According to no less an authority than the Apostle Paul, the spoken message of Christ crucified is one the ways God has chosen to bring his message of salvation to the world (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).
Because preaching matters, those of us who are entrusted to do so need to engage in it with all we have. Never being satisfied with our current skill level. Always seeking to preach the Word with greater skill, authority, anointing and effectiveness.
In response to this mandate, I’ve made several big changes to the way I deliver the Sunday sermon in the 25+ years I’ve been preaching at my church (over 30 years of preaching all together).
First, because people hear differently now than they did 25 years ago. And it’s not just that they have shorter attention spans, or that they watch video more than they read. Giving into those realities often does more to dumb things down than lift the message up.
Simply put, people process their information in different ways than they used to. Our language keeps changing, our common experiences are fewer, illustrations that used to be universal no longer are, and so on.
Second, I have to keep growing and learning. Like writing, bricklaying or guitar-playing, preaching is a skill. We either get better at it or we become stale.
So, given those reasons, I’ve gone through 5 major preaching methods over the last 25 years, in the following order:
1. The Classic Three Point Sermon
This is how I was taught to preach in Bible College:
- Intro: Let the listeners know what the sermon is going to be about.
- Body: Deliver the message. This is where the three points come in. A beginning, middle and end.
- Conclusion: Recap your message by reminding them of what your message was about.
In other words, tell them what you’re going to tell them, then tell them, then tell them what you told them.
I preached that way for a lot of years, and it was effective in an era when things moved slowly, people sat quietly and repetition was an aid to memory.
But soon, it wasn’t enough, so I moved to the next way of preaching, which included a cool, new handle.
Oh the joy of making your points rhyme. Or all start with the same letter. Or spell G.R.A.C.E. or F.A.I.T.H.
We were told this was a very helpful way for people to recall the sermon later. And it made sense. But it didn’t work. Certainly an alliteration can be helpful for remembering a principle that you have to use every day, but it’s not much better than a three-point sermon when you’re throwing a new alliteration at them every week.