As a pastor, I do a lot of different things in the course of a week. In my opinion, none of those things are more important than the task of preaching. From study to outline to writing to delivery, this task takes up a significant part of each week. As I think about the task of preaching, here are seven goals I aim for each week:
- Exegesis and Exposition. Exegesis refers to the task of interpreting a text correctly, while exposition refers to the task of describing the truths found in a text. It is not my job to pontificate about my personal thoughts or opinions. It is not my job to discuss matters that are not rooted in the Word of God. Rather, my job as a preacher involves rightly interpreting the biblical text and accurately explaining the truths found in a text.
- Clarity, not Confusion. Clarity has to begin in my own mind as I study a passage. If the story or argument is not clear in my mind, I’ll never be able to make it clear for other people. This clarity also has to extend to the structure of my sermon, the notes and slides I provide, and the actual words I speak. If I impress people with my intellect but fail to communicate clearly, I’ve failed in my task as a preacher. Clarity is a must in preaching.
- Gospel Truths. Many passages don’t seem to have a direct connection to the good news about Jesus. Think Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and many Old Testament stories. In these passage, the preacher must find gospel truths like the holiness of God, the sinfulness of man, the promises of God, and the necessity of repentance and faith. Any time these ideas are found in a passage, the preacher has a direct path to the gospel message.
- Jesus as the Hero. Too often I’ve heard sermons that lifted up Noah, Abraham, Moses, Samson, Ruth, Hannah, David, Jeremiah, Daniel, Peter, or Paul as the hero of a particular story. The point of the sermon is basically, “Be like that person.” While these men and women do set a positive example for God’s people, they are not the hero of the story. Our story has one Hero and his name is Jesus. The preacher must always point to the Hero.
- Challenge the Complacent. In the Bible belt there are many people who have been lulled into a false sense of complacency. They have settled for a cultural perversion of Christianity that is socially acceptable. These people need to hear the Bible’s call for genuine repentance. They need to see the depths of their sin. They need to begin to grasp the holiness of God. They need to fear God. The preacher’s job is to challenge the complacent.
- Encourage the Discouraged. Others in your congregation are discouraged, and many have tender consciences. When you preach hell fire and brimstone (in an attempt to challenge the complacent), you run the risk of crushing these sensitive souls. So while you challenge the complacent, you also have to encourage the discouraged with the hope of the gospel. You must talk about God’s love and grace and mercy and patience.
- To Live What I Preach. This may be the greatest challenge of all. Before a preacher ever steps in front of his people with a message, he must be willing to look himself in the mirror. I never want to call my people to do something I haven’t been willing to do myself. I never want to impress gospel truth on my people that I don’t already see as beautiful. Every preacher must make sure that he actually lives what he preachers to others.
Originally published October 17, 2016 on landoncoleman.com.