When I think of preaching, three words come to my mind to describe what a preacher preaches: sermon, message and burden. Let’s consider each of these designations.
What is a sermon? Webster defines a sermon as a discourse, grounded on a verse or passage of Scripture delivered in public, usually by a clergyman.
What is a sermonizer? A sermonizer is one who prepares and delivers sermons; however, his emphasis is more on the preparation or crafting of the sermon. A sermonizer delights in finding numerical points; preferably three. He also takes great delight in finding and using alliteration in a passage of Scripture because this helps the listener to grasp and remember what was said. In a sense, every true preacher is a sermonizer and delights in discovering Scriptural truth and preparing sermons.
A pulpiteer is a preacher who does a masterful job of presenting his sermon from the pulpit. At least he thinks he does; and he comes across to his audience as somewhat pompous. Webster says it is a contemptuous term for such a preacher. We preachers should give much time and prayer to the preparation and delivery of sermons. We should be our best, but not be overly concerned about trying to impress others with our sermon or presentation..
In my expository preaching I have found that every Scripture verse or passage does not always lend itself to a perfect three point sermon, complete with perfect alliteration. On rare occasions I will preach such a sermon, but my week is not ruined if I do not produce one.
Every sermon should be a message from God. Not every sermon does have a message or a purpose other than to show off a preacher’s scholarship or preaching ability.
A message is a sermon that regardless of style, conveys to the heart of the listener practical truth from God’s Word. When a message is preached, the listener is almost oblivious of the style of the sermon or the messenger. His whole focus is on the message.
How does a preacher get a message from God? He must walk with God, having an intimate relationship with Him and with His Word, the Bible. He must have a pure heart and be fully surrendered to God, available for God to use. Like Samuel, he must pray, “Speak Lord, for Thy servant hears.” Like Isaiah he must cry out, “Hear am I, send me” Like Paul, his prayer is, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?” Like the man Jesus talked about in Luke 11:5-8 he must beg God for Bread for his congregation.
Those of us who preach should realize that our main purpose in preaching should not be to simply give Bible facts to our listeners; but seek to know God’s message for them from the Bible and faithfully deliver it.
What is a burden? It is more than a sermon. It is more than a message. A burden is a message God has laid on your heart. It is so heavy that it MUST be delivered. It is not a burden that exhausts or wearies a preacher. God invigorates him to deliver it. When God has burdened my heart with a message, I can do nothing else but deliver that message. No other message will do. I come to the pulpit “chomping at the bit.” I can hardly wait to deliver it and when it is over I am totally exhausted.
The Old Testament prophets were given burdens from God to deliver to different people. Examples are found in Isaiah 13:1; 15:1; 17:1; 19:1 and Nahum 1:1 Ezekiel chapters 2 and 3 record God’s call to the prophet Ezekiel and the burden he laid on Ezekiel to bring a particular message from God. He was told what to say and was warned how the message would be received and rejected.
I am working on sermons, usually several weeks in advance. What a wonderful blessing the computer has been to me as I am able to write and store my sermons and continue to rework them right up to the day I deliver them. They normally start out as sermons. As I continue to meditate on the Scriptures and pray, I see God’s message in the sermon. Often by the time I am ready to deliver the message it has become a heavy burden on my heart.
Preacher, be yourself. Don’t try to be someone else. Avoid trying to have a ministerial tone in your voice. Speak normally to your congregation on Sunday as you would if you met them in town on Monday. If God has given you a burden to deliver to your congregation, your voice and manner of speaking will have a natural intensity. It won’t be something you need to think about nor try to generate.
Finally, when you’ve finished preaching, don’t concern yourself with how well you did or what a failure you were. Don’t be discouraged! If you delivered your burden from God, leave the results in God’s hands. It may be years later that you learn of how your ministry touched lives. Certainly when we stand before God in eternity, we will learn the full impact of our ministries.
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