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Fellow pastors and teachers and leaders: I know the frenzy of Saturday night when you’re scrambling to get your sermon just right.

After you have your three points, consulted all the commentaries and fit in your illustrations, here are a few checks to consider that have helped immensely.  

1. Is God big?

People can tell if your God is small. If you quickly browse through your sermon, either He’s big or you are. Either He is in total control, the supreme authority and highest glory—or something else is.

In my first year, I made the mistake of referencing myself too much while skimming the surface of God’s nature. I randomly plugged Him in to “baptize” the sermon. 

But people want to know that God is sovereign, powerful, wise and loving. They want to climb the mountain of Isaiah 40 with you. God is the point of your sermon. 

2. Is Jesus sufficient? 

Psychology is great, but not the answer. Stories will help, but are not sufficient. Doctrine is essential, but not enough. 

Jesus alone is the King of the Universe, the sustainer of galaxies and orbits and atoms, the fulfiller of biblical prophecy—but he’s also close to the heart of struggling believers, the single moms, the suicidal teenagers, the confused college student, the rebellious pagan. 

Your Jesus must have his feet to the earth. He is a person and not a concept. He must be for us, and more importantly, glorious in himself.

3. Is the cross visible?

If there is no Gospel, you’re not preaching a Christian sermon. Period.

There is Good News, which is the truth, or Good Advice, which is moralism. We do need Advice, but it must be built on the foundation of the News. Don’t be afraid to say words like sin, salvation, wrath, repentance, crucifixion, resurrection and rapture.

4. What’s my one sentence?

In seminary, we called this the 3 a.m. test. It’s when someone were to wake you up at 3 a.m. and ask, “What’s your sermon in one sentence?”

If you’re not sure, try putting your sermon into a single question and answer. For example: “What does God say about my anger?” or “How do I know God loves me?” 

5. Simplify.

This is the hardest part for me. I always overwrite. I try to cram all my findings and statistics and stories into one sermon. 

But over time, I’ve learned that this can kill the momentum of the message. While I still tend to fatten a sermon, I’ve been learning to cut anything that does not support the main point of the message.

There is always next week. I don’t have to say everything on one Sunday.

I also place all the deleted parts of a sermon in an “edit” file to save for later. As they say in the writer’s world: Be willing to kill your darlings. Make every word count. 

6. Do I love my people?

As I prepare a message, I pray over the people. I think of their faces, their struggles, hopes, ambitions, hurts and dreams. I ask God for a heart of grace and patience for them.

If I don’t love my people, Apostle Paul says nothing I do matters anyway (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). There are plenty of preachers who deliver dynamic truth without loving a single person in the congregation. 

Instead of looking for a tweetable one-liner, pray for a heart of love toward your people. I pray for God to soften my heart so I remember whom I’m talking to, and to remember they are like me: a sinner in need of mercy, thirsty for the Word.

7. Praise God after you’re done.

I know the neurotic moment after a sermon when you regret all the things you’ve missed and all the awkward stuff that came out of your mouth.

I know how it hurts to see people not listening to the fantastic truth of the Bible.

I know the feeling of inadequacy and limitation and weakness, thinking, “I’ll never be as good as these megachurch preachers”—which is exactly what megachurch preachers think, too. 

My friend: You won’t get this preaching thing right every time. You will make mistakes. You will have missed opportunities. You will never preach a perfect sermon (only one did). 

But praise God for the mighty privilege to share God’s Word with your people. Praise God that a group of fellow human beings would even give you the time of day. 

And prepare better for next time. 

Pray up. 

Read more.

Listen to good sermons. 

Sharpen your craft. 

Love your people. 

It’s OK to evaluate yourself, but don’t stay down. Even if you don’t see the fruit of your preaching, it’s not about that. It’s none of our business to know how God is working in people anyway.

Preaching is for His glory, regardless of outcome, and God is working in you yet. 

J.S. Park is a former atheist/agnostic, fifth degree black belt, recovered porn addict, and youth pastor in Tampa, FL. He has a B.A. in Psychology from USF and a MDiv from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also has a German shepherd named Rosco, can eat five pounds of steak in one sitting and gave away half his salary this year to fight human trafficking. He blogs regularly on his main site and his Tumblr for struggling Christians.

