Warren E. Berkley
Is Sermon Delivery “No Big Deal” ?
In delivering the most important message ever given, everything about that task matters; nothing can be slighted. The fact that content is primary does not imply that delivery is of no importance. An inordinate emphasis on human eloquence that distracts or dims the message is corrupt (1 Cor. 2:1-5; 2 Cor. 4:5). But how the message is delivered cannot be pushed into some trivial place. If your preacher got up wearing a clown suit, honking a horn on his belt to punctuate his points and breaking into Broadway musical scores for illustrations, you would have something to say about his delivery, right? Delivery is important. Everybody needs to have a good grasp of that, whether in the pew or pulpit.
Preacher! Read your Bible and study. Make sure God said it. Then get up and read what God said, and make sure your listeners understand it. You must press it, apply it and do all of that to the best of your ability. Every preacher, no matter his experience, can do all that better!
Adequate volume – if people cannot hear you, how can they understand and respond? This relates to vocalization, articulation, acoustics, sound equipment, proximity to audience, ambient distractions, etc. Does this matter? Is this important?
Order, arrangement, structure – people generally learn in sequence, and sequence is apparent in the text of scripture. Order and structure requires some good thought and planning. Once there is Biblical content, the preacher must carefully plan and order his material for the most effective presentation. “Which thought comes first? Which comes second? Which comes last? The order of preaching ideas is not a small matter in sermon design,” (The Shape Of Preaching, by Denis M. Cahill).
Passion suitable for the message – artificial, theatrical displays of emotion have no place unless you want everybody to be embarrassed. But if the message you are delivering abides in you; if you love the gospel and love the lost – that will come through in your delivery and should not be squelched. Don’t engineer it, but let it happen in every appropriate way in keeping with your personality.
Clarity – have you ever heard someone read from the text of Scripture, then what is said after the reading is unclear, confusing or just wrong? To admit that that situation is possible should lead logically to guard against it. In the study and sermon preparation stage, one task of the preacher is to make certain that what he is planning to say is clear. Remember, this is the most important message ever delivered. Careless speech is to be avoided. We know this: “… if with your tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is said?” (1 Cor. 14:9).
Elimination of extraneous material – most of us have heard introductions that we thought would never end. The preacher goes on and on telling stories often connected with people in the audience (way beyond simple acknowledgements), having nothing to do with the subject or text (if such ever emerges). No contribution is made to anyone’s knowledge; no instruction from Scripture – just blathering on. As sermon preparation is underway, cut the fat out. Remove what is unnecessary. Save it for the coffee shop or living room.
Illustrations that connect – crafting an illustration on the fly can defeat the whole purpose of giving clarity to a point and catch the preacher in an awkward moment. The only way to use a good illustration is to think about it and rehearse it in your mind well before you speak it. The illustration must help people get the point. That’s just good delivery!
Challenge to obey – preaching is intended to impress upon the audience the urgency of responding to God. Generally, we do this during the “invitation.” We summarize or wrap-up in such a way as to storm the will, making a plea to the listeners to obey the Lord. Like the other aspects of delivery, this requires forethought. Perhaps we can do this better?
Question for every preacher: can you do any of this better?
Truth Connection: “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Col. 4:2-5
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