Writing the Introduction of the Sermon

Every good sermon demands a well-written and well-executed introduction. An introduction basically serves as the ‘face’ of the sermon; it is the first thing the listeners see in a message, it gives the message its appeal and serves as the first door to perceive the holy things of God. Hence, an introduction, despite being short in length, should be thought of carefully.

Before we discuss how to write a good introduction, let us first talk about some certain characteristics of a good introduction.

Firstly, a good introduction captures the attention of the listeners. An introduction is never a good introduction if it fails to do so. A discerning preacher knows quite well that his listeners have many burdens and difficulties in life, and they come every Sunday service to listen to God thru his preaching, for a relief, an enlightenment, or strength. Thus, an introduction must pass through all those burdens, worries, and thoughts and be powerful enough to engage the listeners to be ready to grasp God’s message. It must be relevant, timeless, understandable, and most of all, interesting for everyone to hear.

Secondly, a good introduction serves as the bridge to bring the listeners to the message. An introduction does not only captures the attention of the listeners but also transports them into the world of the Biblical Text that will be used in the sermon. An introduction therefore must always be in sync with the message of the sermon. No matter how catchy or interesting an introduction is, if it is not relevant to the sermon, then it falls short of its function. An introduction gives the general idea of what the message will be all about, without giving its summary. To achieve this, it must relate to the everyday life of the listeners while at the same time brings them to the world of the Biblical text, or vice versa.

Thirdly, an introduction should not be long. It is always tempting for the preacher to put many important ideas all at once in the introduction, but we must refrain to do so, for the introduction is only an introduction, and not an abstract nor the outline nor the summary of the whole message. At most, the introduction should be only around three minutes in length when delivered.

Now that we know the basic characteristics of a good introduction, we are now ready to discuss the steps in writing it. Let us begin first about the prerequisites in writing the introduction.

The prerequisite steps in writing the introduction is firstly, to make sure you know in mind and heart the message that you are going to preach. If you do not know exactly the main thrust of your message, you will be having a hard time constructing the introduction. Secondly, is to make sure you know who your listeners are. You must know your listeners so you could write something that relates to them.

Now, the steps in writing a good introduction are as follows.

Firstly, determine what would be the form of your introduction. The form could be a question, a saying or a popular proverb in the context or culture of the listeners, an alarming statistics, a Bible verse, or just a strong declaration or statement. The most appropriate form depends on the nature of the message you are trying to deliver, and what would be the most effective way to make it relevant to the listeners.

Secondly, write down your first three to five sentences. After determining the appropriate form, begin to write the first sentences and read those sentences over and over again, for at least ten times. In fact the introduction could be as short as three to five sentences, or just a little more. At most it must be only around ten sentences, going beyond that is too much. As you read it, picture in mind your listeners, every single one of them, as much as possible. Try asking these questions: 1. Will all of my listeners likely understand these sentences? 2. Are they likely to be confused, or have multiple interpretations? Confusion or multiple interpretations should be avoided. 3. Are they likely to get offended, or bored? Of course the Word of God is likely to offend the guilty heart, but at this time a Bible Verse may not yet have been spoken, so the introduction should at most catch the interest of the erring saints, and not yet to offend them.

Thirdly, watch out for grammar and some technicalities. A good introduction though personal in message must not speak as if meant to a single person. So pronouns like ‘we’ and the plural ‘you’ must be preferred over ‘I’ and the singular ‘you’. Moreover, an introduction must only be around three minutes when actually spoken. It will be helpful then to actually read aloud the introduction and test its spoken length yourself.

Lastly, but most importantly, does the introduction actually serves its purpose of introducing the sermon? No matter how well written your introduction is, if it fails in this part, then it is not an introduction at all.

A good introduction catches the attention of the hearers, relevant and understandable, short but has a message of its own, and most importantly, introduces the sermon to the listeners.

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God taught me again

I was the guest speaker at Bukang Liwayway for its Baccalaureate Service. I used Deuteronomy 8 with the title, Remembering God with Thankfulness.

