A preacher was greeting folks at the door after the service. A woman said, “Preacher, that was a very good sermon.”
Modestly the preacher replied “Thank you, but I have to give the credit to the LORD.”
“Well, It wasn’t THAT good!” she responded.
What is a good sermon?
One sage defined a good sermon this way: “It should have a good beginning. A good ending. And they should be as close together as possible.”
Famed expositor and Bible teacher G. Campbell Morgan provided one of most succinct summaries of what constitutes a good sermon. “If I am asked to condense into words the essentials of a sermon, I do it with these three: Truth, Clarity, Passion.”
(1) A good sermon is based on Truth
Truth is objective. Not subjective. Truth is the sum total of God’s revealed Word (Ps 119:160).
Jesus said, “Sanctify them through thy Word, thy Word is truth” (Jn. 17:17). Jesus is the epitome and essence of truth (Jn. 14:6) It was the truth into which the Holy Spirit guided the apostles (Jn 16:13). Paul based his preaching on the truth of Christ (1 Tim. 2:7). So should preachers today.
Any sermon today that is of benefit to its hearers must be Bible-based and Christ-centered. We must give book, chapter and verse for all we say. The old adage “speak where the Scriptures speak and be silent where the Scriptures are silent” is still relevant in the 21st century.
(2) A good sermon is understandable.
Truth needs to be preached in clear, concise, and concrete terms. Sermons filled with theological jargon, big words or ambiguous explanations are not a compliment to a preacher and do an injustice to the hearer.
Homer Hailey used to tell us preacher boys, “Jesus said to feed my sheep, not feed my giraffes.” Let’s put it down where the people can understand what we are saying.
When Peter preached on Pentecost, his pointed sermon pricked the hearts of those who cried, “Men and brethren what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37) There was no misunderstanding Paul in Philippi when he was put in prison for preaching Christ (Acts 16). Today we need more plain and pointed preaching that will penetrate and pierce the hearts of our hearers.
Paul wrote and preached in a way “where when you read, ye can understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ” (Eph. 3:4). The preacher’s job is to help people “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17). Preachers should follow the example of Ezra who “read distinctly, give the sense and cause them to understand” (Neh. 8:8).
Truth should be presented with a correct exposition, clear explanation and a practical application to our daily lives.
(3) A good sermon is presented with passion.
While every preacher possesses a different style and manner of presentation, we need proclaimers who are passionate and persuasive in their preaching.
An old-time preacher once said, “I preach as if I never should preach again, and as a dying man to dying men.” Or as William McPhail put it, “The best cure for sleeping sickness in the pew is some soul-stirring preaching from the pulpit.”
A study of the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament preachers reveals an urgency to their message. Boldness in their manner. And fervor in their presentation.
Time, circumstance, moral problems, local situations and the pressing needs of the hour will determine what I will preach this Sunday. The same is true for all preachers. Everywhere. And little by little and week by week, I will “declare the whole counsel of God” and give the audience not what they want, but what they need at this precious moment.
But regardless of the topic or the text, Morgan’s three word exhortation should define our preaching: Truth. Clarity. Passion.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman