Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series
Preaching Articles

Excerpted from his talk given at the Acts 29 Lead Pastors’ Retreat in June 2011:

I wish I could tell you that most pastors are preaching the Word. I can’t—some are not preaching the Word. So here are five things we may choose to do instead of preaching the Word.

1. Entertaining

“Music, drama and video, felt needs, topics, more stories”

None of those things are wrong—unless they displace the preaching of the Word of God. Some teachers will tell you that you need to tell stories in your sermons or you will bore people. I’m not bored. If you’re not bored, no one is going to be bored. Can you take hold of the Word of God and take hold of a group of people and make them listen because you have something to say?

Are you bored? The greatest sin in ministry is to bore people with the Bible. Martin Lloyd Jones said, “Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire. A man who can speak about these things dispassionately has no right whatsoever to be in a pulpit and should never be allowed to enter one.”

You have to get the Word of God, let it grip your heart by the power of the Holy Spirit and drive over to church with something to say.

Now if a story fits in, I might tell you a story before I sit down, but don’t make that your thing. If people come up to you afterward and say, “I love that story you told,” it should make you crazy. Really, that’s what I am? I’m a storyteller? The Gospel is the main story that you should be telling.

2. Sharing

We hear a pastor say, “There are some things I just want to share with you today…”

Since when is the man of God some Dr. Phil and Oprah combo? You’re supposed to proclaim a message. If you’re not preaching, glory is not coming down. You have to preach the glory down—people have to hear a word from God.

3. Wooing

“Careful, careful, don’t offend, always comfortable, never pressured, just a pinch of truth, when they’re ready to handle it.”

The preaching of the gospel has become so watered down that the non-elect can’t even reject it.

If you don’t have people walking away from your ministry saying, “This is a hard word, who can accept it?” then you don’t have a ministry like Jesus had.

I just hate this notion that we can be so clever and sophisticated that we can remove the offense from the gospel. It is foolishness to those who are perishing; it is the power of God to those who are being saved. It is the aroma of death to those who are perishing; it is the aroma of life to those who are being saved.

Listen, preacher: If you don’t want to be the aroma of death to those who are perishing, you can never be the aroma of life to those who are being saved. That’s why preaching is hard work.

4. Intellectualizing

“I’ve been thinking and researching this in the original languages…”

We’re supposed to love God with our heart, soul, mind and strength. And preaching that stops at the shoulders is defective preaching. It has to move me—it has to call me to action—mind, emotions and will. If you’re just preaching your theological construct, you’re blowing it.

Stop preaching the scaffolding around the Bible and preach the Word—what God actually says.

John Calvin said, “God deigns [considers it proper] to consecrate to himself the mouths and tongues of men in order that his voice may resound in them.” Your preaching is at its best when your people have forgotten that you’re even standing there, and God’s Spirit is moving through you. I am afraid that we’ve lost sight of this.

5. Abbreviating

“Twenty minute sermons”

I don’t know how it works at your church, but for us it takes five minutes to set the rig up and another five or 10 minutes to take it down. If you’re only preaching for 20 minutes, that gives you five minutes to drill. You’re not going very deep, are you? It takes some time.

Romans 10:16: Jesus said, “He who hears you, hears me.”

“He who hears you,” Jesus said, “hears me.”

Yet there’s no pridefulness, is there? It’s so humbling. It’s a crushing weight, isn’t it? I tell people the weekly message preparation is the crucible of my sanctification. Never get in a habit of getting up in the pulpit when things aren’t square everywhere. That by itself will keep you going in the right direction. “He who hears you, hears me,” Jesus said. I love that challenge—to be that person.  

James MacDonald (D. Min. Phoenix Seminary) is the founding senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel, leads the church planting ministry of Harvest Bible Fellowship, teaches the practical application of God's Word on the Walk in the Word radio broadcast, and is a gifted author and speaker.

Browse All

Related Preaching Articles

Talk about it...

Robert Sands

commented on May 28, 2015

James, we should all be like you. That is all.

Tim Johnson

commented on May 28, 2015


William Douglas Johnson, Sr

commented on May 28, 2015

Somebody wisely said, "watered-down preaching is dangerous to the soul." They were right.

Clyde Douglas

commented on May 28, 2015

Clyde Douglas Simply great

Keith B

commented on May 28, 2015

Hate t say it, but you need to point the finger back at yourself, James. You affirmed T.D. Jakes as a Christian preacher in order to entertain and to woo people.

Thomas Burggraf

commented on May 28, 2015

Thank you, Pastor McDonald! Your instruction convicted and encouraged me. I will put it to use this weekend and going forward for God's glory. I appreciate your help.

Robert Sands

commented on May 28, 2015


Andrew Shields

commented on May 28, 2015

I understand what the author is saying but the first paragraph was confusing. He said first that "most" preachers are not preaching the word, I take that to mean that majority aren't. (That is a bold statement, that needs evidence). Then in the next sentence he says that "some" are not preaching the word. Everyone will agree that "some" don't but "most"? I don't think I would go that far. All in all though these are insights. Where do other readers stand? Is it most or some preachers who don't preach the word?,

Tony Bland

commented on May 28, 2015

I agree with you, he should support his statement that most don?t preach the word. Further I am not sure that I believe that preaching cannot be entertaining and I always want to share the word of God.

Derrick Tuper

commented on May 28, 2015

"Preaching that stops at the shoulders is defective preaching." We can get caught up in just preaching the truth of God's word informationally and give educational insights but at the end of it we need to answer the question, "so what?" People need to be able to answer, "what does this have to do with me?" "What do I need to do in response to this information?" If there is no application to go with the information then we've shortchanged people and the word of God.

Frank Jackson

commented on May 28, 2015

I like the main thought but I am not understand point number 5? We should preach longer sermons?

Doug Knox

commented on May 29, 2015

I think he means complete sermons rather than just longer sermons. If we have to cut out material for the sake of time, maybe then we should consider preaching a little longer.

Ian Croft

commented on May 28, 2015

Why am I not satisfied with this article? Could it be that I sense in it a dislike of proper preparation -"get the Word of God, let it grip your heart by the power of the Holy Spirit and drive over to church with something to say", and the whole section about intellectualising bother me. I agree that we need the power of the Holy Spirit but it is actually far easier to misinterpret the message of the Holy Spirit without research and study than it is to do so after proper research. The references to Martin Lloyd Jones and John Calvin are most interesting - both wrote extensively for the benefit of preachers. We are not called to preach for a certain length of time - we are called to preach the word and to get a message across, and if that needs even just three minutes on some occasions so be it. Better that people go home with a very clear message Biblical message than to leave them with a jumble of thoughts from a "stretched" sermon. Jesus was always very succinct, (and told stories!). He never took "five minutes to set the rig up and another five or 10 minutes to take it down". Read Matt. 5:2ff. He got His message across in seconds. The old adage "sermonettes makes Christianettes" has much more to do with to the quality of the message, than with the time it takes to deliver it. Finally, we must always remember that the aim of preaching must always be to "preach Christ crucified".


commented on May 29, 2015

in full agreement with James even though some may oppose his view. it is most definite and its global that the Word of God is not preached but we get the list that James has mentioned. just want to emphasis on the time of preaching. one commented that Jesus got His message across in three minutes on some occasions. where did you get that theology from? its easy for people to sit in a movie theatre and be fixated on the screen for two hours stuffing their faces with popcorn but a sermon gone more than 20 minutes causes uproar in the church. goes to show peoples levels of interest and priorities when it comes to God. Reads Acts chapter 20 when Paul preached and how long he preached.

Join the discussion