A mist in the pulpit is a fog in the pew.“~C.H. Spurgeon
With each sermon you preach, you should be absolutely crystal clear what you want your people to take away from it. If you are murky about how they’ll be able to use your message, then you can be sure they’ll be clueless. Not to mention that they’ll pick up on your uncertainty and check out because their time is valuable and you have chosen to waste it.
As preachers who want to communicate well, clarity must be a top priority in every sermon. But it’s easy, and sometimes necessary, to focus a most of your prep time on your content and not your listeners. This makes it so crucial to think through how your listeners will receive and use your message. I want to give you three simple tests that will help you ensure that your sermon is ready to go in terms of its impact on your listeners and their ability to apply it.
This is drop-dead simple, and it’s meant to be. At this point in your prep you have already done the complicated stuff, this is the icing on the cake that helps you ensure a strong, focused delivery that accomplishes what you want. These three test did NOT originate with me. They are as standard as it gets, but so helpful. They will be another tool you can easily put to use as you prepare.
3 Things that Must be Clear Before your Sermon is Ready to Preach
What you want your listeners to KNOW (information). When you get up to preach you need to be clear about what information you want to get across. Paul, in Romans 12, says that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This means that the Word of God should continually be changing the way we think. Your sermon is one of the building blocks of this transformation for your people.
People can’t remember everything you say, but they can remember some of it. You should determine what is the most important thing you’re saying and ensure that you communicate it clearly. For your listeners to walk away knowing what you want them to know you must avoid information overload. One way to prevent this is to not preach too long.
Information transfer is not enough because people can know what they need to know and be completely comfortable doing nothing with it. There is more to preaching than making ideas clear which leads to the next test.
What you want your listeners to FEEL (inspiration). How will your sermon connect with people’s hearts? Think of the sermons that have had the most impact on you. You probably don’t just remember the facts that were shared, but the way you were made to feel. It wasn’t the fact but the powerful story beautifully told that truly moved you. Your listeners are the same, they want to be moved at an emotional level. They want to be inspired, to be lifted up, to be encouraged, to be challenged.
You should determine exactly how they should feel as a result of your sermon, and aim to create that feeling. For more on how to connect with the emotions and feelings of your listeners check out this post on building tension in your sermons.
What you want your listeners to DO (application). You need to put handles on your messages that people can grab onto. You need to be crystal clear what it looks like for your people to apply your message in real life. For more on how to give clear application to your messages check out this post on message objectives and desired responses.
Sermons must have all three of these elements to be effective
Information without inspiration is boring. Inspiration without application is useless. Here’s a simple equation to make sense of it all: Information + Inspiration + Application = killer sermon
What other things do you ensure that your sermon will accomplish before you preach it?