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Every preacher I know wants to get better; we are all clawing forward amid the windstorm of our own inability.

In this, I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I do have the sand in my face. I’m with you trying to get there.

In this post, I want to talk about a few items that you can do in the delivery of the sermon that I have found to help. Let’s call them five friends that you want to invite to every one of your sermons.

1. Word Pictures

Do you want to liven up your sermon? Hang up some pictures. Paint some rooms. Open a window.

Sermons should not smell like an old musty closet; you need some air, some life, and some color in it. This whole world is stamped with God’s creative seal; therefore, find how it illustrates, elucidates or further communicates your point and go and get it.

If you want more help on this, read Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. You could also read Thomas Watson, a homiletical artist. I also found this book helpful.

Fill your sermon with word pictures.

2. Interrogatives

We too often forget that the sermon is a conversation. No, we are not audibly dialoging back and forth, but we are at our best when we are homiletically talking back and forth.

If the sermon is simply the giving of information, then interaction will be limited. It will be like getting a tour through an old museum. Instead, we want to engage our listeners.

One of the best ways to do this is to ask questions. You might ask, “What does a lack of prayer say about your view of yourself?” This crucial step makes the person actually answer in their minds.

You could just say, “A lack of prayer indicates that you believe that you are self-sufficient.” However, that crucial step repeated dozens of times during the sermon helps to keep people tracking and finding the answers in the Bible.

Fill your sermon with questions.

3. The “2nd Person Plural” 

This goes along with the previous point; you have got to engage people. If your sermon is propositional (and it must be), then it must call them to believe something, address something or do something.

Mixing in some 2nd person “You!” is very helpful.

Of course, that could go overboard, so you want to mix it up. I have found Mark Dever to be a very helpful example of this. He has a ton of phrases that he uses, such as: friend, brother, sister, you, we, church, single person, married person, Christian, men, women, children, etc.

Thoughtfulness here will only help you hit the mark.

4. Personal Transparency 

The preacher is most effective when the sermon’s truth has gripped him. He not only needs to know the subject, but he needs to believe it.

As a result, the sermon will seep down into his life and get ahold of him. This brings about conviction, repentance and change. It is healthy and helpful to model this as a pastor.

I should also say that, taken to its extreme, this could lend itself to a public personal show every week. This would become a distraction and problem.

Be gripped by the truth, and then show how it grips you; in so doing, don’t make it about you.

5. Acknowledged Tension 

Since you are preaching propositionally, there is going to be some type of opposition to the truth. “Husbands must love and lead their wives.” There is the truth right out of Ephesians 5.

Now, don’t just tell people why to do it and that they need to do it; actually tell them what type of opposition there is to doing it. Expose the idols that get in the way. Show that a love for self and stuff will always suffocate a love for God and others. Tease it out and put it on display.

I like how Matt Chandler repeatedly does this in his preaching. He says things like “What are the obstacles to obeying this truth?”

Another aspect of acknowledging tension is to tease out the difficulty of the passage. For example, we are called to forgive one another. What about those who will not confess or repent? How do we handle that? How does 70 times 7 play out?

Tease it out. Your people are already thinking it; you should have thought of it, so go ahead and work it out.

Remember, you are a shepherd.

Conclusion

These are things you can do right away, and they will bring immediate impact.

As I look back on sermons that have seemed to have the most traction, they have most often been the ones when I have faithfully unfolded the passage, gotten out of the way and let these five friends loose.

Give it a try; I guarantee it will work. If not, then I’ll give you a full refund.

Erik is a pastor at Emmaus Bible Church (EmmausBibleChurch.org), a church plant south of Omaha. Converse with Erik on Twitter at @erikraymond.

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Talk about it...

Tim Johnson

commented on Aug 2, 2014

Great article! I just went through each point as a check list for tomorrow's sermon. We need to engage our people in and out of the pulpit. If they can't stay engaged with us for 30 minutes, it's not their fault!

Jesse Roland

commented on Aug 2, 2014

Let me add this as a helpful book on word pictures... Preaching and Teaching With Imagination by Warren Weirsbe. A classic on the use of metaphor in the Bible and in preaching it.

Lawrence Webb

commented on Oct 11, 2015

Good pointer, all. The best word pictures are real-life stories from real life, rather than canned stories from a book of "1001 Effective Illustrations." Fred Craddock's books of sermons and stories challenge me.

Mike Brenneman

commented on Oct 12, 2015

Tool #5. Acknowleged Tension: I can hear some listeners saying to themselves "Wow, that's exactly what I was just thinking!" Its bound to have more impact. Thank you for the tool.

Saul Dela Cruz

commented on Oct 29, 2015

Excellent idea pastor Erik, blessings to your ministry and family.

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