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What if there was a way to identify bad preaching? Having grown up in church, I have probably listened to over 1,000 sermons in my lifetime. In all my time listening to (and now delivering) sermons, I have heard three types of bad preaching:

Trampoline preaching


In trampoline preaching, the speakers “jumps” from the text to what he really wants to say. Sure, the text has nothing to do with politics, but hey, let’s go on a rant about Democrats, Republicans, or someone else we don’t like! The speaker doesn’t allow the text to control the sermon. He imposes his own views, opinions, or feelings onto the text. Such preaching is selfish. It is not done to encourage the audience. It is not done in submission to Christ. It is done to satisfy the ego of the preacher.

Remedy

Find the “Big Idea”—the one thing the whole thing is saying. Summarizing your Bible passage in one sentence will keep your sermon on point and reflect what the Bible is actually saying. You will preach what God is saying, not what you want to say.

Law Preaching

Law preaching emphasizes what we must do to please God. Law sermons can range from, “Slaying the giants in your life” to seven tips for a successful marriage. What these sermons have in common is human action. The message becomes all about us. We are the heroes! The Bible presents things drastically different: Jesus is the hero, not us. He’s the one who fulfilled God’s law on our behalf. We could never be perfect; Jesus was.

Remedy

Preach the gospel every time. It’s possible to make Jesus the central Hero of every sermon which is what people really need. Leave the self-help talks to the self-help gurus (They’re much better at that sort of thing, anyway). Preach Christ and Him crucified.

Lecture Preaching

Ah, the newly minted seminary student sermon! Going to seminary is a great thing. The kinds of sermons you hear from seminary students…not so much. Why? Because young seminary students often dump out all of their theological knowledge on the audience. It’s exciting to learn about the Trinity, and the various controversies surrounding the deity and humanity of Christ. But such knowledge is lost on most people in the typical church audience.

Remedy

Make application first and make application last. You’re not preaching to give information. You’re preaching for life transformation! This means applying the truth of Christ found in the passage to your congregation. Pick up Preaching Sticky Sermons to find out about more practical ways to weave application throughout your sermon.

I am a pastor at Lincroft Bible Church in Lincroft, NJ. I graduated from Southern Seminary with an M.Div in 2013. I like the New York Football Giants, coffee, and watching TV (don't judge me).

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Dr Robert Ballard

commented on May 25, 2017

Law preaching? While legalism is not good, the Bible does tell us how to please the Lord. There is too much "God loves you and it does not matter how you live your life" preaching today. Jesus is Holy and told us to be Holy and Perfect. Many Christians are not living in victory because they do not know lifestyle conditions which bring blessing from heaven. Preaching should instruct and encourage everyone to obey Jesus for His glory.

Cris Tecson

commented on May 29, 2017

I sense the same question. Law preaching and self-help are two different matters, I cannot find the connection. Law preaching is good if is presented as a foreshadow of the coming glory of the begotten Son Jesus Christ.

commented on May 25, 2017

The problem is that attempts to do #3 (application) too often lead to #2 (legalism). There is a tension between them that the author has not addressed

William Matthews

commented on May 25, 2017

"I have probably listened to over 1,000 sermons in my lifetime." I would hope so. If you have the standard 3 services a week (Sunday AM & PM, and Wednesday evening, that's 1,095 sermons each YEAR. Add in special meetings and Sunday School, that's at least another 365. Yes, I would definitely say that's over 1,000. ;-)

Cris Tecson

commented on May 29, 2017

3 x 52 weeks = 156 times per year add another 52 SS and 52 mtngs, that's a total of 260 per year?

Olorunfemi Olojede

commented on May 25, 2017

On point! How I wish every preacher could read this! More grace, Pastor Pascarella!

Chris Hearn

commented on May 30, 2017

On point #1, I'm curious about the following. A sermon that doesn't talk about the gospel, redemption, etc. but then, out of nowhere, comes an altar call. Is this trampolining or giving people a fair opportunity to repent and believe in the gospel?

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