Let me start with a caveat: I don’t intend to demean with this post any faithful pastor and preacher whose approach differs from mine. I realize we can differ on this conclusion and still serve well together, so I pray you’ll trust my heart here.
My point in this post is instead to talk about a change in my ministry. Within the past year or so, I’ve made an intentional effort to avoid anything but getting into the Word of God when I first stand to preach – and here’s why:
- In general, we too often don’t use our time wisely in preaching. I’m not one who argues for a set sermon length (though I have written previously about the danger of preaching too long), but I do argue we must be wise stewards of our time. The Word must take first place, from beginning to end of the sermon.
- Good worship through song should prepare us to hear the Word—so we need to move directly there. The congregation that has had their appetite whetted for His message through strong God-centered praise worship isn’t much interested in other things at that point.
- I know our supernatural enemy will do everything he can to divert attention from the proclaimed Word. He’s sly, and I don’t want to help him any by not focusing on the Word as soon as I have the attention of hearers.
- Sometimes our opening lines are more designed to settle our own nerves in the pulpit, and there are better ways to do that than not get to the Word quickly. That’s one of the reasons I often start a sermon with a personal illustration that leads directly into the Word. I can calm my nerves and turn to the Word at the same time.
- There are other places in the service to do greetings, announcements, etc. I freely admit that finding that best place is a matter of debate, but I’m sure the beginning of the sermon is not it. You can, in fact, build announcements into a sermon as a matter of application: e.g., “If you want to work on understanding your place in this church as 1 Corinthians 12 describes it, we invite you to join us for this training in two weeks.” The application is fresh and relevant, and the announcement comes out of exposition of the Word.
- Ideally, the folks in my church will so want to hear the Word that they themselves don’t like any interruption—well-meaning though it may be intended—between worship in song and worship via preaching. I’ve seen that kind of hunger in other parts of the world, and I long to see it growing in North American churches as well.
Again, I don’t claim this is the only way to begin a preaching time, but I think it’s worth considering. What are your thoughts?