I preached with an almost unprepared heart. I mostly relied upon the prayers of others. Blessedly, God helped me and I was so glad that the night before I once again cried in prayer and there was a genuine change in heart.

The church is a large one, with a good number of youth and children. They have more than twenty leaders. The church is spacious too with a large room for visitors. They also sponsor many children and youth for their academic scholarship.

The moment I arrived there, it dawned on me that I have to tone down the message. I also wished I chose a different Text. Yet, by His Grace, the message made its full impact upon the parents – and partially upon the graduates.

I was also humbled down by the fact that they call Ptr Paolo as Kuya and not pastor. I was a bit ashamed of myself.

God taught me to be sensitive – to feel and discern the surroundings. He also taught me adaptability – the wisdom and courage to adjust instantly according to needs.

Thank You Lord for these learnings.

Content or Delivery: Which is more Important in Preaching?

The divine task of preaching will always involve the elements of content and delivery. Content is simply the message of the sermon, and delivery is the means wherein the message is seen and heard by the listeners. Complementing each other, these two go side by side and could never be separated from each other. Of these two, which is more important?

An efficient sermon will always have something to say, as Haddon Robinson calls it, ‘a big idea.’ A sermon that has several little ideas without one big idea will be a confusing one, and nothing would likely remain in the minds of the listeners. An ideal sermon will always have a central idea, or a big idea, supported by several little ideas. Without a big idea, there is no real message, it could hardly be called a sermon, and preaching becomes futile or mute. Thus, a clear message is a principal element in the holy task of preaching; the content is indispensable in preaching.

The same could be said for the delivery of the message. A good content will come almost void to the hearers if the delivery is lifeless. The delivery plays an important role in capturing the interest of the listeners, emphasizing ideas, and ultimately in affecting positive influence in the lives of the listeners.

It is not easy to put some clear distinctions; are we talking about the technical or mechanical aspects of preaching, or the spiritual aspects as well? Frankly, both the mechanical and the spiritual. Both the preparation of a good content and the efficient delivery of the sermon involves both the mechanical and spiritual.

To think and use your pen and paper are mechanical, yet the means and the grace to do it is spiritual, so the making of a good content covers both the mechanical and the spiritual. To say that it is purely mechanical reflects a boastful heart, one that is inclined not to acknowledge the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit to write a good sermon. Proper interpretation of the Biblical text, by the way, demands the illumination of the Holy Spirit, which is spiritual. The methodologies of hermeneutics (i.e., the science and art of interpreting the Bible) provide help in interpreting the Holy Scriptures, yet the Holy Spirit illumines it in a deeper way in our minds and hearts.

The same goes with the delivery of the sermon. Great oratory skills will fall short if devoid of God’s power thru the work of His Spirit. Is good delivery to be measured alone by the good utilization of voice, gestures, body movements, eye contact and facial expressions? Truly they serve their purpose and could for some measure touch the intellect and the emotions, but a good delivery has the power to influence the mind and heart that can only be achieved by the power of the Holy Spirit. How could this be assessed? Not just by the tears and different emotions seen from the listeners, but more so, by the inward change of the hearts, which is of course only possible to assess outside the church building, in real life. A powerful delivery of the sermon will and always will include the unction or the anointing of the Holy Spirit; mere oratory skills will never achieve the glory preaching deserves, for preaching is more than just public speaking.

1 Thessalonians 1:5
For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.

1 Corinthians 2:4-5
And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

Now before we answer the question which is more important between content and delivery, let us make first some clarifications.

The first clarification is that we do not try here to belittle any of the two, or to promote any of them at the expense of the other, or to put one against the other. Rather, what we are trying to do here is to encourage preachers to do their best in improving both their content and delivery in preaching. Today’s world is much more broken and darker than before, and preaching will always be one of God’s tools to bring lost souls to His Kingdom and to strengthen His Church.