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Clay Gentry

commented on Oct 15, 2013

Great questions. I have especially been working on #5. To help me simplify my thoughts I started writing a morning devotion that is no longer than 5 to 7 sentences. (You can find examples at my blog claygentry.com) It has taken some getting use to but it has paid off. Also, I'm not trying to be picky but #2 struck me, especially your statement, "Doctrine is essential, but not enough." Then you proceed say Jesus is, "King of the Universe, the sustainer of galaxies and orbits and atoms, the fulfiller of biblical prophecy." However, Jesus being those things is based on doctrine. Again, I get what you're saying about Jesus being real to us and not a concept but you can't separate Jesus and doctrine, especially doctrine that deals with the reality of Jesus.

Bill Williams

commented on Oct 15, 2013

I get what you're trying to say. But just to clarify, "Jesus being those things" is not based on doctrine. We KNOW Jesus is those things based on doctrine. But Jesus IS those things independent of doctrine. To put it another way, doctrine is the means, not the goal. I've known many Christians who think Christianity is about knowing the right doctrine, rather than knowing Christ himself. Look at how many arguments on doctrine we've had on this forum in the past. Look at how many have been criticized for not holding the "correct" doctrine. The assertion that "doctrine is essential, but not enough," is an attempt to correct that error, and the point stands. "Doctrine is essential"--what we believe about what Scripture teaches is incredibly important; we need to do our best to get it right. BUT...it is "not enough"--it is not an end in itself. The purpose of doctrine is to lead us into relationship with Christ, who alone is "the truth, the way, and the life." If that relationship is not a practical reality in our life, we can know all the correct doctrine, but it won't do us any good. I know that people can get nervous when someone asserts that "doctrine is essential, but not enough." They read it as downplaying, or even dismissing outright, the role of doctrine in the the Christian experience. But doctrine is not being downplayed. It is simply being placed in its proper role. The assertion by no means implies any sort of separation between Jesus and doctrine. It makes doctrine subservient to Jesus; which ALL things should be, by the way.

Clay Gentry

commented on Oct 15, 2013

Thanks for sharing Bill excellent wording. #2 did strike me as downplaying doctrine and a little odd. But like I said, I totally get and support the point he was making.

Bill Williams

commented on Oct 15, 2013

Opps! I meant to place the above comment as a response here...Clay, I'm sure it struck others the same way as well, so your points are well taken. I've also known many Christians who talk about a relationship with Christ, but who don't pay much attention to doctrine. We must be sure we don't unintentionally feed into that error, either. Thanks for your contributions. Have a wonderful day!

Js Park

commented on Oct 15, 2013

Hey my friend, thank you so much for clarifying! I wrote the piece above and I should've done a better job spelling out the nuance of what was intended. I think you did an excellent job filling in for that. Thanks again!

Dean Johnson

commented on Oct 15, 2013

I found these very helpful. Thank you.

John Sears

commented on Oct 15, 2013

Just a remark but two of the seven are not really questions. Not sure if you placed the title on the article or the website.

Js Park

commented on Oct 15, 2013

Sorry about that! I originally wrote the piece above but didn't title it with "questions," instead calling it "checks." Thanks for pointing that out ..!

Thomas Clocker

commented on Oct 15, 2013

Don't usually get much from these so many "ways" "points" articles but this one is REALLY a great brief sermon check-up! Thanks Rev Tom Clocker

Bill Williams

commented on Oct 15, 2013

Clay, I'm sure it struck others the same way as well, so your points are well taken. I've also known many Christians who talk about a relationship with Christ, but who don't pay much attention to doctrine. We must be sure we don't unintentionally feed into that error, either. Thanks for your contributions. Have a wonderful day!

Bill Williams

commented on Oct 15, 2013

I ask the question again: why are we no longer permitted to delete our own comments?

Mike Ingo

commented on Oct 15, 2013

This helped me. Thank you for this "to the point" article!

Dennis Cocks

commented on Oct 16, 2013

Good points to remember.

Doug Torrance

commented on Oct 16, 2013

Thank you! I am NOT a trained seminary preacher... simply filling in for my Pastor wife as she recovers from heart surgery! I found the points in the blog so refreshing and encouraging! I found I have tried to follow them without even knowing what they were! Blessings.... youth ministry is a hoot!

Ron Jahn

commented on May 25, 2015

I like the points you made. I have a hard time in limiting my information and tend to give information overload. I need to keep my sermons more focused. Thanks for your info.

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