Every week, pastors all over the world are asked to do something that is almost impossible. Preach a message to a group of people that includes
- Teenagers to seniors
- Men and women
- Mature disciples and not-yet-believers
- The faithful and the skeptical
- Regular attenders and first-time guests
- Singles, married, divorced, and “it’s complicated”
- Those who need comfort and those who need a swift kick in the…
If you ask pastors what their toughest regular assignment is, crafting and delivering a message that ministers to people from multiple backgrounds and various spiritual conditions is at or near the top of the list.
This is something pastors are expected to do – and do well – approximately 50 weeks a year. Sometimes two or three times a week. All while keeping it fresh and new every time.
And while you’re at it, could you be
- Non-offensive, but challenging
- Intellectually rigorous, but emotionally stirring
- Scripturally based, but culturally relevant
- Spiritual, but practical
- Timeless, but current
- Humorous, but reverent
- Casual, but life-transforming
- and keep it under 25 minutes, please?
I’ve been preaching a new message every week for over 30 years myself, with mixed results. It’s still tough, but I’ve become steadily better at it. Mostly by trial-and-error.
While I don’t claim to have mastered the art, I have discovered four simple principles that serve me well.
1. Start and Stay With Scripture
This is the key. Start with prayerful time in God’s Word.
Then, don’t just use a verse or two as a jumping off point to say what you want it to say. Study it and stick with it through the entire message.
Sure, we need to use personal stories, current events and common experiences in our communication. But too many preachers are basing their sermon, not on a passage from God’s Word, but on the title of the latest movie, a news headline or the latest “a funny thing happened to me…” story.
The truth of God’s Word always speaks to everyone.
2. Learn Something New
One of the best ways I’ve found to use scripture well, is to study the passage until I discover something I never saw before. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I preached without having learned something new in the process.