Romans 1:16
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

Romans 16:25
Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began

The second clarification is that in the writing of the content and in the act of delivery, we are not only talking about the physical, mental, and mechanical actions in these two endeavors. Rather, the spiritual aspects (i.e., the help of the Holy Spirit in illuminating His Word and the anointing during the delivery of the preaching that gives its power) are also considered. Explanation about the certain distinctions and the blending of the mechanical and spiritual aspects has been given earlier.

Now let us draw the conclusion and the answer to our question. At first thought I am inclined to say that content is more important for two reasons. First, because what value is there in delivery if the content is wrong? And second, content is more important because I know of some preachers whose delivery is flat and monotonous (strictly in the technical sense, not spiritually) like Jonathan Edwards’, yet the preaching is so powerful because of its great content. Yet, I know, that Edwards’ preaching though flat in delivery is helped by the Holy Spirit to make it powerful. So these two reasons have in some value tend to bring more weight towards content than delivery.

Yet still I will say that these two, content and delivery, are equally important in both the mechanical and spiritual aspects of preaching. These two complement each other: great content demands and creates powerful delivery, and efficient delivery illumines the content to its utmost clarity, truthfulness, accuracy, and applicability in everyday life. These two both uphold the preacher during the task of preaching, partnered with the unction of the Holy Spirit. These two should be fully understood and acknowledged by every preacher, and every effort should be utilized to improve in both areas. Hence, let us do our best to write an accurate and relevant sermon, and deliver it with our everything and make room for the Holy Spirit to do His supernatural work of affecting positive change in the lives of the hearers.

Preaching as a Divine Task and its Power

Preaching is more than public speaking. It is certainly greater than the shouting of words and ideas to convince its listeners. It is certainly even more than an activity, or task, that is practiced weekly among churches. Preaching is, essentially, along with the reading of the Word, the main method chosen by God to reveal Himself to man. It is by the preaching of the Word that the lost is saved and the Church is strengthened. Preaching is a divine task, and its power is divine in nature.

Romans 10:13-14 (KJV) For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

1 Corinthians 1:17-19 (KJV) For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.

The spirituality of preaching is something that is not fully acknowledged by the Church today, even among its preachers. Too often we tend to look at it only as a technical task. Of course we pray for it, and ask the prayers of others, but deep within our hearts we don’t fully acknowledge its spirituality and the source of its power. I have written a separate article about its importance, “The Primacy of Preaching”. Also, in an another article, “Preaching as Public Speaking”, preaching as a form of public speaking is discussed, focusing on its technical aspects. In this article however we will deal about its spirituality and power.

Every true preaching affects the heart and mind of its listeners, driving them towards positive change, which is reflected thru repentance and genuine sanctification. That is why it is puzzling today, why many preachers today do not positively affect their listeners; after hours and minutes of preaching, there is not a single sorrow for sins felt, nor a determination to do what is right. Alas, preaching has become a scholarly class, an informational yet dry discourse of Biblical truth. Where is the power in today’s preaching? The absence of its power can immediately be attributed by the preacher’s negligence of its spiritually.

Before we discuss the reasons for the lack of power in today’s preaching, let us first lay down some clarifications to avoid confusions later.

Firstly, the Word of God in itself is alive and powerful, and its power never at any time diminish or increase, rather it is constant in its purity and power, and shall accomplish the holy and immutable precepts of God.

Hebrews 4:12 (KJV) For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Isaiah 55:11 (KJV) So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

Throughout this writing we will talk about certain times why preaching sometimes lacks power. This however, does not in any mean try to say that there are times when the Word of God itself lacks the power and authority to deliver what God intends to accomplish, for the Word’s power is tied directly to the very personhood and character of God, which is of course immutable so is His Word and its accompanying power. Rather, there are certain factors that may sometimes hinder or stop the flow of power of God’s Holy and authoritative Word.

Secondly, being called to preach is surely one of the noblest callings in God’s economy and kingdom. Though this writing will deal in some parts with the weaknesses and failures of today’s preachers which often contribute to the lack of power in today’s preaching, still, we go with the Scriptures that highly esteem the call of preaching. We never intend to belittle preachers and their preaching but rather try to expose their weaknesses which are mostly spiritual in nature in an effort to strengthen both the preacher and his preaching.

