The Art of Preaching

 Leadership Empowerment School of Ministry


Empowering Those who Empower Others with a Knowledge of God and His Ways


Chapter One 

What to Preach


1. Purpose

A. The purpose of preaching is to help the spiritual growth of those who listen.


B. The growth may be in the area of doctrine, or Christian behavior, or something else.  But it always must focus on the Lord doing an inward work in the lives of people.  See Matt 6; 22:25-28


2. Congregation – to whom are you preaching?

A. Within any congregation, there are people of different levels of spiritual maturity.

There are non-Christians who need evangelism.  There are mature believers who need to be taught deeper spiritual truths.  Between these are new believers or "baby Christians," and Christians who are in danger of leaving the faith ("backsliders").


B. There are also people in different life situations.

There are married couples and single individuals.  There are those in financial security and poverty.  There are youth and elderly people.  All of them have needs.


C. The preacher should attempt to prepare sermons for every one of these groups.

This is not easy.  It is best to do this in the planning process.  A good suggestion is to plan the topics of your preaching in advance, so that you will be sure to cover areas that are needed by all different groups. 


3. Planning in advance

A. Advantages to planning in advance

Many pastors believe that they cannot decide what to preach in advance, or else the message will not be 'fresh' from God.  However, this is not necessarily true.  The Lord can speak to you and lead you in advance, because He knows what the people will need a few weeks or months from now.


1. It gives the preacher direction

It is helpful for a pastor to have an idea in mind of what he will be preaching in the future. 


2. It helps to be sure that the people are getting a balanced diet of spiritual truth.

When a pastor has a plan, it means that the people are going to hear all that they need to hear.  It helps the pastor to preach on topics that are important, but may not come to his mind week after week.


3. It is efficient

The pastor does not have to spend so much time each week deciding what he should preach on next


4. It allows the preacher time to think about and "mature" the sermon.  Sermons are usually better when we think and pray about them for a longer time.


B. How to plan in advance

1. Spend quality time in prayer, specifically for the purpose of hearing God's leading for the coming months


2. Choose how long in advance you will plan.  A good range is from 1 to 3 months.


3. Have a list of topics that your people need to hear


4. Get a calendar, and begin to write topics you will preach for each service.


5. Preach in a series.  For example, if you are going to preach about the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, do not try to do that in one sermon.  Plan to stay with that topic for 3-4 services.


6. Once you have planned, be flexible.  You do not have to absolutely follow your plan no matter what.  Allow the Lord to change as you go.



Assignment:   On a piece of paper, list important topics that should be taught and preached to our congregations.  Find appropriate scriptures to match each topic.  To help you get started, you may want to think about the following questions:


*  What do Christians need to know?

*  What are some things that you have heard preached or read about that have been important in your own spiritual growth?

*  What false teachings need to be corrected?

*  In what areas do Christians need to be challenged to change or grow?

*  What are some sins that people continually fall into?  How can this be overcome?

*  What might be encouraging and uplifting for believers to hear?

*  What will equip the saints to fulfill their ministry in the Lord?


3. Selecting the Passage / Topic

Typically, the first question a pastor asks himself after delivering the last sermon of any given week is "What should I preach on next week?"  Of course, the Holy Spirit may lay on his heart a need of the congregation or a particular passage of Scripture.  But every preacher has had times when the Spirit has not given very clear guidance.  Where do we get ideas for sermons when we don't have specific direction from the Lord?


A. Bible Study

The Holy Spirit speaks to each of us through our daily Bible reading as we apply this teaching to our own lives.  After we have discovered how we are to apply a passage to our personal lives, we may then ask the Lord if this lesson is something our congregation should hear.  Keep a pen and paper at hand during your devotional times to write down texts and issues which you might want to develop into sermons.


B. Listening

Pastors should be in touch with the needs of their congregation.  Are there problems in the church that need to be addressed?  Listening to their needs is the only way a preacher can help meet these needs.  You may have to develop a system which will keep you in touch with your congregation.  Meetings with church leaders, comment cards, prayer requests, or simply attending social gatherings with church members may be helpful.


C. Personal Experience

The preacher may get sermon ideas from his own personal experience.  Reflecting on struggles or issues with which you have dealt may lead a helpful sermon.  Others may be dealing with the same or similar issues.  An example would be if you are struggling financially, you can share about how you get through this as a believer.  Or maybe you are experiencing temptation in an area, and the Lord is showing you how to overcome.


D. Writings or Sermons of Others

Another method for getting sermon ideas is from the writings and/or preaching of others.  The preacher should take in as much ministry as he can, and learn from others who are preaching and teaching God's Word.


