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13 Characteristics of Great Sermons — Inspired by Charles Spurgeon

13 Characteristics of Great Sermons

Nothing changes a human heart like the preaching of the Word of God. Also, nothing grows a church faster than better preaching. Here are 13 characteristics of great sermons, inspired by Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students. 

13 Characteristics of Great Sermons

Over 100 years ago, the legendary Charles Haddon Spurgeon felt a deep desire to impress on others the importance of preaching and the components of a great sermon. In his treatise Lectures to My Students, he wrote these convicting words.  As you read them, it feels they are more relevant today than ever before.

“Sermons should have real teaching in them, and their doctrine should be solid, substantial, and abundant. We do not enter the pulpit to talk for talk’s sake; we have instructions to convey important to the last degree, and we cannot afford to utter petty nothings.  Our range of subjects is all but boundless and we cannot , therefore, be excused if our discourses are threadbare and devoid of substance. If we speak as ambassadors for God, we need never complain of want of matter, for our message is full to overflowing. The entire gospel must be presented from the pulpit; the whole faith once delivered to the saints must be proclaimed by us. The truth as it is in Jesus must be instructively declared so that the people may not merely hear, but know, the joyful sound…Nothing can compensate for the absence of teaching.”

After reading his thoughts, the following are 13 Characteristics Of A Great Sermon, based on snippets from Spurgeon’s teaching. Spurgeon’s thoughts are quoted along with the characteristic they inspired.

A great sermon has real teaching. “Sermons should have real teaching in them.”

A great sermon has solid doctrine. “And their doctrine should be solid.” The sermon is biblically accurate.

A great sermon has content with great worth and value. It’s “substantial.”

A great sermon has plentiful content. “Abundant.” Get ready to take a lot of notes!

A great sermon is not “a talk.” “We do not enter the pulpit to talk for talk’s sake.” Preachers are not communicators. See more on Point #9.

A great sermon is important and relevant. “We have instructions to convey important to the last degree.”

A great sermon is not shallow. “We cannot afford to utter petty nothings.”

A great sermon is delivered by an equipped pastor possessing a great breadth and depth of biblical knowledge. “Our range of subjects is all but boundless and we cannot, therefore, be excused if our discourses are threadbare and devoid of substance.”

A great sermon is in actuality a message from God. Pastors do not give talks. They deliver a message on behalf of God for His people at a specific moment and time in human history. Spurgeon wrote, “If we speak as ambassadors for God.”

Pastors who preach great sermons never lack for content. “We need never complain of want of matter, for our message is full to overflowing.” If you preach verse-by-verse through entire books of the Bible, you will never run out of content.

Great sermons present the entire gospel. “The entire gospel must be presented from the pulpit; the whole faith once delivered to the saints must be proclaimed by us.”

Great sermons instructively declare Jesus. “The truth as it is in Jesus must be instructively declared so that the people may not merely hear, but know, the joyful sound.”

Nothing else can compensate for a great sermon. “Nothing can compensate for the absence of teaching.”

After reading this list, pretend you are greeting people after your latest sermon and you discover Spurgeon was in the audience. Would he walk up to you and say, “Great sermon, pastor”? If not, what can you do to improve your preaching?

This article originally appeared here.

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Brian Dodd is a church stewardship & leadership consultant. See www.briandoddonleadership.com for additional insights.