From the first time I read Biblical Preaching by Haddon Robinson when I was twelve years old, I have made it my quest to be the best preacher I could be for the glory of God. By his grace, I’ve been able to preach thousands of sermons to millions of teenagers and adults all across the nation and in various parts of the world.
But I listen to sermons even more than I give them. I love good preaching and great preachers! Tony Evans, Chuck Swindoll, Erwin Lutzer, Craig Groeschel and Louie Giglio are among my favorites. I won’t tell you who are on my DNR (Do Not Recommend) list, but I will tell you that these not-so-great-even-though-popular preachers have some bad habits in common. I’ve heard them ruin great passages with their lame preaching.
With this as a backdrop, here are 5 ways to ruin a sermon:
Make it about you, not Jesus.
“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel….” 2 Timothy 2:8
The hero of the story of Scripture is Jesus. The hero of the stories in our sermons should be Jesus. It’s fine to share personal stories (I share lots), but, at the end of the day and by the end of your sermon, everyone should be applauding Jesus, not you.
The whole of Scripture points to Jesus. The Old Testament points forward to the person of Jesus. The Gospels tell the story of the life and ministry of Jesus. The book of Acts show the impact of the Spirit of Jesus through the people of Jesus. The Epistles explain the teachings of Jesus. And the book of Revelation shows the victory of Jesus.
It’s all about Jesus.
Are your sermons?
Preach stories, not Scripture.
“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.” 2 Timothy 4:1,2
The job of the preacher is to preach the Word of God. When Paul gives his younger protege, Timothy, this charge, he does so in a magnificent, majestic and almost terrifying way. He reminds Timothy that his primary audience, his audience of one, is the same God, “who will judge the living and the dead.”
Being a storyteller by nature and a preacher by spiritual gifting this has been a reality that I’ve had to wrestle with since the beginning. How do I use stories without letting them commandeer my sermon? How do I craft a well placed story to illuminate a Scriptural point, but not become the point itself? How do I use stories to get and keep attention, but consistently take my audience to the Bible?