Preaching Articles

If God-centered preaching is your goal. If you want to help your hearers focus on God and think on God when they leave your sermon(s), here are 11 things that you cannot do…

11. Over-repeat yourself. 

There is repetition for emphasis, and then there is repetition for annoyance. Discern between the two by listening to other preachers. Perhaps you should ask your wife if you over-repeat yourself. Wives are great assets to pastors because they will often tell you the truth. Church members are often overly kind except for the occasional “preaching expert.”

10. Form your sermon points first, then find a text to fit your points. 

Rarely will you find a text to fit your points. Instead, in order to make the text fit, you will be forced to pluck the text out of context. The text should form your points, instead of you forcing your points onto a text. If you force your points on a text, it is impossible for the Christians in the pew to submit to your teaching and enjoy the Lord through the specific text you are preaching from. (Granted, you are probably still preaching truth that is found elsewhere in the Bible. At least, I hope!)

9. Be very animated in your body language. 

Everyone will either enjoy you or be terribly annoyed. If they leave the service thinking about you, regardless of whether it’s positive or negative, your sermon failed. Remember that the goal of preaching is to excellently allow the Word of God to stand on its own. Thus, don’t be distractingly animated, and do not wear flashy suits or style your hair in a flashy way.

8. Be overly boring. 

Do not talk in a monotone voice. The goal is to excellently allow the word to stand on its own, not to make the most wonderful book ever written the most boring book ever written. You may be so concerned with detracting from the word that you stand up and read in a monotone voice. Don’t do it because there is no proof in the Scriptures that any of the prophets, apostles or Christ did such things when they spoke.

In other words, when you overly bore so you won’tdetract from the Scriptures, you still detract from the word, just on the opposite end of the spectrum. I must inject a brief note here: If you are a master of the English language like Jonathan Edwards was, then you may be able to get away with reading a manuscript in a monotone voice. If Edwards had preached like George Whitefield, he may not have led anyone to the Lord, for sinners would have been too mesmerized by him to get to Christ.

7. Be overly humorous. 

The goal is to encourage your hearers to enjoy God through His word, not to enjoy you. If your hearers leave thinking “what a funny preacher,” then you preached a terrible sermon. The word of God must be on their heart and mind when they leave, and if God is not on their hearts and minds when they leave, then they shouldn’t be able to lay this sin at your feet.

6. Preach your opinion or hobbyhorses instead of what the text says. 

How can you excellently allow the word of God to stand on its own when you ignore how God the Holy Spirit originally inspired the literary makeup of the text in its specific historical context? If the word of God needs your innovation, it is no longer the word of God. The word of God is powerful because of its Author, not because of its messenger (you). Where the Bible speaks, God speaks. Get out of the way and help your hearers hear Him speak by preaching exactly what His word says, brought from its original context into the context of your hearers.

5. Use Greek and Hebrew to impress. 

Do you know Greek and Hebrew? Do your hearers know Greek and Hebrew? If not, then why use Greek and Hebrew in your sermons? Do the exegetical work during your study time and only use Greek and Hebrew in your sermon when it is necessary in order to communicate the text. This rule is true: Most pastors that use Greek and Hebrew in their sermons do not know Greek and Hebrew, and most Greek and Hebrew scholars that are pastors do not use Greek and Hebrew in their sermons.

Here is a good rule of thumb: Prepare and preach your sermon as if the original author of the Scripture is in your audience. If he and God the Holy Spirit can say “amen” to your sermon, then you have succeeded … but remember that both of them know what they intended, and they are fluent in the biblical language they wrote the Scripture in.

4. Ignore your hearers. 

I preach in a rural church in Kentucky, and if you preach in a church in a large city, the language that both of us are allowed to use will be very different. Big theological words are intimidating in my area.  By-words such as “crap,” “p*ss” “s*cks,” cannot be said from the pulpit unless you want your people leaving thinking about the dirty words that you used.

Furthermore, I’ve heard in certain cultural contexts you can say “sh*t” from the pulpit. I would be voted out of my church before I finished my sermon if I used such language. If it is possible that it will offend, then don’t use the language!  You will not know what might offend your audience if you do not consider their context. Moreover, your sermon illustrations should be understandable to your audience.  If you are preaching to the elderly, they will not understand a reference to the Twilight Saga, Kanye West, Eminem, etc., but you can probably reference Johnny Cash. If you are preaching in a city, farming references may not be easily understood.  Consider these realities when preparing your sermon.

3. Neglect teaching your hearers to enjoy God. 

Teaching Christians that the value of the Bible is bound up in its literary make-up, cool battle stories or miraculous elements will not help your audience to truly love God. It will merely help them to enjoy the genres or stories of Scripture. Any atheist can enjoy these elements; however, Christians should ultimately enjoy the word of God because it is the word of God.

2. Tell a joke or story that has nothing to do with the text.

Why would you use a joke or story that has nothing to do with the text? You want your hearers to think on the text, not on something else. When you detract from the text, you are only doing the Devil’s and their flesh’s work for them because they don’t want your hearers to focus on the text either.

