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11 Deadly Mistakes That Take the Preaching Focus Away From Jesus

6. Preach your opinion or hobbyhorses instead of what the text says. 

How can you excellently allow the Word of God to stand on its own when you ignore how God the Holy Spirit originally inspired the literary makeup of the text in its specific historical context? If the Word of God needs your innovation, it is no longer the Word of God. The Word of God is powerful because of its Author, not because of its messenger (you). Where the Bible speaks, God speaks. Get out of the way and help your hearers hear Him speak by preaching exactly what His Word says, brought from its original context into the context of your hearers.

5. Use Greek and Hebrew to impress. 

Do you know Greek and Hebrew? Do your hearers know Greek and Hebrew? If not, then why use Greek and Hebrew in your sermons? Do the exegetical work during your study time and only use Greek and Hebrew in your sermon when it is necessary in order to communicate the text. This rule is true: Most pastors who use Greek and Hebrew in their sermons do not know Greek and Hebrew, and most Greek and Hebrew scholars who are pastors do not use Greek and Hebrew in their sermons.

Here is a good rule of thumb: Prepare and preach your sermon as if the original author of the Scripture is in your audience. If he and God the Holy Spirit can say “amen” to your sermon, then you have succeeded … but remember that both of them know what they intended, and they are fluent in the biblical language in which they wrote the Scripture.

4. Ignore your hearers. 

I preach in a rural church in Kentucky, and if you preach in a church in a large city, the language that both of us are allowed to use will be very different. Big theological words are intimidating in my area. By-words such as “crap,” “p*ss” and “s*cks” cannot be said from the pulpit unless you want your people leaving thinking about the dirty words you used.

Furthermore, I’ve heard in certain cultural contexts you can say “sh*t” from the pulpit. I would be voted out of my church before I finished my sermon if I used such language. If it is possible that it will offend, don’t use the language! You will not know what might offend your audience if you do not consider their context. Moreover, your sermon illustrations should be understandable to your audience. If you are preaching to the elderly, they will not understand a reference to the Twilight Saga, Kanye West, Eminem, etc., but you can probably reference Johnny Cash. If you are preaching in a city, farming references may not be easily understood. Consider these realities when preparing your sermon.

3. Neglect teaching your hearers to enjoy God. 

Teaching Christians that the value of the Bible is bound up in its literary make-up, cool battle stories or miraculous elements will not help your audience to truly love God. It will merely help them to enjoy the genres or stories of Scripture. Any atheist can enjoy these elements; however, Christians should ultimately enjoy the Word of God because it is the Word of God.

2. Tell a joke or story that has nothing to do with the text.

Why would you use a joke or story that has nothing to do with the text? You want your hearers to think on the text, not on something else. When you detract from the text, you are only doing the devil’s and their flesh’s work for them, because they don’t want your hearers to focus on the text, either.

1. Leave Christ out of your sermon. 

The Old Testament details creation, the fall/sin, God’s promised redemption of His people and the gradual unfolding of this plan. The New Testament details God’s salvation of His church through the finished work of Christ alone. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament, the Prophet, Priest and King in the New Testament, and He’s returning soon to rule and reign forevermore.

Thus, the Bible is a book about Jesus. There’s no text in the Old or New Testament that can be preached as if Jesus has not lived, died and rose from the dead to forgive sinners and reconcile them to God. Jesus should be included in every sermon since He is the point of Scripture.  

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Jared has served in pastoral ministry since 2000. He is the pastor of New Salem Baptist Church in Hustonville, KY. He is the author of 10 Sacred Cows in Christianity That Need to Be Tipped. Jared is married to Amber and they have four children. He is a teaching assistant for Bruce Ware at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS) and a PhD Student in Systematic Theology at SBTS. You can take Jared's Udemy Course, "How to Enjoy God Through Movies, TV, Music, Books, etc." with this link for 43% off. Engage popular culture with Scripture. Enjoy God through popular culture.