I have never met a preacher who did not want to increase the effectiveness of his sermon. The question is where to start?
We often, and rightly so, head over towards the practical application of the Word itself. We spend more time praying, reading, studying, writing, and thinking. These are good and right. I encourage all of this. But the focus of this article is a little different. Without discounting these, I want to just highlight a few practical items that I have seen work well in the church where I serve.
I am obviously not John Piper and don’t pretend to be him on Sunday morning, but people at Emmaus Bible Church like my preaching. I think that some of these practical items below have helped.
1. Make the preaching on Sunday A.M. a big deal.
I remember visiting with a seasoned pastor before we started down the church planting road. I asked him for a few top priorities for me in taking on this task. He said, “Make Sunday morning like NFL Game Day.” His point was to make Sunday morning, and in particular the Word preached, to be the highlight of the week.
In short, he was saying to get people to love the Word and the preaching of it. I have endeavored to do this. We are not there, but it is something I am chasing.
2. Encourage (expect) members to do their own sermon prep.
We recently have gone through What is a Healthy Church Member in our home groups. In that book, Thabiti has a chapter on being an expositional listener. Each group spent time talking about what this means for us as a church and individuals. We have also done several blog posts on the church Web site discussing the book Expository Listening.
One thing this does is put the Sunday morning gathering and the sermon in particular on the table. It helps with practical things like reading the passage beforehand, getting some good rest on Saturday night, praying for light, praying for the preacher, etc.
There are some really practical things that the church member can do in their own sermon prep. As a church, we are now going through the practice of what it means to be an expository listener. We discuss this in our small groups throughout the month. The priority and the practice are gaining traction. (Example of blog article)
3. Promote the sermon by providing the text and the outline in advance.
This is so easy and so good. In our context, we send out the Scripture passage and outline on a Thursday or Friday. I post it on the church Web site and include with it a snippet about the sermon. I have heard from numerous people of how this practice has helped them with the previous two observations.
It also encourages Dads to lead by talking to their family about the sermon prior to and after it. Again, it's very easy and very beneficial. (Example)
4. Provide an outline.
If you're going to provide the information in advance, then you might as well print it out and give it to folks.
Early on, my wife encouraged me to do this, and it has paid huge dividends. The handout not only provides a road map of where you are going on Sunday morning, but it also teaches how to break apart a passage.
However subtle this might be, it is significant. In our small groups when people are talking about the sermon together, we see many people pull out their handouts with all kinds of notes and application points written down. They are taking the sermon home with them. It’s very helpful. (Here is an example—again nothing too profound about this.)
5. Engage people with the text.
After preaching, it is good to talk with people about the text. Interact, cement, encourage, perhaps even correct. Bang those homiletical nails in a little further. If you just spent 45 minutes hammering this home, don’t shift to talk about the weather or your garden. Create the environment to talk about the passage. Talk about God. This is always good.
I've shared these tips because they have helped us in our context. If you have other tips, please send them my way.