Isaiah 52:7 (KJV) How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion, Thy God reigneth!

Now that we have laid down our clarifications, we are ready to talk about the reasons for today’s lack of power in preaching. These reasons revolve around two distinct yet complementary areas, namely the preacher himself and the practice of preaching.

The preacher could never be separated from his task of preaching. If we want to know why there is the presence or lack of power preaching, it will always be good to look unto the preacher himself. There are some reasons why the preacher could be devoid of the power in his preaching.

Firstly, a preacher will lack the power in his preaching if he lives in sin. This could not be overlooked. We all know as Christians that prevailing sins in our life will cut us off from the eternal supply of power from the Holy Spirit that is available to us in Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 59:1-3 (KJV) Behold, the LORD’S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear. For your hands are defiled with blood, and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies, your tongue hath muttered perverseness.

John 15:4-5 (KJV) Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

In this regard we have to clarify two things. The first one is that there is a big difference between living in sin and sinning everyday. All believers, preachers or not will surely sin everyday; that is something painful that we need to face everyday, and only in heaven in our second life will sin be completely removed (1 John 1:8-10). However, living in sin means dwelling in the same sins in the sense of having pleasure in them – and this is very dangerous and destructive, yet present in the Church not only in the life of some preachers. This does not only cut off the preacher from God’s power in his preaching, but worse, his life becomes a stumbling block to many.

The second clarification is that sometimes, though rarely, in God’s grace and mysterious ways, He will bless the preaching of those preachers who live in sin. This is of course not because of any merit in the life of the unrepentant preacher (even righteous preachers do not deserve this blessing for we are all unworthy), but because God desires to advance His Kingdom through the act of preaching. This is evident in the ministry of the Apostle Paul when he showed gratefulness that the Gospel is preached even by those who had wrong motives (Philippians 1:18).

Secondly, a preacher will lack the power in his preaching if he lives a weak prayer life. The important role that prayer plays in the holy business of preaching could not be overstated; God’s anointing is not just a matter of our position in Christ, it is also surely brought out in power by continuous and heartfelt prayers. Without our fervent prayers, our preaching will be devoid of power. Since preaching is more of a divine task and calling rather than a mere mechanical speech, we need prayer to supply its power, and there is no other way. No matter how good the peacher is in terms of oratory skills, there will be no divine fruits in his preaching if he doesn’t know how to kneel down in humble and dependent prayer before God.

Thirdly, a preacher will lack the power in his preaching if he does not care to apply his preaching in his own life. The old advice is well said, “Walk your talk.” A preacher loses his sense of authority in preaching if the people around him do not see him live it. The Pharisees and scribes in Jesus’ day lacked authority in their teaching and that is because they do not live their own message (Matthew 7:29; 23:2-4).

To summarize, Robert McCheyne has said, “A holy minister is an awesome weapon in the hand of God.” Avoiding sin, having a strong prayer life, and living out your preaching will all lead to a holy life, certainly making you a powerful instrument of God.

I could stop right here but there’s one more concern that somehow exerts an influence on the power of preaching, though maybe not as much as the preacher himself. This one talks about the practice of preaching.

Firstly, preaching will lack in power if the preacher does not study his Bible enough. The noble task of preaching demands a deeper study of the Bible than the regular devotions, journaling, or almost any other Bible-related tasks. There is a saying that in order to fully understand a Scripture text for a sermon, one has to read it at least forty times. The constant companion of a preacher are his different Bible translations, a Bible dictionary, a notebook and a pen or pencil. A good Study Bible also gives valuable help. If one does not study well his sermon, it will be reflected in a few minutes of his preaching – it will be a confusing message with no one big idea to talk about, or a message that does not speak clearly the message of the chosen text.