Once we have discovered an idea for a sermon, we need to find a text which relates to this topic.  Here are several guidelines for choosing an appropriate text:


1) choose texts from the entire Bible

2) choose a text with the needs of people in mind

3) avoid using favorite texts repeatedly

4) choose a complete text of at least three verses (note the paragraph and sentence structure)


Chapter Two



1. Types of Sermons

There are different  types of sermons, and different ways of preparing.  Two types we will discuss are the topical sermon and the expository sermon.


A. Topical

1. What it is:

In a topical sermon the preacher chooses a topic, and then tries to give an overview of what the Scriptures teach on that topic.  He will focus on a number of different scriptures in order to get a balanced teaching.  For example, one might choose to preach about deliverance.  He will then look up several different passages that deal with that subject, and explain each of these as he preaches.


2. Advantages

Topical sermons can be good when you need to teach people about a certain doctrine or about how to do something in a biblical way.  For example, a topical sermon can help to teach about the doctrine of the last days and return of Christ, or about how to have a better marriage.  The scriptures speak of these issues in a  number of different places.  You will not get the full message if you only focus on one passage.


B. Expository

1. What it is

In an expository sermon, the preacher chooses a scripture passage, and explains the meaning and application of that one passage.  He may refer to other passages, but the main point and content of the message comes from the one scripture.


2. Advantages

a. Expository sermons are good for helping us to hear what the Bible says.  Every passage in the Bible fits in to the overall teaching of the Bible, but each one also stands alone as a powerful truth.  There is a main idea in each passage that people need to hear.


b. Expository preaching will help us to preach about things we never would have preached about if we only used topical sermons.


c. Expository sermons also provide a good example in Bible Study.  When we open up a particular passage, we show our listeners how they too can read and study the Bible on their own – and how to not misinterpret it.


2. Steps in Preparation

A. Pray

Pray about what to preach about and how to preach it.  Pray for God's anointing to be on you both as you prepare and as you deliver the message.


B. Decide the main idea

1. For a topical sermon

a. Decide on the topic


b. Search the Scriptures and choose several passages that will give a good understanding of what God says about that topic.


c. Study each of the passages you are going to consider, using good Bible Study principles (and the three steps to Bible Study).


c. As you study these passages, and consider your own experiences, think about the central idea you need to get across to the people.   Do not try to be too complicated.  The more different points you make, the more people are likely to forget.  As much as possible, simplify everything to one or two powerful ideas.  Do not attempt to tell them all there is to know on this topic.  If there are other big ideas, decide to handle them in a future sermon.


2. For an expository sermon

a. Decide on the scripture you will be focusing on


b. Follow the three steps of Bible Study as you seek to discover the powerful truth God wants to communicate.  Take your time with this step.  Do not be in a hurry.

1). Observe

2). Find the main point

3). Apply to yourself


C. Plan

1. "Brainstorming"

Once you know the truth that the Lord wants to communicate, think about how you are going to get the point across to the congregation in a powerful way. Write down any ideas for the sermon that you think about while studying the text and thinking about the topic.  It may be points to make, examples or illustrations to help people understand, how these truths have worked in your own life, or other ways to get across to the people the point of the sermon.  You will not use all of these ideas, but it is a good way to help you get started.  Make use of the following:


a. stories

b. examples

c. physical objects you can use

d. other supporting scriptures

e. exhortations

f. testimonies


2. Outlining

This is where you begin to organize your thoughts.  There may be several parts to this step:


a. Choose the material from your brainstorming that you are going to use


b. Decide in what order to put things to help you best communicate the message


c. Write down a general outline for the sermon as you will present it.  An outline may include several points, with items under each point to help make them clear and forceful.


3. Be sure that everything you say will lead to helping people get the main powerful truth.


D. Personalize

Make the message personal by including stories from your own life.  Be sure to talk about your failures as well as your victories.  Let people know how you yourself are trying to live out the truth you are sharing.


E. Practical

Help people to apply the main idea to their lives.  Suggest specific action steps that they can follow.  What are they to do with the truth you have given?





Chapter Three



Discussion Groups

Think about some people you have seen who are powerful preachers.  Why do you say they are powerful?  What about them makes them so powerful?


A good sermon not only requires that you write an interesting message, but that you deliver that message well, communicating effectively.  I have heard sermons that were excellent messages but preached in such a way that the preacher was simply not able to "connect" with the audience.  The reason for this was poor delivery.


1. Anointing

Assignment:  Look through the Bible and find different references to the anointing – examples of someone being anointed, teaching about anointing, etc.  What do you learn about the anointing from these passages?


A. The anointing is the most needed thing in preaching well

Remember that you are not only giving information or entertaining people.  You want to bring change, and only God can do that.  Consider Luke 4:18 and Acts 10:38.


