12 2007

It was far simpler for me to pontificate on what makes a good sermon before I had to preach myself! And no, I’m not ordained – just a member of a lay worship team who help our when the Rector’s at another of her 3 congregations. I’ve just been working on a sermon for the Sunday after Christmas – the gospel is the slaughter of the Innocents – and I’m praying that what it says to me comes over with conviction and is in some way helpful to (at least) the man whose wife we buried today. It’s a huge challenge.

19 12 2007

I think when we go to church we have to do some of the work and not just sit there waiting to be fed.

To listen with an open heart and mind, to be a bit like a sponge and absorb the truth the minister is trying to convey. Ministers are not a seperate race but people like you and me. Sometimes they get it spot on and othertimes—well.

19 12 2007

I read a fantastic book by Walter Bruegemann called, “Finally Comes the Poet” in which he calls for preachers to speak with ‘prophetic imagination’. He argues that the preacher needs to move from ‘teacher mode’ to ‘poet mode’. By ‘poet’, he means “one who can speak honestly about the incongruity…who speaks bouyantly about the alternative”. He argues that the primary role of the preacher is to use language imaginatively and prophetically to draw the congregation into a greater appreciation of the reality of God as expressed in the universal plan of tranformation through Christ.

Hey, I also agree with all those who have suggested that the best sermons are ‘lived’ sermons.

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