Pittsburgh Seminary continues our sermon writing tips series. Be sure to look for other tips from faculty, staff, and alums in the months ahead and read our recent posts on preaching without notes and dealing with writer’s block. Have a tip you’d like to offer or have a sermon issue you’d like help with? Let us know by using the comments option.
To ensure that you’re delivering the most effective sermons, consider these 12 questions about your preaching. They relate to both particular sermons and the overall sermon.
- Are you preaching both the Old Testament and the New Testament? Both need to be preached if you are going to give your people the full testimony of preaching.
- Are you helping people know and do? Sermons need to be about both practical living and theological insight. Some sermons might be more one or the other, but your people need both on a regular basis.
- Are you only preaching what people want to hear? If everybody loved every one of your sermons then there is probably a problem. If they hate all your sermons there is probably a problem too. People need to be both convicted and encouraged.
- Are you using the right number of stories and examples? There is a problem when you tell too many or too few examples and stories. Too many and people can actually lose the point. Too few and people won’t remember the point. Some points require more or less examples.
- Are you too point driven? People don’t remember points. They don’t think in points. They think in stories. They remember images. Gone are the days when your sermon should be jammed into a three- or four-points system.
- Do you have too much or too little energy? If you are monotone and never get excited then people will sleep. If you are too bubbly and wild then people will be scared. You need variety and to avoid extremes.
- Do you have too much or too little tradition? I like tradition. I like history. I like the creeds. But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. People live today, not 500 years ago.
- Are you too focused on biblical themes or particular passages? There are times when certain large biblical themes need to come up in sermons. There are other times when a particular passage needs to be mined for all of the precious nuggets in it. Both are important.
- Are you preaching the same message every week? So many pastors have their hobby horse like evangelism or social justice. You are not just preaching what you like. Not every sermon and topic can come back to the same idea.
- Are you preaching to your congregation? This sounds dumb, but many pastors preach with little or no regard for where their congregation is. Is your preaching understandable? Does is speak to real issues in your congregation?
- Are your conclusion too open ended or too specific? The best sermons have guidance on what to think about and how to apply them but also leave room for the message to haunt people throughout the week.
- Who is the hero in your sermons? It should be Jesus. Our faith is not about self-help. It is about God-help and how we turn around and help others.
What would you add to the list?
Jordan Rimmer ’12 is the pastor of Westminster Presbyterian Church in New Brighton, Pa. He earned his Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently working on getting his Doctor of Ministry. Before moving to Pittsburgh, he was the director of outreach and youth ministries at Glenwood Methodist Church in Erie, Pa. He is a husband and father of four children. Jordan blogs at jordanrimmer.com and tweets at @jrimmer21. His sermons are available for download on iTunes or at http://jordanrimmer.podbean.com.