B. What is anointing?

The anointing is God's power working through you to accomplish His purposes in people.  It may be to save or deliver or heal or enlighten or rebuke or encourage or any other thing.  Whatever He wants to do in someone's life, the anointing is God Himself doing that work through you.


C. How to minister in the anointing

1. Have a lifestyle of abiding in Jesus


2. Spend time in prayer concerning the time of ministry


3. Determine that you will not stand to preach without God's anointing.


4. Use a moment, or as long as it takes, to focus on the Lord and ask for His power.  Then be quiet in His presence until you are confident His power is on you.  You may do this before going in to the service, or during the worship time before you preach.  But be determined to not stand to preach without His power!


2. Delivering the Sermon

A. Appearance

You should attempt to dress in such a way to not call unnecessary attention to yourself.  It is good to look smart, but there is no need to try to impress people with expensive clothing.


B. Posture

Your posture in the pulpit is also important.  Stand before your audience with assurance and conviction.  Show confidence with your body language. 


C. Eye Contact

Making eye contact with the audience establishes a connection or a unity between the preacher and the congregation.  Preachers who are skilled at making eye contact often have similar comments made about them as this one: "Every time I listen to the sermon, I feel like my preacher is talking straight to me.  It is as if nobody else is in the church with me."


D. Rate of Speaking

Rate is the speed with which we talk or read.  Variety should be a key word.  Speak at a slower rate when giving new information.  You may speak faster when you are going over familiar ideas that you know your audience already knows.  We should also include rates between these two extremes of fast and slow.


E. Pause

The use of pauses are actually a part of voice rate.  But pauses can be so powerful that they deserve discussion.  Vocalized pauses such as "uh" or "um" should be eliminated from our speaking.  A silent pause adds emphasis.


F. Volume

Too much or too little volume calls attention to the lack of variety of the message.  As with the other elements of vocal delivery, the preacher should seek to include a variety of volumes in his message.  A preacher who shouts for the entire message is not able to give emphasis by raising or lowering his voice.


G. Humor

Jesus used humor in his preaching.  Humor may entertain, build a connection with the audience, open people's heart for response, and it can make a point more memorable.  There are also dangers in using humor.  The preacher may fall into the trap of becoming a mere entertainer.  The preacher's humor must remain a servant to his message.  Humor should build and not tear down.  It is said that humor is often a "veiled dagger."



Chapter Four

The Powerful Preacher


There are many things that go into making an effective preacher.  In this final chapter we will discuss just a few attributes that we need to pay special attention to.  It takes much more than a well-prepared sermon to make an effective preacher.  The life of the preacher himself is of even greater importance than his skills at creating and delivering sermons.



1. Prayer

A. Weak pulpits are the result of little prayer


B. "Prepare your heart before you prepare your sermon"


C. Bathe the entire process of sermon preparation and preaching in much prayer


D. Get people to pray for you


E. Pray out of personal love for Jesus, and a desire to abide in Him


2. Humility

A. Without Jesus you can do nothing!  Jn 15:5


B. Have the same attitude as Jesus  Phil 2:3-11


C. Understand that preachers are always in great danger of pride.  You are not an exception.


D. Seek the approval of God, not of man


E. Do not try to be a better preacher than anyone else.  Simply obey God, and be the best you can be by His grace.


3. Faith

A. Be convinced of what you are preaching


B. Believe that the message of the Gospel is truly Good News, and that Jesus is the answer to whatever problems people face


C. Believe that this message is going to produce fruit in the lives of people.  Be expectant every time you preach.


4. Hope

A. Become a person of hope.  Be optimistic.  Choose to believe that the Lord can make something good out of any circumstance


2. Always leave the congregation with hope.  Show them that there is a way through their difficult situation.


5. Openness and Honesty

A. Do not try to make people think you are overly spiritual or holy


B. Share your weaknesses with your congregation  2 Cor 12:9-10


C. Do not exaggerate when giving testimonies


D. If you do not understand something, do not "bluff" and pretend you do understand.


E. Relate as a 'real' person, so that people will be able to understand that what you are preaching is relevant in their own lives, too.


6. Courage             

A. Preach the entire Word of God.  Do not be afraid to preach on difficult topics.


B. Do not merely give people what they want to hear, or preach what you think will attract more people to you.  See 2 Tim 4:1-5


7. Love

A. Pray for the Lord to give you love and compassion for the people


B. Without love, your ministry is useless -- 1 Cor 13:1-3


C. Even when preaching a difficult or challenging message, be sure to do it out of love for the people, and a desire to help them.




There will be no written test for this course.  Instead, each student will prepare an expository sermon and deliver it to the class.  Do not do a topical one.  You will receive marks based on how you followed the principles of preparing and delivering sermons given in this course outline.