2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV) Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Secondly, preaching will lack in power if the preacher is not aware of his own methodology in preaching. As preachers we are not being legalistic nor mechanical but every preacher must be sure of his own style or methodology in his preaching. It is like a driver that knows well his car; he is the person that could drive it well. A preacher that has not yet mastered his way of preaching will result in a preacher that lacks confidence and authority in delivery. It needs to be said however, that ultimately, it is not really our methodology in preaching that gives the spiritual power of preaching, nor gives preaching its divinity. Rather, in the mystery of God, His Spirit anoints even our methodology to give it power in perfect harmony with the innate power of the Holy Word.

On the outside, preaching seems to be a mechanical task, an act of oratory or public speech. But what happens in the preacher and his listeners before and during and after the act of preaching is for the most part, divine and spiritual. Let us therefore pray earnestly always that God give us the power to affect souls and eternity thru our heartfelt and mind-invested preaching.

The Primacy of Preaching

Preaching as a primary task of the Church deserves a prominent place in the lives of the believers, the respect of the congregation, and the awareness of the surrounding community. By this I put great emphasis: if preaching is not primary in the tasks of a local church, then that church is dead.
I observe with great brokenness that the Church today has resorted too much to misplaced contextualization that the once highly-esteemed position of preaching has been replaced by other activities and their various forms. These activities and forms are not necessarily worldly or unspiritual in themselves, but too much focus on these tend to dethrone the authority and place of preaching.

Before I tell my observations regarding this unsettling displacement of the preaching task, let me first tell the reasons why preaching is a major task of the Church, hence, its supremacy.

The first reason for the supremacy of preaching is because it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that saves people. No other thing, no methodology, no persuasion, no philosophy, no good works, no acts of mercy will bring down a sinner in humble submission and faith to Christ except by the Gospel.

Romans 1:16 (KJV) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

And how is the Gospel presented and received? How is faith produced to believe in Christ? It is by hearing the Gospel, and the Gospel is heard by preaching.

Romans 10:13-14 (KJV) For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

It is important to note that I am not against good works or acts of kindness – I even propose that the Church is weak in these areas, and should be developed. What I am trying to say is that nothing can replace the role of preaching for the salvation of man and the strengthening of the Church. The preaching task, partnered with fervent prayers, is still the primary task of the Church for the harvesting of souls and the furtherance of God’s Kingdom. Good works will touch the mind and heart of people, but only the Gospel brought by preaching through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit could revive the dead spirit of man.

The second reason for the supremacy of preaching is because it is a primary tool to strengthen the believers. I do not say that other activities do not do the work of strengthening the Church – they do, like worship, prayer, seminar, thanksgiving, etc. What I emphasize is that all of those activities serve their own purposes and the hearing of the Word of God completes them. The maturity of the believer is never complete apart from the hearing of the Word. If a Church event has plenty of activities but devoid of the Word, then that event is virtually fruitless.

Only the Word gives us the knowledge of God’s Truth that edifies us in many ways; leads us to sanctification together with the work of the Holy Spirit; corrects us; equips us in service; and brings us closer to Jesus Christ Himself.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (KJV) All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

Psalms 119:105 (KJV) Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.

Matthew 4:4 (KJV) But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

Hebrews 4:12 (KJV) For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Now that I have told why the preaching of the Word deserves a supreme place in the life activity of the Church, we are now ready to talk about some observations why the preaching of the Word seems not highly regarded like it was before.

The first obvious observation is that today the Church is willing to conduct big activities devoid of the Word, in an attempt to stoop down under the great name of contextualization.

Why preach the offensive Gospel to the hard-headed unbelievers when you can give them programs that will benefit their interests? Why preach the outdated Gospel to the postmodern youth when you can give them ‘holy worldly activities’? Why preach the commonly heard Gospel when you can share thousands of stories and philosophies that are humanistic?

Those are the cries of the Church today, as a product of many meetings and evaluations that arrogantly suggest that the Gospel is not enough or sufficient to confront the needs of modern man.

The second observation is that today, an honest analysis shows that preaching lacks Scripture. I could easily judge that today’s preaching lacks authority and power because it chose to deny its allegiance to its source of power – the Word of God. Many preachings have become nothing but rampant outrages of human voice and emotion, throwing thoughts randomly at the hearers without affecting any positive change or transformation.

This is evident in three ways. First, preaching has been norrowed to a single-verse shallow explanation. I say single verse because I see preachers quoting a single verse from Scripture then leaving it out entirely during the entire course of the sermon. I say shallow explanation because it has become a natural tendency for preachers nowadays to give room to highly subjective experiences and humanistic philosophy to interpret Scripture. The result then is a ‘Word-less preaching.’ If you want good preaching, you should devote yourself to several verses of Scripture that are explained in an expository manner.

Second, preaching has become ‘recycled.’ By this I mean that some preachers lazily just get canned sermons from books and internet and with little reading, deliver such sermons on Sundays. I am not against getting ideas from others, but the best sermon is the one that God has given you personally thru fervent prayers and faithful study of the Word. For sure it is the message that God Himself has fed you, the message that has penetrated your soul, this is the message that you are most capable of preaching with power.

Third, preaching has become a way to adulterise the Scriptures. I mean to say that we preach to promote our personal agendas and interpretations using the Scriptures as an outside cover. So many times preachers use the pulpit to defend their insecurities, to avenge their hurt feelings, to defend and cover up their sins, and some other acts or motives that are far from the pure Biblical motives of preaching.

Lastly, the third observation is that preachers today are much less equipped in the art and discipline of preaching. This observation goes on two extremes: being lowly equipped and being highly transcendent.

Being lowly equipped means that preachers are becoming less and less aware of the basic knowledge of the technicalities of preaching. They have become ignorant and hostile to the proper ways of constructing a sermon, or even worse, make preaching a contradiction of terms by believing that a devoted study and writing of a sermon is irrelevant and unnecessary because ‘the Holy Spirit will complete it anyway.’

Let me make this clear: I am never against completely relying upon the work of the Holy Spirit to bless a sermon and its preaching. I have witnessed that in many occassions, God has blessed my preaching (and the preaching of others) even though my notes were not with me (impromptu preaching), or I did not have enough time for serious study – but those cases are of course miracles of His Grace, and surely not to justify a preacher’s laziness. What I emphasize is that if God has called you to preach, you must give God and your calling the respect they deserve by a diligent study of the Word and its sermon preparation. Do we desire God to bless our sermon and preaching if we have not prepared for it, but lazily just picked up a random text and trusted God for its eternal benefits, especially when an ample amount of time is given for preparation? We must be ashamed.

2 Timothy 4:2 (KJV) Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV) Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

Ezra 7:10 (KJV) For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.

By being highly transcendent, I mean the opposite of the former. Sometimes preachers, being too much idealistic, forget to grasp the reality of his surroundings. To preach effectively, we should adjust our methodology and style to suit the intellectual, emotional, and cultural level of our listeners, without compromising the Word. The effective preacher is not the one with the transcendent message or the greatest method of delivery, but the one who is able to make his message comprehensible to his listeners.

If we want revivals in our local churches, the basics need to be present: humility and repentance, prayer and Bible reading, holiness and devotion, and worship and the preaching of God’s Word.

Preaching as Public Speaking

1

True, preaching is a divine task, yet basically it is also a form of public speaking. A true preacher will eventually realise that as much as preaching involves spiritual dynamics, it also certainly includes oratory skills. These oratory skills constitute the technical aspect of preaching.

Before I tell about this technical aspect of preaching, or the oratory skills, which make us realise that preaching is a form of public speaking, let me tell first some important points to consider.

The first point is that though the technical side of preaching is important, still the spiritual side is more important. Preaching is firstly divine, then secondly it is public speaking. Preaching achieves eternal spiritual fruits, something that ordinary public speaking can never produce.

The second point to consider is that no methodology is holy, no matter how helpful it is in preaching. The techniques of delivering a sermon are never holy in themselves, though they are blessed by God as secondary tools to deliver His Word. Only the written words of God in the Bible are holy; the Word of God is holy, not our methods and techniques. The Word that we try to deliver everytime we preach is the one that revives the spirit and strengthens the soul, it is certainly not the preaching in itself.

