The Jeremiah Institute is committed to provide materials to improve the preaching and ministry of those engaged in the great work of preaching. God’s Son was a preacher (Mark 1:38). We will cover preaching and the preacher’s work from A to Z. Make this one of your regular stops for enriching your preaching and adding fuel to your desire.
In a recent conversation with an old friend I hadn’t seen in years, he asked, “Are you still preaching?” When I answered yes, he wanted to know why because in his estimation preaching was an antique practice that no longer communicated in the twenty-first century. Obviously I was a bit taken back by his honest remark, because I believe in the power of preaching.
I preached my first sermon in 1963 and haven’t stopped, having spoken more that 10,000 times in 40 states and 23 countries, and been a trainer of preacher of over 30 years. I still preach every Sunday as a local preacher. My belief in the power of preaching is stronger today than ever because I can look back and see the power and influence of preaching, but also because of what the Bible teaches.
In a day of declining church attendance there is an urgency to turn the tide. Sadly, in many congregations the power of preaching as set forth in the Bible is set aside in preference to self-help, feel-good, let’s keep everybody happy talks. The Jeremiah fire is missing; the voice of God calling for repentance is silent. The “whole counsel” of God remains a mystery within the covers of the Bible.
The clarion voice of the preacher with a “thus saith the Lord” is needed today more than ever. Hell is still hot and eternity is without an end. The Gospel is still the only power of God unto salvation (cf. Romans 1:14-16). An entertaining message void of the Gospel, no matter how many laughs it receives, will not save one soul or snatch a backslider out of the fire (Jude 22, 23). That’s one reason Paul told Timothy to “Preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:1-7).
What gives preaching its power? It is not the rhetoric ability, charm, or academic standing of the preacher; he is no more than a “cheap clay pot” who has been entrusted by God with the Gospel power (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:7). God, not man, gives preaching its power. Here are a few reasons why this is true.
There are additional reasons why preaching is powerful. Hopefully these ten have called our attention to the need to restore this power in our pulpits. I need to make it clean also that I am not trying to limit preaching to a pulpit in a building. Philip preached in a chariot (Acts 8:29-40). Paul preached in the open air on Mars Hill (Acts 17:22-31). Peter preached in a house (Acts 10:34-48). Preaching is as powerful as it has always been, and needed more than ever. The lost and saved are waiting to hear a “cheap clay pot” preach the word (2 Corinthians 4:7).
J. J. Turner, Ph.D. is the author of three new books on preaching: How to Preach Like Jesus, Preaching Partners With God, and 77 Tips for Improving Your Preaching. They may be purchased by clicking on the links on this page.
A couple started to miss the services of the church. The preacher visited to find out why they were absent. He had thought since they were empty nesters maybe they had been on an extended trip. Hopefully that hadn’t been sick or been dealing with some other problems the church family didn’t know about. They were missed.
In the course of the conversation, when asked why they had been missing services; the husband replied, “To be honest preacher… it’s your sermons. We weren’t getting anything out of them. I know it may not be a good reason but it’s the truth.”
The claim of not getting anything out of a sermon is heard frequently from church members. It is one of the major complaints Satan instigates in the Body of Christ. In some cases the complaints have been leveled by “prominent” members of a congregation with enough clout to get preachers fired.
I confess that through the years I have heard some sermons I had to struggle to get something to take away. Even in those cases I was able to jot down Scripture references and ask questions; getting something out of the sermon.
The preaching event is an amazing dynamic. It involves many factors. It involves the preacher, the listener, the Word, other attendees, the environment, and includes the presence of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. And oh yes, Satan is present so he can “steal the word out of hearts so they can’t believe” (Luke 8:12). Keep this picture in your mind.
In a communication class I jotted down these filters that impact the listening skills affecting the members in an audience:
Awareness of the dynamics of the preaching event help us to see why, at best, communication is an ongoing challenging; especially for listeners. The preaching event is more than a two-way exercise—the preacher and the listener—it involves numerous factors, such as above, that determines what we get out of a sermon.
God gave each of us two ears and one mouth; evidently He wants us to listen twice as much as we talk. We spend 60 percent of our waken minutes listening; remembering about 25 percent of what we hear (If we pay close attention).
Jesus had this to say about listening:
On the Day of Pentecost, while Peter was preaching, we read this about the audience: “Now when they HEARD this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Obeying the Gospel relates to how a person listens.
The opposite reaction occurred during Stephens’ sermon to the Jews: “When they HEARD these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth” (Acts 7:54). When God’s word is proclaimed it never fails to accomplish something: “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me VOID, but is shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the things for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).
As we have noted the preaching event is a very involved and dynamic event. It is more than just coming, taking a seat, and looking at the preacher. Likewise it involved more than preparing a sermon, standing in a pulpit, and speaking words.
Since this lesson is about how to get more from a sermon, the emphasis is on the listener. Going to the preaching event is like going to the bank. If you don’t put something in you won’t get anything out.