Let me be blunt in one more point, and then I’m going to start showing how to build a sermon.
If the sermon is boring, it’s… not the sermon’s fault.
I gave instructions on how to preach. Listening to a dull speaker, you quickly get the feeling for how to keep people’s attention. Danny Castle is never boring. John MacArthur is sometimes boring. All of the associate pastors that work for MacArthur are deadly boring. I’m sure jokes are made about the sermon so boring, it killed fifteen people.
By the way, when I mention John MacArthur, it’s not an endorsement. Most of us have heard him preach, so I’m using something you’re familiar with. While I’ve listened to many of his sermons, he is a 4 point Calvinist, and that skews how he sees the Bible. I can’t recommend him for that reason.
Getting back on topic.
Adding TIME to a sermon does not guarantee interest. The thought is, “If I preach for an hour, I’m bound to say something interesting.”
I’ll say this – I love a good sermon. But I’ve felt the agony of a church goer who knows the sermon’s going to be an hour, and it’s DULL. AAAUGH!!!!
If you haven’t struck oil in 30 minutes, stop boring.
I pace a little while I preach. Nothing like Danny Castle. I vary my voice, tone, inflection, because I had an accounting teacher who our class actually complained about to the college and he droned in a soft voice… talking about accounting… and cash is a debit… so if we open a special ledger….zzzzzz…..
Sermons that do not challenge the congregation are essentially hot air.
So, I’ve made impossible demands upon many pastors. That’s okay, that’s in the job description, we’re kind of used to it.
Who can do everything I just spoke about? Marc Monte, myself (i hope – nobody’s told me if I’m boring or not!), Danny Castle, David Cloud… I’m still trying to compile a list. Vincent Sawyer’s not too bad, but he’s not very good at the tone, inflection, voice part of it.
Okay, so, let’s get started on how to choose a text to preach from. I’m going to tell you I’m a big believer in Expository preaching. The idea is that you’re going to preach from the Bible in sequence. I guarantee that way, I cover every topic addressed in Scripture. So, my recommendation is this – Start in Matthew, and preach until you hit Revelation.
“What about Sunday Nights?” Easy… Start in Genesis.
Method two is to assign a one-year Bible reading program, and choose a passage somewhere during the previous weeks’ passage to preach from.
Method three is Topical. You pick a topic and preach from it.
Method four is actually how it was done in the Jerusalem church. Judaism is Liturgical – they have weekly readings from the Torah and the Haftorah, the books of Moses and the prophets.
When Christianity first started, they took the same thing, and added the New Testament as a third part. You could have gone to a synagogue anywhere in the empire for the first twenty years of Christianity, and not known it was Christian until you heard them read from the Gospels. And then one of the Apostles or a pastor they’d trained would get up and preach on that.
That kind of system is called by Christians a Lectionary. There are quite a few Lectionaries available. There isn’t one for Baptists – we don’t do that, and actually, it may be wrong we’re not! – but if you’re one of those people that insists on being like “The Early Church”, here was how it was done in Jerusalem.
Most people are familiar with topical preaching. With absolutely no apologies to false teacher Andy Stanley, topical preaching is a relatively new thing, and was looked upon with a great deal of suspicion at first. The old method was to find a text and twist it out of all recognition as you spiritualize merrily away.
Topical preaching involves taking a topic – like Adultery – and preaching on it. I don’t know why ANYONE has a hard time finding a topic to preach on, at all , through the year. Seriously. Orville Nave and R. A. Torrey took care of that for us. Get their topical Bibles, turn to “A”, and there you go. They even give you texts to look up! Compare them to each other, and look in the Treasury of Scripture Knowledge for more.
Since the other methods are essentially Expository, let’s talk about one concept that will make this a lot easier… the unit of thought. The word for it is a Pericope (per-ih-ko-pea). If you hear someone talk about THE Pericope, they’re referring to John 7:53-8:12. But if it’s A pericope, they’re talking about every unit of thought in the Bible.
Some Pericope’s actually are so long, you’ll have to find a point where you can split it. Otherwise you’re preaching Hebrews for, well, most of the book. And Romans. You just may make it through the New Testament before the Congregation fires you for the 3 1/2 hour sermons.
So, I’ve solved one of the major dilemmas that haunt Pastors – “What am I preaching on Sunday?” Really, that shouldn’t be a question. And one question that haunts the Pastor is, “I’m stuck between this text and that, and I don’t know which…” And you end up working on BOTH texts.
Choose your system I’ve settled for doing New Testament Sunday mornings, Old Testament Sunday Evenings, and topical on Wednesday nights. Decide for yourself, and DON’T DEVIATE.