Rev. Alan Hewitt
Some advice given by John Maxwell’s Professor and tutor was referred to as: “The 4 Unpardonable sins of a Communicator” and is worthy to be remembered by every preacher. They are: Being unprepared, uncommitted, uninteresting and uncomfortable.
In addition, I have found the following five things very helpful:
1/. GOOD CONVICTION
Preaching is not the ability to give a talk, but a Call to deliver a message. There are salesmen that sell and salesmen that compel. The difference is conviction. Paul said “Woe is me if I preach not the Gospel,” in other words, “I have got to do this!” Good preachers KNOW they are dealing in matters of eternity. That produces PASSION and soberness. Alexander Solzhenitsyn said “One word of truth outweighs the whole world – the truth is more powerful than tanks.”
Maxwell: “You don’t have to be gorgeous, a genius, or a masterful orator to possess presence and connect with others. You just need to be positive, believe in yourself and focus on others.”
This is often something we struggle with and for some – all their lives. Those who conquer low self-image and Inner insecurities become better communicators. Knowing you are CALLED to preach is the starting point for doing it well.
2/. GOOD PREPARATION
Bill Hybels used to say that every one minute of a sermon takes one hour of preparation. There are no shortcuts to a good message. Preparation strengthens confidence and takes two man areas; the preacher and the preach.
The better the preacher is the better the sermon is. If you’re empty – the sermon won’t be full. When you preach – you pour out. What’s not in can’t come out. Preachers are responsible for filling themselves – none of us are ever full enough and FRESHNESS is not preservable! It must be maintained. The “flame of the gift of God within you” DOES NOT FAN ITSELF.
There’s not much worse that receiving the pour out from a stagnant, reluctant or worn-out preacher. Preaching requires ENERGY so if you going to preach week after week you have to learn from DRAINS YOU and what FILLS YOU and plug any energy leaks. Paul told Timothy “Watch your LIFE and DOCTRINE closely…”
Every message you preach is flavoured by your life up till now, your experiences, good & bad, your studying and your listenings. It’s vital that a preacher reads much. Charles Spurgeon told Alexander Whyte: “Sell your bed if need be, to buy books”. Or Martin Lloyd Jones would be sitting on a beach reading deep theology whilst his children paddled in the surf. American President Harry Truman had read 3,000 books by the time he was 14! Every preacher becomes what they are by the input they receive. Preachers must love the Word and learn to stew in it and wait for revelation from it. When it comes to the WORD, God has no more to give but we have more to learn.
3/. GOOD DELIVERY
A bad delivery can ruin a great sermon and a great delivery can rescue a bad sermon! Always be in LEARNING mode. Watch, observe, and listen to communicators. Preachers are not only HEARD – they are SEEN and it may surprise you to know that it is what people SEE that has the greatest communication factor during a Preach. Psychologist Albert Mehravian informs us that studies show when you preach 7% of the communication comes from your words, 38% from your voice and 55% from your facial expressions. In other words the biggest communication during a preach is non-verbal! People are seeing more than they’re hearing which is why we need to work on our delivery. You can spend hours preparing your notes, but have 30-40 minutes to present it and on many occasions that will be a first and only opportunity.
If you preach a message several times or the same theme several times, be sure to understand the principle of “the illusion of the first time;” always assume, there may be ONE person present for whom it is and they must not experience a weak presentation simply because others may have heard before.
4/. GOOD CONNECTION
Effective communication only occurs when the Speaker CONNECTS with the Listener. Getting the words out of your mouth is not the goal. The goal Is to get your words into the hearts of the listeners. Although ultimately we know it’s the work of the Holy Spirit, don’t use that as a cop out. Boring people to death does not assist the Holy Spirit! Our listeners today have built-in remote controls which enable them to switch off even though they look like they’re listening! People don’t listen because of your title but because they’re interested, so we must craft words and use illustrations to capture and hold attention.
5. GOOD APPLICATION
Every sermon should be capable of being expressed in one simple sentence. A sermon is the embodiment, development and full statement of that one significant thought. You must know it and what you want the message to achieve. There’s some debate today about Exposition versus Application but there’s no competition – it’s both.
As A W Tozer wrote, “There is scarcely anything so dull and meaningless as Bible doctrine taught for its own sake. Truth divorced from life is not truth in its Biblical sense… Theological truth is useless until it is obeyed. The purpose behind all doctrine is to secure moral action.” A Preacher is not merely filling a spot in a meeting, but working for transformation in partnership with the Almighty and so every message must be relevant and require some response.
Even in a high-tech age of multimedia, there’ s still nothing that can move the heart like an anointed preacher of truth burning with the fire of God and Paul’s advice to Timothy still stands today: “PREACH THE WORD”!