Psalms 12:6 (KJV)  The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.
Romans 1:16 (KJV)  For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
1 Thessalonians 1:5 (KJV)  For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.

Now that we have already discussed that the spiritual side of preaching outweighs the technical, we can now discuss the latter, and that describes preaching as a form of public speaking.

Preaching involves skills and techniques that enhance the delivery of our sermons (not the power but only the delivery). These skills basically revolve around the use of voice, eye contact, facial expressions, and gestures and movements.

The proper utilization and creative use of voice is of utmost importance in preaching, for the fact that spoken words serve as the medium for the transmission of God’s message to the hearers. A dull and monotonous voice will certainly invite boredom in the hearers. There are four P’s that could be used for the efficient use of voice during the discourse of God’s Word.

The first P is Pitch, or the raising and lowering of voice tone. The first and probably the easiest step that we could do to avoid a monotonous and boring sermon delivery is by putting stress on some words or phrases by varying the voice tone. We could also achieve this by varying the voice volume. Generally, heightening the pitch and increasing the volume on some words and phrases would put emphasis on the ideas that those words or phrases present.

The second P is Punch, and it is very similar to Pitch in its purpose of putting a stress on an important idea. However, what differentiates punch from an ordinary stress is that punch is usually used for some climactic expressions and thoughts, and is usually achieved by either a sudden or a much more powerful change of voice tone or volume.

The third P is Pause, and it is of equal importance to punch. We utilise pause also in trying to put emphasis on some ideas. We give around a three-second pause after saying something to indicate that what we have just told is important. Furthermore, by utilising the pause technique we give the hearers an ample amount of time to digest and reflect on the important idea given.

The fourth and final P in utilizing the voice is Progress. It is maybe the hardest one to master, but if done correctly will prove not only to emphasize a good point but furthermore to elevate the hearers’ interest and to provoke a more positive response. Generally, progress is effectively achieved by the continuous increase of the voice tone and volume beginning at the start of an idea you would like to emphasize, and then concluded with a strong punch at the end. Thus, progress is indeed the combination of the techniques of pitch and punch in a prolonged manner. Finally, progress becomes even more effective if followed by a pause. Those are the four P’s for the efficient utilization of voice, the pitch, punch, pause, and progress.

Another important factor to consider in the good delivery of the sermon is the eye contact technique. The function of eye contact in preaching is twofold: the transmission of truth and feedback.

Without eye contact, no matter how well we could use our voice we will never be able to truly connect to our listeners. It is a very awkward moment for the hearers to listen to a preacher who does not look at them, most specifically at their eyes. At worst, the hearers could feel offended. With the good use of eye contact, even the preacher who has not yet mastered the use of voice will be able to connect with his listeners.

Using eye contact to connect with listeners involves looking straight at the eyes, for around 3-5 seconds. If intimidated by the listeners, you could look also at the forehead. Look at them individually, trying to connect with each one of the listeners, for the duration of the preaching, if their number is around fifty. If their number is around a hundred or more, then having a look for each one becomes virtually impossible. In this case, using creative imagination, group the entire audience into several smaller groups mostly consisting of around five people each. Then try to look at the middle person of each group, and it will give them the impression that you are genuinely interested in them.

Furthermore, eye contact is arguably the single most effective tool to gain feedback from the hearers. If you want immediate feedback during the course of your preaching, the best way is by looking at them. That way you will immediately see if they are really listening or interested, and you as the speaker will be able to adjust your delivery to suit the emerging need. Eye contact demands that we have mastery of our sermon content. It is hard to practice good eye contact with the hearers if we are  relying too much on our notes or if we are not confident enough in our own message and delivery.

Then comes the technique of facial expressions. A serious message of rebuke and correction demands a serious emotion, but could also be told with a subtle smile and a sincere look – it depends on the ability of the preacher. Generally, laughter is very much minimal in preaching, overall the general emotions permeating are those of seriousness, sincerity, love, holiness, and command – those traits characterise very much a true preacher. A careful examination on the preaching of Jesus, the Apostles, and even of the prophets reveal the same thing. This is only my personal conviction, but I am not a follower of those preachings that use jokes and laughter just to engage the listeners. In my varied experiences in preaching, I have seen how a serious delivery of a sermon could captivate the listeners from start to finish, of course, with the power of the Word and the Holy Spirit.

