Preaching Articles

It seems to me that many athletes suffer from the desire to celebrate their accomplishments too early. We’ve all seen a huge lead blown, like the Atlanta Falcons having their 25 point lead erased by the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI or the ‘Miracle on Manchester’ where the LA Kings came back from a 5-0 deficit to beat the Edmonton Oilers (my team!) 6-5 in 1982.

Unfortunately, it’s not just athletes and sports teams who take their foot off the gas before they finish well.

Often preachers do the same with the sermon.

In what ways do preachers pull up short or mail it in at the last minute?

So much time during the week is spent in prayer, preparation and parsing Greek (not to mention brain power it takes to alliterate all three points!), and yet we sometimes miss the ultimate payoff.

Come Sunday morning many times we preachers fill our sermons with funny stories, but forget to point to the ultimate story of Jesus Christ. We mine information about ancient Middle Eastern culture but neglect the transformation of modern culture that the Holy Spirit wants to bring. We capture our hearers with a catchy intro then finish in a way that leaves them wondering “How does this apply to my life and what do I do now?

Consider these three points the next time you preach:

Make Your Sermon Gospel-Centric

Regardless of whether you are preaching from the Old or New Testament, we point to Jesus and his finished work on the cross and resurrection. Consider that fact that when Peter (Acts 2), Stephen (Acts 7) and Paul (Acts 13) preached, they took OT passages and brought them to the light of NT realities. We must do the same.

Move from Information to Transformation

I love to understand the historical backdrop of the scriptures. I enjoy diving into the details of the Seven Churches of Revelation and the significance of the letters to their context: geographical, social and spiritual. When we show the importance of the background details we make the scripture jump from the page or screen. However, we need to lead our hearers beyond what the Bible said to its original hearers to what the Bible says to each of us today. The Spirit is speaking to the Church today in Chicago, Cape Town, Cairo, and everywhere in between. The Spirit wants to breath new life into us today!

Preach it!

Make the Next Steps Clear

A smooth takeoff is appreciated, as is a gentle ride at cruising speed. But if you don’t land the plane well, it’s a wreck.

Many people in our churches have fed on a steady diet of good biblical preaching that has expanded their knowledge and engaged their emotions. But most have no clue on Monday morning what the sermon was about or what they need to do in response to the message.

If this doesn’t scare a preacher, I don’t know what will!

The cure?

Make it memorable. Make it clear.

You can put something in their hands as they leave to remind them of the one main thing you want them to take away and put into practice. This could be any number of things from a rock with a word on it, an eraser or a Dollar Store toy, depending on what you are illustrating. Or even a piece of paper with some practical next steps. Whatever you do, make sure your hearers are able to respond in some way in the moment, and throughout the week.

That’s how growth happens.

Don’t pull up at the end of your sermon. Keep pushing right until the very end. You will see good things happen in your church community.


Michael Voll is the author of Sideswiped: Three Keys to a Fresh Start After Suffering a Broken Heart. He serves as the Associate Pastor at North Pointe Community Church in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He is on the regular preaching schedule at NP and is an adjunct faculty member at Vanguard College in the School of Pastoral Leadership. He writes at You can follow him on Twitter @michaelvoll.

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E L Zacharias

commented on Jan 25, 2018

Typically, the main thing is that your ending is consistent with your beginning. A natural conclusion will often return to the opening thought. Along the way, the text is sure to amplify what is needed by the hearer. Mention of our salvation will usually come into play, mentioning that God succeeds where we fall short. This is where the Gospel shines brightest, when we realize that we fall short of the glory of God and our hearts are glad that God forgives and redeems us for the sake of Jesus Christ. This is landing the safely, where we have moved into the hearer from the point of the text to the point of repentance and then to the assurance that all is forgiven by our merciful and gracious Lord. The bumpy landing is where you revert to a LAW-BASED ending which gives the impression that your salvation really depends on your response. It doesn't.

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