What do you want from your sermon at the end of the day? Vertical Church preaching is all about the expectation that God blesses the unapologetic, Spirit-dependent heralding of His Word—but is there more a preacher can do to be effective? Beyond the requisite faithfulness to Christ and His Word, can a preacher do more to amplify the sermon’s impact? If you want to see your message make a difference, reach the lost, heal the wounded, lift the discouraged, instruct the weak, etc., give attention to these additional elements of a high-impact sermon.
1) Ready is Only Half Ready
Last week I was ‘ready’ for the weekend on Friday morning at 10:00 a.m. My first message in a new, three-week series called The Father’s Song: Healing the Wound that Hinders Everything, was ready to go. My study was completed, and my exposition of the passage told a clear, compelling story. My textual comments proved the points, while my illustrations illumined the content and seemed likely to connect meaningfully with the hearers. My applications were written down in front of me as a logical flow of thought from each point. I had checked and rechecked that individual points all drove home the main theme and advanced the thesis of the series title. My sermon outline was even submitted for the bulletin printing of the message notes. For all intents and purposes, I was ‘ready,’ ‘ready as I’ll ever be’—and early in my ministry, I would have gotten up to preach at that point with an adequate sermon. So often sermons are adequate that are not impactful, and I have preached too many. This time, however, I spent the time from 10:00 a.m. until my wife picked me up at 6:30 p.m. locked away at my desk attempting to take the sermon to the ‘next level.’ Including a bit of work on Saturday, I spent almost 10 more hours working on the sermon after I was ‘ready.’ If you are wondering what I did, keep reading, but start here: Consider the possibility you are not ‘ready’ when you think you are. Not ready for a big impact, not ready for life-changing moments for your congregation, not ready to see God move in a powerful way—not yet.
Preaching needs to be impactful or people will find a place to hear sermons that are.
2) Choose Your Words and Craft Your Sentences
In “The Kinds of Laborers Wanted” Spurgeon said: “He must not weary the people by telling them the truth in a stale, unprofitable manner, with nothing fresh from his own soul to give force to it.” Not everything we preach needs to be proprietary and perfect, but it needs to be impactful or people will find a place to hear sermons that are. Take the time to choose words and craft sentences that make your message significantly impactful, or don’t take people’s time with it at all. Effective word choice is always worth the time, and preachers should learn to love choosing the best words to express their message. Big words can appear eloquent or educated, but they are just a smoke screen for pride that substitutes poorly for lack of preparation. Occasionally, as I preach, I hear a quality sentence I didn’t plan, but not very often. Well-worded sentences may seem extemporaneous to the hearer but most often have to be prepared in advance. Recent examples include: “When we take care of the mission on God’s heart, God takes care of the burdens on our hearts.” “If I am wrong in the way I am right, I am wrong even if I am right.” “A true friend holds you up when you stumble and holds you down when you stray.” “We never regret the ground we cover with our grace shoes on.”
3) Let the Sermon into Your Soul
Passionless sermons happen because the preparation stops when the preacher knows what the passage means. You are not ready to preach when you know what it means; you must press through to ‘What does it mean to me?’ Read More