I have been thinking about some keys to preaching lately. Especially preaching to your audience and context.
In my most recent church the congregation was a wide range of ages and most were mature Christians, but they did not have a Pastor for four years before I came. So I kept that in mind when preparing my sermons.
Here are some keys I tried to focus on.
1. Biblical – 95% of my messages were based on Bible passages. I aimed to do an introduction, read a passage, share 3-5 points from the text with cross references, summarise the main points and close in prayer.
2. Brief – I found that 20 minutes was about right in my context. By the time I did the things above and prayed, most sermons were 20 minutes or 2000 words for me. Any longer than that I found that some people started to lose focus.
3. Powerpoint – I always used Powerpoint with the title of the message, the passage, the key points and verses and then the closing summary points. This seemed to help people with their notes and remembering.
4. Series – Preaching in a series or working your way through a Bible book was another key. Generally I would focus on one chapter a week. People knew if I did James 1 one week, then the next it would be James 2.
5. Website – One thing I did each week was to include the sermon text and audio on the church’s website. As I wrote full transcript the congregation could listen to or read the sermon again or catch up if they were away.
6. Fun – I tried to make the sermons fun. Sometimes I told a clean joke beforehand. Sometimes I threw out treats if people could remember my first point or a key fact. This got everyone involved.
7. Practical – my final key was to make it practical. Application points that we could reflect on and put into practice were key. I wanted to give people things that would help them follow Jesus in the church and in the community.
8. Communication – the heart of preaching is communicating. So sermons need to be sent by the preacher and received by the listeners. You can preach the best sermon in the world, but if the people are not getting something to take home, then you have missed the mark.
Preaching for me is a real blessing. It is hard work in the prayer-peration, but it is so good to be able to share God’s eternal Word with people and see their lives change.