By Rev. Earnest Thomas
The purpose for providing these preaching tips is to help the preacher become a better proclaimer of God's Word. It is
designed to help young and old preacher alike. It may be new information to some and a refresher to others. Whatever the
case, it is my prayer that God will richly bless your ministry of proclaiming His Word!
After you have prayed and sought God's face for a message, there are five things you should measure your sermon by:
1. IS THE MATERIAL FRESH?
We all know preachers who have two or three great sermons that they preach wherever they go. Or, how about the preacher
that went to the convention and purchased a few sermons for the year. Do these preachers really experience the
ANNOINTING of God on their preaching? Probably not.
Most of us are not thrilled to eat leftovers in our home. So why should a parishioner be served leftover sermons? Now being
a Pastor, I know the pressures of having to prepare a sermon for each Sunday and with little time to prepare it. Most of us
live busy lives with job, family, ministry and preaching God's Word. Still, there is no excuse to fall into the trap of preaching
the same sermon over and over again.
Some years ago, a very well known preacher conducted revival at our home church in New Orleans. He did a great job that
week and the entire church was blessed by his preaching. About a year after the revival my wife had the pleasure of hearing
him preach at another church in the city. However, this time she was very disappointed. He preached the very same
sermon she had previously heard. The same sermon - word for word! She deserved better than that. And your congregation
Go to God for a fresh sermon, fresh outlook, and fresh material. You can use the same biblical text, but it is not advisable
for you to use a previously preached sermon. You owe it to yourself, to your congregation, and to God that each sermon be
fresh, unique, and exciting.
2. IS THIS SERMON RIGHT FOR THE PEOPLE, TIME & PLACE?
Just as important as preparing the "perfect sermon" is preaching it at the right time and place. Some years ago when I was
first called to pastor, I preached a sermon entitled "Godly Fathers". I talked about the need of godly fathers in the home,
and how much of a blessing the godly father and his family would receive by his living up to God's Word. The sermon had all
of the appropriate stories and life applications. There was one little problem. After I finished preaching, a parishioner
approached me and stated, "Pastor, that as a good sermon, but Father's Day is next Sunday!" It was a good sermon, but at
the wrong time.
On another occasion, some years ago, I was invited to preach at my mother's small and traditional Baptist church just
outside of Baton Rouge, Lousiana. I wanted to talk about the faithfulness of God compared to our unfaithfulness. I selected
certain scriptures from the Book of Hosea. I entitled my sermon, "The Preacher and the Prostitute". Finally, when I
preached that day, I used all my imagination to paint the picture of a modern day preacher married to a prostitute. And
although she (symbolizing man) was very unfaithful to him, yet he (symbolizing God) remained faithful to her. It did not go
well. The traditional congregation had difficulty understanding such imagery and language. Once again, it was a good
sermon but the wrong people.
The point is, no matter how great a sermon you prepare, it must be appropriate for the people, time and place you are
preaching. A preacher should know his audience. If the congregation is traditional, "Preacher and Prostitute" stories will be
less likely get the point across.
How about preaching on Special Days?
Most preachers' calendars are filled with special occasions. The list includes Mother's Day, Father's Day, Children/Youth
Day, Usher's Day, Choir Annual Day, Church Anniversary, etc. The list is endless. It seems that every other Sunday is
some special day. My father in the ministry, Dr. Charles Martin, Sr., does a very good job of preaching a sermon that
honors the special occasion. Since I am not that gifted, I have learned not to limit my preaching to the special day or theme
of the hour. As I prepare my sermon I take into consideration the people, time and place that I will be preaching. And I ask
God to bless me with a Word that will minister to their needs. If you preach to the needs of the congregation it really does
not matter what the occasion or theme, the entire congregation will be blessed.
3. IS THE SERMON FILLED WITH EXAMPLES, STORIES & APPLICATION?
It has been said, "Scripture has only one correct interpretation, but many applications." Therefore, a preacher's sermon
should make sure that scripture is correctly interpreted AND it has life applications.
Many people go to church on Sunday seeking answers for life's problems. The rent is due; the baby's daddy has not come
home from Saturday night and so on. If you preach scripture like it was from a history or science book instead of the Living
Word of God, you will not hold their attention. If you do not hold your congregation's attention or they don't understand then
your preaching is in vain.
When delivering a message, the best way to convey life application is to make sure that your sermons contain stories,
examples, illustrations, and analogies. For every sermon point, ask yourself if there is a way to convey its life application.
Then you can use a story or illustration to make your point clear and reinforce it.
Jesus was the greatest preacher that ever lived. When he preached, the crowd would push their way to get closer to hear
his words. Not only that, but the people would stay all day to hear Him speak. So what made Jesus such a popular
preacher in His day?
Life application is one thing that set Jesus apart from all others in His preaching and teaching. He did not speak like the
Pharisees and scribes. They burdened the people with legalism. But Jesus took the Word of God and showed how it
applied to everyday living. He talked to farmers about farming and fishers about fishing. He used stories, parables,
illustrations, comparisons and contrasts to convey life applications to His listeners. He preached in a language that the
people could understand and used subjects that interested the common man.
