Yesterday, I posted some general thoughts about sermon delivery based on almost four decades of preaching. Today, here are some practical tips that I’ve found helpful for me:
- Pray about your delivery as well as your content. Don’t let any part of the preaching event go uncovered without prayer. The enemy always looks for open doors to attack and hinder the proclamation of the Word – and he’ll often distract others by your delivery more than by your content.
- Be sure to check out the stage/platform before you preach. You don’t want to be surprised if, for example, there’s no pulpit or stand for your notes, if the “pulpit” is actually a table with a stool, if the pulpit was built for someone a foot taller than you, if the stage is so cluttered that you’ll need to stand in one place, or if the lights are so bright that you’re blinded before you ever start.
- Know your introduction and conclusion so well that you don’t need notes. When you’re drawing people into the preaching event and then later challenging them to respond personally, you need full eye contact with them. They need to see your eyeballs, not the top of your head looking down to your notes.
- Don’t assume that your attire doesn’t matter. Maybe it doesn’t in your church, but it might in another location. It’s not wrong for a church to welcome preaching in blue jeans with an untucked shirt, but nor is it wrong to expect the preacher to be wearing a suit and tie. What’s wrong is when we neglect or ignore contextual expectations. We typically wouldn’t do that if we were preaching in a church overseas, but we somehow give ourselves permission to do that here in the States.
- Learn to be comfortable with silence. I get that it’s uncomfortable, both for the preacher and the congregation. It’s awkward. It makes little sense for the proclaimer to stop proclaiming. And, we’re afraid that others will perceive our silence as “He must have lost his train of thought.” Nevertheless, effective pauses and even seemingly long silences accompanied by direct eye contact can force a congregation to think more deeply about what they just heard. That’s usually not a bad thing.
- Depend on nothing but the Word and the Spirit. I’m not arguing here that we don’t use notes, audio-visual resources, or public testimonies as part of a sermon. In fact, I think there’s a place for those things in sermons. When we depend on them to strengthen our sermon more than we depend on the Word and the Spirit, however, we’re in trouble. Think missiologically—if you can’t preach your sermon where there’s no electricity and the wind blows your notes off the platform, you might be too dependent on something else.
- Know that the greatest public delivery doesn’t matter if you’re privately not walking with the Lord. Sure, you might still impress people with your ability and charisma, but we’re not called to magnify ourselves. Our calling is to lift up Jesus via the power of the Spirit of God—and that seldom happens through preachers whose private lives are decidedly different from their public persona.
What would you add to this list?
I would encourage ministers to not back down from the message that the Lord Jesus gave them to preach if they’re not getting the response back from the congregation that they were expecting. I have seen ministers lighten the tone and even become agitated whenever they were not getting a response back from the congregation they thought they should be getting. Deliver what the Lord told you to deliver and leave the rest to Him. But the key here is to make sure you deliver what the Lord wanted you to deliver.
Try to get an idea of your audience in advance.
A very good 7 I must say.
Amen! #7 is so critical!
How can we pour out, if we are not being poured into.
If I’m having a stressful week and I’m not counting “all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” I feel it inside Sunday morning and I know it affects my delivery. It’s not the stress that gets to me, it’s when the stress keeps me from time with my Savior in His Word.
Great list Chuck! What an awesome reminder.
My high school Journalism teacher in 1954 taught me one of the greatest lessons for both editorials and for sermons/lessons. “In the first paragraph, tell them what you are going to tell them. In the next paragraphs, tell them. In the last paragraph, tell them what you told them.” If you want teach/preach/write in a way that they will learn, this is the best way to do it. Jerry Tindel, Austin, Texas
Speak at a slow steady pace. Some preachers speak so fast that it distracts from the message. Also, speak to the whole audience, children included. Some in the audience will not be well educated, so we must be careful to not speak over their heads.
Great List Chuck, Something helpful I have picked up from great black preachers is to memorize phrases of three for emphasis. “We must be tied to the word, tethered to the word, totally true to the word”
Good Points. Thank You.
Pray that you may speak in such a way that the listeners go away thinking more of God than of the cleverness, humor, wisdom, or skill of the preacher they just listened to. “He must increase, but I must decrease” should be our rule.
Leave the $5 words in your office. We are to communicate not obfuscate.
Application, application and application. The message might be the best delivery but the listener is there because they have a need in their life. If no application there is no opportunity to meet that person’s need at that very moment.