Other equally important factors are gestures and body movements. With gestures, we pertain to the movements of the upper body, mostly those of the shoulders, arms, and hands. With body movements, we talk about the movements of the legs and feet.

The content dictate the gestures, and not the other way around. This means that the shoulders, arms, and hands movements reflect the true emotions and thoughts of the preacher. When I was just beginning to preach, I used to practice my gestures, and my actions looked like ‘scripted movements’, there was no life in them. Later on, as I gradually developed as a preacher, it is the message that would consume my heart and mind. That way, gestures flowed out naturally, and they certainly looked natural. Powerful gestures reveal connected movements, that is, the movements of the hands are not separated from those of the arms, the shoulders, and the upper body.

Body movements involving the legs and feet contribute to the lively delivery of the sermon. Personally, I like to get in touch with the hearers in the most possible way and to communicate with them in the most personal way, and I do that mostly by leaving the pulpit and walking towards them. Occasional walking is helpful, too much is already distracting. Another helpful thing about walking is that it relieves the tension and let go of nervousness.

The general rule regarding gestures and body movements is that the larger the audience, the bigger the gestures and body movements. The larger the audience, the further the pulpit is from the audience, so the preacher will likely to be seen by all.

A climactic note that I would like to add for all of these skills is that the Spirit of God and His anointing enhance all of them. In fact, I could attest that whenever I am filled with the Word and the Holy Spirit all of these skills just flowed out naturally and powerfully. Furthermore, the Holy Word and the Spirit of God have taught me to do these skills naturally, far better than what my training and practice did for me.

So I have presented the technical side of preaching, the side that tells us that preaching is also public speaking. We do not try to learn and master this aspect for the purpose of increasing the power of our preaching – only God could do that with our humble cooperation of holiness, submission, prayer, and obedience. As Robert McCheyne once told us, ‘A holy minister is an awesome weapon in the hand of God.’

What these techniques do for us preachers are to enhance the delivery of our sermon, to make it lively, penetrating, and connecting, and to catch the interest and attention of our listeners. True, the technical side is important, but we must not substitute it to the power of the Word and the Holy Spirit to change the lives of the listeners. The true mark of a preacher is not his very good oratory skills (though it may include these), but the divine capacity to change the lives of the hearers.

*I am indebted to Mr. Haddon Robinson for some of my learnings in oratory skills in preaching. I recommend his book Biblical Preaching, second edition.

Glimpses of God’s Glory

13 JULY 2017, 10:50 PM

I am so grateful to God for this wonderful day. In simple yet powerful ways He allowed me to see His greatness.

God used me to bring His message of love and hope in the form of rebuke at the Provincial Jail with the Scripture of Lamentations 3:22-26.

Lamentations 3:22-26 (KJV) It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.
The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.
It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD.

God’s message for the prisoners was: Wait on His deliverance in the time of His discipline. It was a message of rebuke, yet love and hope were present. If only they would look upon His discipline as an expression of His Fatherly love, then they would also sense hope, and bring themselves under humble submission to the rod of their heavenly Father. Instead of rebellion, they would develop in their hearts a greater love for their Father.

Hebrews 12:5-6, 11 (KJV) And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

As I was speaking His message, I could deeply sense God’s presence in their lives and their spirits were touched.

The second thing for which I was so thankful to God was my prayer time with a sister in faith. God allowed me to pray for her, releasing her from her burdens and granting her to receive more of God’s blessings. She cried in the presence of God, thankful for the freedom and peace that she received.

Am I grateful because God used me? Yes, but the main reason why I praise God is that He again allowed me to see His glory and greatness in simple yet powerful ways. I do not deserve any of these, and the fact that I am undeserving makes me praise Him even more. Truly, I am most satisfied in God when I know that God is most satisfied (and glorified) in God. It has absolutely nothing to do about me.