As I watch preachers on television, I see many that know Greek and Hebrew. They can site all types of statistics. But they
don't hold my attention because they fail to tell me how the scripture applies to my life. Most in your audience have the
attitude that "if it's not about me then I am not interested."
Also, too many preachers use Sunday morning as an opportunity to impress the congregation with their wealth of
knowledge. The preacher's job is to get the congregation to understand and apply the Word of God to his/her life.
There is a very popular preacher in Dallas, Texas. Since I had never heard him preach, a friend of mine gave me one of his
sermons on tape. I listened to the tape but came away somewhat puzzled. I am a fairly intelligent person but I needed a
Thesaurus to understand his sermon. He used words that only a champion scramble player would use. If an educated
person can not understand the sermon, then how will others that are not blessed to have a formal education understand?
One of the greatest compliments I have ever received was from a dear elder saint. She said, "Earnest your sermons are so
simple that anyone can understand them." Stories, illustrations, examples, etc. make a sermon easy to understand and
4. DOES THE SERMON TAKE FOREVER TO MAKE ITS POINT?
Maybe I should start by saying that you should make sure your sermon has a main point, objective or goal. In other words,
what do you want the sermon to accomplish? And getting the congregation to shout is not the correct answer. What
change do you want your congregation to make once you have finished preaching? Do you want them to be better givers?
How about becoming better evangelists on their jobs and in the community? The sermon must have a main goal or objective.
When I first started preaching in 1994, my father in the ministry told me that sometimes it is easier to prepare a sermon
starting with the conclusion and working to the beginning. Of course back then I did not understand what he was talking
about. He meant that your sermon should have a main point or focus and everything you say should support or reinforce
that main point. Remember, if your sermon does not have a main point then you are pointless.
I am always amazed when I hear some of our elder statesmen of the ministry preach. I am talking about the likes of C.A.W.
Clark, E.V. Hill, or Manual Scott. They preach half as long as any young preacher and say twice as much. So why does it
take all day for some preachers to deliver a sermon?
A good communicator tries to make his/her point as concise as possible. I am not trying to put a time limit on anyone's
preaching but know your congregation. At my church I know the congregation's attention span is about 45 minutes. So my
sermons average about 35 minutes in time. If I preach for an hour, there is a great move of God on hand or my check
bounced from last Sunday.
Once again, don't quench the Spirit but use wisdom. Unfortunately, I have been in the congregation when the preacher
wanted to preach the entire Bible. He preached from Genesis to Revelation. And he lost the congregation some where
From personal experience, I have noticed that I tend to preach longer when I am not as prepared as I should be on Sunday.
So I find myself doing what is called "filibuster". That is saying a lot of words that don't mean anything. I think a lot of
preachers filibuster on Sunday because they really don't have a good sermon. Don't waste people time. It is a lot easier to
make a point in your preaching if you have one.
5. IS THE SERMON BASED ON FOUNDATIONAL TEACHING?
After considering all of the above points 1) is the material fresh; 2) is the sermon appropriate for the people, time, and place;
3) does it contain stories, examples, and life applications; and 4) does it take forever to make the desired point. The most
important thing is to make sure the sermon is theologically correct.
Foundational teaching is built on the Word of God with the purpose of building up His church, the body of Christ. First and
foremost, always be sure your sermons are theologically accurate. The Word of God can not be changed to fit our views,
emotions, or traditions. Try your best to rightly divide the Word of Truth.
The purpose of preaching is to build up the body of Christ. Preaching is not entertainment. Our purpose is not to make
people shout. Our purpose is to build up the body of Christ and to help mature the saints. If during the preaching process
the congregation shouts and praises God, then great.
However, too many preachers spend a lot of precious time making sure their sermons have cleaver titles, rhyming words and
all the right cliques. But they don't spend any time making sure the sermon contains foundational teaching or is
theologically correct. It is similar to a parent that serves his/her child candy for every meal. Breakfast, lunch and diner, the
child is given candy to eat. The child will be full of energy and bouncing off the wall. But this does not mean that candy is a
good diet or that the child is healthy from eating all that candy. A lot of churches are like the candy child. On Sunday, there
is a whole lot of jumping and shouting going on. But it does not mean the sermon was rightly divided or that the church is
Some months ago my associate pastor came to me very distressed. The previous Sunday he had preached during the
11:00 church service. But he did not receive a very warm reception from the congregation during his preaching. Although,
his delivery was not exciting, the sermon was theologically correct. Yet, he was very concerned that he had done something
wrong because no one shouted during his preaching. I asked him one question. "Do you preach for response or results?"
He said, " Results." So I reminded him that last Sunday after he had preached that someone accepted Christ as Lord and
Savior. Based on that fact, I believe he preached a good sermon. Foundational preaching and teaching will always reap
Finally, since a lot of Christians shy away from mid-week Bible study it becomes even more important that your sermons
contain some theological teachings. Use whatever study materials are available to make sure your sermon is accurate. This
would include the use of commentaries, Bible dictionaries, Word studies, etc.