How to Make My Sermons Better
By Pastor Simmons
While it is generally accepted that sermon quality is the preachers task you should know that there is a great deal you can do to improve my sermons. I am not suggesting a “work harder” pep-talk as you leave the sanctuary each Lords Day, nor am I suggesting that the chief responsibility for the sermon is not mine. But I am saying there is much you can do and here are a few suggestions.
Come hungry. Hunger makes a good gravy. A meal cooked at the pinnacle of the mediocre (or even an ordinary mid-level mediocre meal) can be quite tasty and wonderfully satisfying when you are hungry enough. This is in no way an excuse for lazy or careless preparation on my part or on the part of any preacher but just a reminder that whatever can be gained from a particular sermon is more likely to be gained if you come hungering and thrusting for truth. Pray that God would give you a love for His preached Word and help you in the work of listening. Be a student of the Bible throughout the week for the more you grow in your knowledge of and love for the Bible the better you are prepared to hear God’s Word preached. Serve, minister, and spend yourself for the cause of Christ both in the church and in reaching out to those outside the church and you will find that such labor will greatly increase your appetite.
Start working on the sermon before the sermon begins. Our church, like many others, posts an order of service on the web site late in the week and there you can find the text. Read the text several times prayerfully and begin asking God to give insight both before and during the preaching of that text. Think of questions you have about the text and begin praying through the text concerning your own needs as well as the needs of the whole congregation. Where there is a command to obey, a promise to believe, a sin to avoid, a service to render, or any such thing pray that we, the whole church, would hear the Word clearly, believe what God has said, and obey. By the way, if you have questions about the text that the sermon does not answer please ask…getting questions is encouraging as it evidences thinking and listening and that is good news to the preacher.
Pray much. God has promised to bless His Word. God has promised to hear our prayers. God has chosen not only the work that He will do, He has also chosen how He will do this work. He has chosen ordinary means such as the preaching of His Word and the prayers of the saints for this work. So pray much and boldly for me as I prepare and deliver the sermons. And pray much and boldly for yourself and the whole congregation, praying that all will hear God’s Word and be transformed as God’s Spirit takes His Word into our hearts and lives.
In closing I direct your attention to two of our Larger Catechism questions where in the first the effectual nature of the Word is discussed and then in the second our responsibility as hearers is considered. These are great helps to frame our thinking about how great is the work of God through His Word and How I must apply myself to the work of hearing.
- How is the word made effectual to salvation?
The spirit of God makes the reading, but especially the preaching of the word an effectual means of enlightening, convincing, and humbling sinners; of driving them out of themselves, and drawing them unto Christ; of conforming them to his image, and subduing them to his will; of strengthening them against temptations and corruptions; of building them up in grace, and establishing their hearts in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation. (WLC 155)
- What is required of those that hear the word preached?
It is required of those that hear the word preached, that they attend upon it with diligence, preparation, and prayer; examine what they hear by the scriptures; receive the truth with faith, love, meekness, and readiness of mind, as the word of God; meditate, and confer of it; hide it in their hearts, and bring forth the fruit of it in their lives. (WLC 160)