2 Timothy 4:1-2 "I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction."
This coming Sunday I'll be preaching an ordination service for our newly ordained worship pastor. Every time I see a man yield to God's call on his life, I'm taken back to various scriptures and memories of my early days. Those tender times in which God was dealing with me both thrilled and frightened me all at once. True preaching is a "thrilling desperation". When I say preaching is a thrill - I mean the task itself is a quest to hear what God is saying through His Word.
Exploring the depths of each word of the Old and New Testaments, consulting word studies, reading commentaries, praying over the sermon notes and coming to new insights mark the thrilling side of the preacher's call. There is of course that fear part of the preaching task. Lest the Holy Spirit take my meager sermon and transform it into a message that will change lives and change me, I have nothing to say. The preacher leans on His Bible and on the Holy Spirit to carry the message from his lips to the people's hearts.
I thought I would share today some thoughts on approaching the preaching task, since I myself am getting ready for what will be a special Sunday. Even if you are not a preacher, we all as Christians have a responsibility to know Jesus and make Him known to others.
Some important terms used in preaching
To begin, what is meant by the word "sermon?" According to Merriam Webster's Dictionary, a sermon is a: “speech or conversation that links together words, thoughts and ideas” and comes from a Latin word meaning ”to link together”. When I was learning how to preach in Bible College, one of the finest preaching professors, Dr. Lloyd Perry, taught me about both the science and the art of preaching. The field of study that one enters into when learning how to preach is what is called "homiletics". Dr. Perry taught the following definition of preaching throughout his many books and courses:
“Homiletics is the science of sermon construction. Preaching is the art of sermon presentation. The sermon is the product of preparation for presentation.”
The aim of a good sermon
Preaching is all at once an art, a science and a Spirit driven event. As you preach a sermon or hear a sermon preached, a good sermon will engage the mind, the heart and bring about change. In going off of Dr. Perry's above definition, we could say that as an art - preaching captivates the the imagination. As a preacher develops and grows, his "artistry" or "sermon delivery" should improve over time. Certainly too, a good preacher will also aim at the mind, which would cover more of the science or technical side of things.
Whenever you hear a sermon, can you trace the preacher's conclusions and remarks from the logic of the text? Does the preacher's sermon make sense or does it at least have a discernible flow? Can you follow what is being preached? Has the preacher adequately unpacked what is in the Biblical text? Has the preacher explained what the Biblical author is communicating? Questions such as these are covered in the "science" part of sermon preparation or "homiletics".
Good sermons aim at the imagination and the mind. However, unless the bulls eye of the preacher's aim is the heart and the conscience, the sermon will do nothing more than inform or entertain. There must needs be conviction, exhortation and expectation for change in both the preacher and the person in the pew.
Unless the Holy Spirit attends the preacher's preaching, all will be in vain
With a good sermon being a combination of artistry in motion and the scientific part of homiletics, unless the Holy Spirit attends the preaching - all the best intentions in the world will be in vain. The most polished and honed sermons can fall flat if the preacher relies more on himself than the Holy Spirit. The chiefest of all attitudes when approaching the pulpit is humility. One old preaching rule of thumb applies well:
"if you go into the pulpit with your head low, then you will come out with your head high. However if you go behind the sacred desk of God with your head high, you will come out with your head hanging low".
The preacher must ever be in a state of reliance on the Holy Spirit, since the Bible He is preaching from is the Spirit's words and the power that he utilizes to preach the sermon derives from the Spirit indwelling his converted human heart. These are some thoughts to think about when approaching the task of preaching God's Word.