Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Miles Welch, who serves as our Pastor of Leadership Expansion at 12Stone Church and leads our Church Residency Program. The 12Stone Church Residency Program is a two-year, full time, post college leadership development program for emerging leaders who feel called to vocational church ministry. You can follow Miles on Twitter and Facebook.
As Pastor of Leadership Expansion at 12Stone Church, I have many opportunities to help young pastors upgrade their communication craft and have noticed that many young communicators make similar mistakes. However, there are also 3 guidelines to help avoid these mistakes many make in their Sunday sermons:
1) Make your sermon an invitation rather than an indictment.
Sermons that are too indicting in tone turn people off needlessly even from hearing the gospel. There is a difference between the gospel being offensive and the communicator being offensive. Instead, we ought to work hard to craft sermons that carry an inviting tone. I am not talking about watering down the content. Inviting sermons tend to be very challenging. They just aren’t needlessly negative. “Repent” is an invitation, not an indictment.
Much of the time, the change between indictment and invitation doesn’t change the content of the sermon, just the tone. Consider this example: Instead of “The sinfulness of God’s people” the sermon could be “God gives you power over sin.” Both sermons compel the listener to stop sinning…but which are people more likely to engage in? The difference is tone.
2) Spend more time on HERE and NOW rather than on THERE and THEN.
We preachers are Bible nerds…We went to college to learn about the Bible…but most of our listeners are much more interested in making their marriage, family, career and character work than the ancient context of Scripture. We make our sermon irrelevant when we spend too long talking about the THERE and THEN.
If you were teaching in the book of Exodus…how long can you speak about the “social, political and economic realities in Egypt at the time of Moses birth” before most listeners stop listening? Less than 30 seconds is my guess…maybe a bit more but not very long.
I have a deep love of Scripture and spend much time in Bible study. I love it! However as a communicator my job isn’t to reiterate what I learned in Bible study (or seminary.) My job as a communicator is to translate the Bible into the lives of the listeners…not just so they can understand what God did back THERE and THEN…but so they can live it HERE And NOW. To do this you have to be more than a student of the Bible…you have to be a student of your people. Many young communicators hide in the THERE and THEN because they do not know enough about HERE and NOW.
3) Deliver simple, clear sermons rather than complicated, theological sermons.
Warren Wiersbe says:
“Do not preach to impress your seminary professor.”
Great advice. Learn to say complicated, theological things in simple, clear ways. You do not have to be complicated to be profound or theological to be deep. Keep it simple and clear. Simplicity and clarity often make a sermon profound and deep in its own way. Most communicators want to be so clear that the people can understand. I would suggest we choose a higher standard. Be so clear the people cannot possibly misunderstand. If you take that as the standard…your sermons will have a way of getting progressively more simple and clear.
In the end, if you are clear about two things: what you want them to know and what you want them to do, you avoid these mistakes and communicate more effectively.