1. Leave Christ out of your sermon. 

The Old Testament details creation, Fall/Sin, God’s promised redemption of His people and the gradual unfolding of this plan. The New Testament details God’s salvation of His church through the finished work of Christ alone. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament, the Prophet, Priest and King in the New Testament, and He’s returning soon to rule and reign forevermore.

Thus, the Bible is a book about Jesus. There’s no text in the Old or New Testament that can be preached as if Jesus has not lived, died and rose from the dead to forgive sinners and reconcile them to God. Jesus should be included in every sermon since He is the point of Scripture.

Jared has served in pastoral ministry since 2000. He is the pastor of New Salem Baptist Church in Hustonville, KY. He is the author of 10 Sacred Cows in Christianity That Need to Be Tipped. Jared is married to Amber and they have four children. He is a teaching assistant for Bruce Ware at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) and a  PhD Student in Systematic Theology at SBTS. You can take Jared's Udemy Course, "How to Enjoy God Through Movies, TV, Music, Books, etc." with this link for 43% off. Engage popular culture with Scripture. Enjoy God through popular culture.


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Talk about it...

Irene Allen

commented on Jun 11, 2013

Whoa.. I believe there has been an increasingly awakening in the church. We've heard from many how we've gotten off track in doctrinal error, becoming seeker sensitive by any means and every other error in between. I hope we begin entering into our next season, without cease, a showing of how messages from God are brought forth by those who speak for him! Proper illustration will slowly remove error.

Ephrem Hagos

commented on Jun 11, 2013

Overly preaching of the written word takes the focus away from Jesus' independent self-revelation in the kind of death he suffered, a.k.a., "the first-born from the dead".

Chris Hearn

commented on Jun 11, 2013

For me, I heartly agree with point #7 in particular. Too often I've heard jokes from the pulpit that goes to Comedy Night at church. Some humor is fine, but too much gets distracting.

Chris Hearn

commented on Jun 11, 2013

I disagree a little with point #5 on Greek and Hebrew. The tone of the point seems to say that referring back to the original languages should be done rarely, if ever. But often I've found that looking at a word in the original language does help people to better understand the Text. Agreed, it should never be done for show or to put the focus on the pastor, but can be used to deepen people's knowledge of Scripture.

Irene Allen

commented on Jun 11, 2013

This is quite the list of do nots. I think some, or most of what's listed may be a matter of perception or preference? I do believe there is some merit to a portion of what is listed though. But even more than that.. I think there's been such an abundance of telling all that's out of alignment (wrong) in the pulpit that we've almost teetered on imbalance. I think #1 was a fantastic way to begin with and would've been awesome to accentuate those truths by example, showing how presenting God's word properly is done by the author, leaving out his list of don'ts..

Dennis Cocks

commented on Jun 11, 2013

What happened to all the previous article's comments?

Japhe Jean Claude

commented on Jun 12, 2013

I think there is no right or wrong in what number 7 has explained; even though some preachers have a tendency of overdoing things to attract attention. However I honestly think it has to do with the kind of audience the preacher is preaching to. In conclusion, whatever the audience and the strategy may be; I believe the key is to rely on the Holy Spirit to do the job. Because apart from the Holy Spirit we simply miss it all.

Rick Ramsey

commented on Jun 13, 2013

The only one of his points that applies to his topic: "11 mistakes to keep your focus off of Jesus" is his last or # 1. All the rest are just his opinions and personal preferences. I Have heard some powerful sermons from funny joke telling men, I have heard men use the greek to bring to life the scriptures, I have heard great monitone sermons and great sermons from preachers who over repeated and had annimated body language. Just preach Jesus! However preaching Jesus means preaching the whole council of God not just the gospel. If you can reach someone with humor do it, be yourself and preach Christ from Genesis to Revelation.

Dorna Chambers

commented on Jun 13, 2013

There are some excellent points here. I have heard many sermons in my lifetime but lately the focus is not on Christ at all except near the end when they give an altar call. I have also noticed that especially when a passage from the Old Testament is used for a sermon, that many times the sermon has nothing to do with what the passage originally was referring to. I have wondered at times, "Are we really supposed to do this?" Are we really allowed to take something someone wrote years ago and apply it anyway we choose? I probably wouldn't like it if I wrote a book and years later someone had me saying something I didn't say. On some of these points, I have to say different strokes for different folks...What loses me may get someone else's attention. If someone starts out ....."If you have your bibles, please turn to....." That gets my attention right away. If someone starts out telling a joke or a story especially if its about football, they will lose me and its hard to get my attention back, however I realize that something like that just might get the attention of someone else in the audience. I am the "Get to the point" type of person and very easily distracted".

Blessing Etim

commented on Sep 13, 2013

this is a great advice which i believe looking at it deep you will surely identified some of the things which we have from many preacher which did not actually drive home the message to the hearer as it aught to. but let's not forget what Apostle paul said "to the weak i became weak so as to win them for Christ.....etc. Always allow the Holy Spirit to direct you Cos it is the Holy Spirit who knows the mind of God better and He's in the right position to help you preach just as God wants you to.thanks

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