How to Preach a Perfect Sermon
This guest post is by George Shears III
A sermon is a divine encounter with God’s Word through a messenger — a preacher. There are good and bad sermons, but how does a preacher design and deliver a perfect sermon? Here are 10 ways to preach a perfect sermon.
1. Keep it short
The attention span of adults is now shorter than a goldfish. So, culturally speaking, sermons need to be shorter. Gone are the days of hour-long sermons, unless you are T.D. Jakes (who does it without you knowing it has been that long). As a preacher, you have a bunch to say, but you cannot say it all. Say all you must, not all you can.
A sermon is a succinct argument of a Biblical text. A sermon is not the time to prove your worth in words; rather, it is a divine moment to shine just enough light for someone to see their way forward in life. Develop a thesis and two to three supporting arguments, and seal it with a celebration. With good exegesis, your argument should be enough and maybe have some leftovers.
2. Exegete the text well
I give an exercise to my preaching students in their first class. Go home and find 10 topics or ideas in one Bible verse. After the first class, they return enthusiastically with their assignment in hand. They do not know that they will have to find 10 new topics or ideas for each class each week. By week five, their enthusiasm wanes, and they still have three weeks left.
I do this assignment to prove they have what it takes to discover more if they learn to look for it. Secondly, and most importantly, is that Scripture is inexhaustible. We should never get too comfortable finalizing Scripture with a sermon. We must dig up more divinity where we are preaching and not be too quick to supplement Scripture with Scripture. Do this not to sound deep, but to inspire under-the-surface looking and living in the life of the hearers.
3. Preach with your own hermeneutic
As time progresses in your preaching life, you develop a way you see Scripture. It is a natural progression of preaching maturation. Preaching is about projecting your voice. The voice is not a sound; rather, it is a vantage point: the place from where one sees a Scripture. You stand behind a sacred desk with that place in your heart and shout what you found.
From this framework, many young preachers (and older ones) find it expedient to preach like other preachers because they have not found their voice or are afraid of it. In some seasons, an undiscovered voice is acceptable, but a carbon-copied voice is never acceptable.
4. Preach the Bible
According to an Arizona Christian University Cultural Research Center report1, only 37% of all Christian pastors have a biblical worldview. A deeper dive into that is entirely warranted, but it will have to be a different post. In a nutshell, it means 63% of pastors do not preach under the whole counsel of the Bible. Being a preacher is no longer tacit for preaching the Bible.
A Bible preacher is a Bible believer. The Bible is not a document to be argued with; instead, it is a document that should be argued for. Say what it says and let it hurt whom it hurts and heal whom it heals. Quit giving Jesus the side-eye, look Jesus square in the eyes, and accept every one of his words, for no greater truth exists.
5. Make sure it’s your sermon
Do not be a thief; stop stealing sermons. It is just ungodly and downright evil to steal a sermon. Can a stolen word still live? Yes, God proved that at Calvary. However, this is not Calvary, and you are not Jesus. Write your sermons. Good or bad, write your sermons. Outside help, such as sermon starters or sermon outlines, are acceptable for inspiration, but write your sermons.
Sermons are meant to be wrestled from God. God has a hold on the Word, and as a preacher, you walk humbly into the throne room of God and wrestle a Word from God. It is a time of meditation, devotion, fear, anxiety, hope, and joy. Like Jacob, wrestle with God and do not let God go until he blesses you with a Word to preach.
6. Follow the preaching house protocols
Preaching is always done somewhere and for an audience. Where you preach determines how you preach. You never want a pastor or church leader to have to clean up behind you when you are done with your ministry moment. Particularly around your actions. So, learn how the preaching house operates to determine what actions are acceptable and what actions are not.
A good rule of thumb is to do what the pastor does. I can put my feet up on my coffee table at my house, but I dare not put my feet on the coffee table at my mother’s house. Her house, her rules, even when I have kids and I am grown. I say this because you want to optimize the reception of the Word. Anything can be a distraction; try not to let it be your actions. Some churches stand for the reading of Scripture and some do not. A rule of thumb: if you have to ask the pastor for permission to do something, do not do it.
7. Stick to your sermon outline or manuscript
The Holy Spirit is just as much in the room where you prepared the sermon as He is in the room where you preach the sermon. Moreover, the Holy Spirit knows who would be in your preaching room while in your prep room. The Holy Spirit will show you the right words and illustrations you need to make that sermon come alive when you preach.
Sticking to your outline or manuscript is an act of faith when there is a temptation to amend our words for the sake of the crowd. In some cases, it may be necessary to change the sermon or even the points, but let the Holy Spirit do that to you and do it for you. You will know. The worst sermon you could preach is the one you decided to preach, not the Holy Spirit.
8. Honor the pulpit
When I first started preaching, I walked the pews and ran the aisles. It was not part of my church culture, and I was out of order. The preaching moment does not allow any preacher to take liberties in sacred spaces. A sermon merits the dignity of being delivered in a sacred space that is not trifled with by the whims and antics of a preacher.
The words of the sermon are the central focus of the preaching moment, not the preacher. Unless it is part of a sermon illustration, finish the sermon in the same clothes you started in. Do not use expletives or vulgar imagery in the sermon. There are plenty of places in the world where there are certain things you don’t do or say, and one of those places should be the pulpit.
9. Stay humble
Admittedly, it takes a good ego to stand up in front of a crowd and preach. But it needs to be a healthy amount of ego. Too much ego leads to egocentrism, and although you may be the only one speaking in the room, you are not the only one in the room. Do not ever get so comfortable that you fall in love with yourself as the world no longer feels your love.
Praying and preaching go hand in hand. I do not say this last because it’s the last step in an order of operation. Think of it as a final and foremost. People retain the last things they read better than the first. So, in my closing words, pray, pray, pray.
Prayer will always be the bedrock of a perfect sermon. A sermon bathed in prayer is preached in prayer, but most of all received in prayer. It may have grammatical errors and typos, yet still be perfect. Prayer has a way of cleaning up the worst sermon and making it into the best sermon.
Although I have been anthropological in my verve, tenor and pitch, do not let that fool you into thinking a perfect sermon is all based on human ingenuity. God is in every part of a sermon’s human design and delivery. The power of God perfects each sermon in all persons present at preparation and delivery. While any person and any point can be corrupted and tainted, God can still carry a sermon to perfection.
1. Barna, George. “Release #5: Shocking Results Concerning the Worldview of Christian Pastors.” American Worldview Inventory 2022, May 10, 2022. https://www.arizonachristian.edu/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/AWVI2022_Release05_Digital.pdf
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This guest post was written by: George Shears III
George Shears III (firstname.lastname@example.org) lives with his wife and two boys in Charlotte, North Carolina. He completed a Master of Divinity at Gardner-Webb University and a Doctor of Ministry at Charlotte Theological Seminary. When he is not playing golf, he enjoys reading and writing. George is the author of “Rules of the Rural Church” and editor of the Preaching Guru Newsletter. He has faithfully served as the lead pastor at the Greater Fellowship Church since 2016.
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