Preaching Articles

Recently I attended the National Preaching Summit in Indianapolis and had a great time. Preaching is on my mind as a result.

Every preacher needs to have some concentrated time to think about preaching, its calling and its craft. That’s what the last couple of days have been for me.

Among other responsibilities, I was afforded the opportunity to offer three indispensable lessons I’ve learned about preaching over the years I’ve preached. Obviously, there are many foundational things most preachers believe to be true.

So, I took the assignment as: Share three indispensable lessons other than “the givens” you have learned about preaching.

Here they are, and I’d love to hear yours.

1. The seed grows where it’s planted.

In the Parable of the Soils, Jesus reminds us it isn’t just the quality of the seed that is scattered, it’s where it falls.

I used to spend 80 percent of my time preparing sermons as opposed to preparing people. Now, that’s flipped.

Just as the leading indicator of worship’s impact on someone is how they approach God’s throne, so it goes with the sermon. We can preach our hearts out (and should), but the seed will grow where it’s planted.

The same goes for me, by the way. The text will typically impact me to the extent that I am prepared to receive it.

I wonder if we worked to prepare people as much as we do the sermon how much “better” the sermon would be, simply because there was an increased hunger and thirst for righteousness among God’s people when they heard it?

Praying for and working to prepare the hearts of God’s people is great sermon preparation.

2. Preaching is the primary place where both theology and direction are set.

We might like to believe direction, particularly, comes from elsewhere. The truth is, it comes from the pulpit.

Ideally, theology shapes direction. But in the absence of sound theology, a direction is still set—albeit a bad direction.

What and how we preach impacts both how the church sees God and how it follows Jesus as a Body. It isn’t the only thing shaping these important facets of life in Christ—it’s just the primary thing.

It took me years to embrace this reality, which I had always suspected. Once I did, it made me a more careful exegete, a more diligent preparer, and more attentive to the Holy Spirit as I prepared.

Preaching isn’t just a matter of teaching ideas. It’s also about leadership.

3. People remember true wisdom more than stories or illustrations.

Don’t get me wrong—I love good stories and illustrations. However, people can hear better jokes and stories elsewhere. Only Jesus has the words of life.

So I pay even more attention to the substance of the sermon than ever before. I used to think stories were remembered more because they were better. Then I considered another possibility—they are the only things we say that are memorable (yikes).

Illustrations are great—even vital—to good preaching. They are not, however, a sermon.

A biblical sermon focuses on the living and active Word of God. That’s what separates a preacher from Jay Leno or Garrison Keillor. People today need most what God’s Word provides.

Of course, part of the task is to not make a living word a dead or dull word. But I’ve come to realize truth changes lives—not stories or jokes.

Stories and jokes I share can contain truth, and they can accentuate truth. They themselves, however, are unlikely to change lives. The Word of God, on the other hand …

Those are three for me. How about you?


Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California — a fast-growing plant launched in 2011. Tim is also the purveyor of New Vintage Leadership — a blog offering cutting edge insights on leadership and theology and the author of numerous articles and one book: Jesus, the Powerful Servant.

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David Buffaloe

commented on Jul 13, 2013

Great article

Keith B

commented on Jul 13, 2013

Good article.

Kent Kyle

commented on Jul 13, 2013

How do you implement #1? How do you "prepare people"? Do you make it a focus of your sermons? Through discipleship? I.E., what methods do you use to cultivate the soil?

Jonathan Hughes

commented on Jul 13, 2013

What about the stories where Jesus avoided conflict when others wanted to kill him artfully avoiding a conflict? Wouldn't that be a good start? How about teaching people the truth about hell too. The truth is in there. Gods light is hell to evil. The lie regarding what hell is made what we have sacrificing life as easily as people breathe.

Jonathan Hughes

commented on Jul 13, 2013

I do not belong to any church. It is hard to prepare people for the unexpected. There must not be stony soil to begin with. Hard hearts will have a hard time swallowing what I have to say.#1, Jesus avoided conflict. People in churches seek conflict when the opportunity arises when the spirit is tested. It is tested when a person is perceived to be not one of them having a volatile name mentioned like gay zoosexual or bestialist. People wanting to harm people with the bible subconsciously thinking of the bible as a box of bullets. People need to not see the bible like a box of bullets. Because they do that do not act like Jesus. They act like the the people about to stone him. Jesus asked a question 32Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me? Saying this made the stone throwers think. A stone thrower can't throw a stone when they are thinking.

Vincent Aja

commented on Jul 16, 2013

"Stories and jokes I share can contain truth, and they can accentuate truth. They themselves, however, are unlikely to change lives. The Word of God, on the other hand ?" This is perfectly stated and to someone who wants to listen. This separates those that were called into the ministry from the professionals. People may love to hear from those who were habitually sharing jokes, but they will never be built up spiritually. I`m learning from here, more of it.

Eugene Augustine

commented on Mar 28, 2014

Thank you so much for excellent discussion. In recent times I have been asked the question.. What do I consider good preaching? .. after much bible exposition and puritanical commentary .. as one who stands in the pulpit as well..I have emphatically concluded that God does NOT need my help to get His message across.. HE USES US BUT DOES NOT NEED US!.. An attitude of servant-hood driven by humility standing in God's grace seems to produce the best results .. since Truth is exclusive by definition and absolute in existence , the one who proclaims God's truth that is closest and most accurate to God's will is usually the one most effective in disciple making! Very often , servants of God will shout the Great Commission from Matthew 28, forgetting how that passage of scripture begins.. " All Authority in heaven and earth is given to me ..".. meaning that JESUS CHRIST HAS THE FINAL AUTHORITY IN THE DISCIPLE MAKING PROCESS.. We are also subjected at times to carnal preaching which stems from pride filled objectives using hypocritical means all in the name of love! A simple example of this can be demonstrated when servants take 2 Timothy 3:16 out of context .. Paul writes that ALL SCRIPTURE IS GOD BREATHE AND IS USEFUL ..ETC .. IT DOES NOT SAY THAT ALL PREACHING IS GOD BREATHE, AND IS USED FOR ! THERE'S A GROSS DISTINCTION BETWEEN WHAT IS " USEFUL " VS WHAT IS USED FOR !! This heresy has caused more emotional bruising through the airways than gracious and spiritual transformation! GOD INDEED USES SERVANTS BUT DOES NOT NEED US TO ULTIMATELY DO THE JOB.. HE SAID TO PETER THAT HE WILL BUILD HIS CHURCH .. SCRIPTURE IS SUFFICIENT! CHRIST IS KING.. HE STARTED IT AND WILL FINISH IT'S PURPOSE! GOD BLESS YOU ALL .. Would love to read your thoughts! Euge

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