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Preaching Articles

Most preachers are process junkies.

We obsess over sermon length and structure, whether-or-not to use PowerPoint, if we should preach in a series, etc.

Most of the discussions I have about preaching center on these issues. And that’s fine. These are the tools of the trade, after all, and we want to use them well.

I’ve participated in these discussions. I’ve written about how to preach better and I’m currently working on a blog post on the process I use to prepare sermon series.

But I’ve discovered a simple principle underneath all the process that we often forget.

Process should follow content, not the other way around.

I think there are two defining rules every communicator needs to follow:

1. Decide what you need to say.

2. Say it in the best way possible.

That’s it.

Everything else should follow after that. From sermon length, to series length, to use of illustrations, video clips, Q & A, etc.

Use the process that best communicates what needs to be said and let everything else go. 

Where Process Fits In the (… ummm) Process

So why talk about process at all, then? Why not just “let the Spirit lead?” (often just an excuse for people who didn’t prepare properly).

We need to understand various processes of communication so we can use the best possible process for each communication situation.

The truth is, most of us who communicate regularly (as in preaching one or two times each week and/or blogging two or three times each week, like I do), will fall into familiar patterns. And that’s fine. It’s a waste of creative energy to re-make your format for every sermon or blog post. But we should never tie ourselves down to any one process, either.

There is no “best” preaching method, just the best method available for any specific message.

For instance, pastors are fond of saying things like “no one ever complained that a sermon was too short.” In general, I agree. But not always. Shorter isn’t always better.

If a sermon (or a movie, a book, a concert, etc.) is great and requires extra time to do it well, people are OK with it going longer. A long, good sermon is better than a short, bad one.

But—let’s admit it—a short, good sermon is a thing of near-miraculous beauty.

Use the Right Tools In the Right Way

So let’s keep learning new ways to communicate. We all need to add as many helpful tools to our preaching belt as possible.

But let’s never forget to use the right tool at the right time to communicate the right message in the right way.

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Ronald Johnson

commented on Apr 14, 2015

Good article. I've heard too many sermons that throw in extraneous points for the sake of the expectations of length, or have tried to fit illustrations that were memorable, but did not serve the point well. The first church where I was pastor had a custom of 7-10 minute sermons. Some people thought I had it easy because I only had to "fill" 7-10 minutes. It forced me to do a couple of things. First, I had to discern the one point I needed to make. Second, it forced me to get rid of anything extraneous. The really cool thing was that people actually remembered what I said from week to week. I could also manuscript and memorize that manuscript for maximum effectiveness. Content had to be the driving force.

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