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In my sermon consulting work, sometimes individuals indicate difficulty finding something to "celebrate." As you know, celebration is the time in the sermon where we intellectually experience the truth of the message. However, sometimes individuals look long and hard for something to celebrate and can't find it either in the text or in their sermons.

Is There Good News?

First, look for the good news. Certainly, there are times when celebration is not warranted, but in most cases, our sermons should have good news. So what do you celebrate? The truth of the good news in your text. Ultimately, if you have difficulty finding a celebration, then I would encourage you to attempt to find the connection to the Gospel first. Then, more than likely, the celebration will jump out at you.

Where Is God's Activity?

Second, look for God's activity rather than ours. A sermon full of prescriptions will make it difficult to find something to celebrate. Certainly, there are times when a "celebrative challenge" might be helpful, but sometimes we find it difficult to find the close in our sermon because we overemphasize our responsibility or activity over God's activity for humanity. 

Some of these sermons end up having the pastor either castigate the people for not doing "this or that," or they end up being prescriptions for the people to do "this or that." This is not a conservative versus liberal thing. Liberals have their "this or that" moments just as conservatives. So sometimes, we castigate the people for not being loving or making the newcomer more welcome. Sometimes, we castigate the people for not following the commands of God. Sometimes, we castigate the people for looking at the wrong television programs or wearing their "pants too low or skirts too high." Sometimes, we castigate the people for sexual promiscuity and other areas of sexuality. 

Certainly, there is a place for correction, but if that is all your sermon all the time, then it will be difficult to find the celebration. I would encourage you to think about and preach about what God does for humanity in addition to the ethical demands of living in line with God. Then you will find it easier to get that close.

Who Empowers the People?

Finally, if you must emphasize our activity, emphasize God's making our activity possible. There are times when we need to do a challenge. There are times when you must emphasize human activity but I would encourage you to spend a little time discussing how God makes that activity possible. God empowers our living. God makes godly living possible. God enlightens our mind to what we should do. So even though the brunt of your sermon may be about human activity, that does not mean that you don't make room for God. 

In short, if God is not in your sermon, then it is not a sermon, it is a "suggestion." Whether you have a celebrative close or not, I would encourage you to make sure that the "Good News" is clear in the sermon. In addition, who God is and what God does for and in humanity should be just as prominent as your prescriptions for Christian living.

Sherman Haywood Cox II is the director of Soul Preaching. He holds the M.Div with an emphasis in Homiletics and a M.S. in Computer Science.

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Keith B

commented on Jun 29, 2012

Good article.

Michael Morton

commented on Jun 29, 2012

What k b said

Zachary Bartels

commented on Jun 29, 2012

Yeah, good stuff, although I admit I had a hard time getting past the first five words... What preacher has the time/money/lack of preaching ability to hire a "sermon consultant?" I'm hoping it's more of a one-time analysis to help people improve their preaching, rather than what it sounds like (a guy who consults with you while you prepare your sermon every week). :)

Charles M. King

commented on Jun 29, 2012

I never heard of a sermon consultant. In all my years of speaking and preaching from the word of God, He has always armed me in advance with a powerful, positive message. The scriptures are about good news and as long as we preach from there we should end up with good news. We must be careful not to let our personal woes poison our message. I find that most people know where their activity is taking them. my messages offer a positive, "good news" alternative leaving them to make a choice.

Elver Mendenhall

commented on Jun 29, 2012

This is the struggle that we often find ourselves in. We are often so full of passion for what we are preaching, so full of passion to see our people walk in all that God has for them, so full of passion to see them walk in victory, that we can cross the line where our passion turns into judgement and our attempts at encouragement ends up being discouraging. Thanks Sherman for stirring us.

Robert Lum

commented on Jun 29, 2012

Great reminder to pastors. I particularly like the last part that says, "if God is not in your sermon, then it is not a sermon, it is a 'suggestion.'" We find that even in passages of judgement, God's purpose is to get the people to return to Him and be delivered. Thanks!

Ephrem Hagos

commented on Jun 29, 2012

Lack of good news in a sermon means boredom with the gospel, in turn, a sure sign that the preacher has no knowledge of Jesus Christ who is the Good News!

Ian Field

commented on Jun 30, 2012

I echo the sentiments of Zachary Bartels and Charles M. King. The Holy Spirit is my only "sermon consultant." Sherman, please explain your "ministry".

John E Miller

commented on Jun 30, 2012

Sherman Cox referred in passing to his "sermon consulting work". We should not rush to condemn that. It may be that the Lord has laid this task upon him to help for example young preachers who seek his help. His point about looking for God's activity is very powerful and apposite. We are so taken up with what we have done. Concentrate on what God has done, is doing and will do in Christ. That is the very best news we can bring. If you read Peter's sermon in Acts 2 you find that he concentrates entirely on what God has done, culminating in that majestic statement in verse 36. Good news indeed!

Sherman Haywood Cox Ii

commented on Jun 30, 2012

Pardon me...I usually allow the good discussion to go on without intrusion, but it seems that may are caught up with the term "sermon consultant." I would ask those of you who seem to have issue with this, have you ever had someone ask you to evaluate a sermon? Have they asked you what can they do to improve it? All who have been to seminary have had such evaluations. My work is largely to those who have not had that opportunity to go to seminary and want someone to evaluate their work. If you don't like the term "sermon consultant" how about "sermon creation teaching work?"

Godwin Okoye

commented on Jun 30, 2012

One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is love. Within that love is grace. When we are ruled by the Holy Spirit, our words and responses to situations reveal an underlying grace. I am a little concerned with the criticisms of the ministry of "sermon consulting", because I dont see or feel much grace/love in those criticisms. In the article itself, the brother states that people do consult with him on/about sermons. Personally I have watched a couple of his videos and read one or two of his articles. I have not seen where his work hurts the gospel of Christ. Instead, I have seen positive contributions aimed at making sermons to connect better with people. The wisdoms in his teachings seem Godly and biblical to me. Let's encourage the brother in these endeavors:-)

Prescott Jay Erwin

commented on Jun 30, 2012

Great job, Bro. Sherman!

Mh Constantine

commented on Jul 1, 2012

It seems that the difference in a message without something to celebrate, and a message with something to celebrate, boils down to how much grace we have in our hearts and hence in the message. Long sentence, I know. Thanks, Sherman, for your great comments.

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