Guest Post | Scott Kenworthy
Senior Minister | Owensboro Christian Church
Twitter | @scottakenworthy
What does good preaching sound like?
The difference between a good sermon and good preaching is a lot like the difference between a good meal and a good diet.
A meal can be good for any number of reasons, including the taste of the food, the company at hand, the environmental ambience or most importantly, the presence of bacon. But a good diet requires several additional elements like food quality, portion control, and proper nutrition.
Common reasons for calling a sermon “good” include things like, “It spoke to my present struggles,” or “I really liked the funny story in the middle,” or even, “the preacher ended on time.” In short, a sermon is considered good if it’s personally relevant. It gets bonus points if it makes the audience laugh or cry. And if the preacher can do it all in less time than it takes to watch an episode of Modern Family he may well be the next Billy Graham.
But none of this constitutes good preaching.
Good preaching requires the presence of at least six key elements. And because these elements relate to one another, I’ve listed them in three pairs.
1. Good preaching is biblically based and Christ-centered.
Good preaching celebrates the whole Bible, including its history, poetry, prophecy, Gospels, and common letters. While the Bible has two testaments, they tell the same story of the the One True God. That’s why the Apostle Paul says, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son” (Galatians 4:4). If we are to understand God’s actions in the present, we must have some understanding of His action in the past. All of God’s work either points to or proceeds from the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Good preaching, then, must leave its hearers with a lingering sense of the greatness of God throughout history and His gracious love towards them through Christ in the present.
2. Good preaching is Kingdom focused while remaining culturally sensitive.
To say preaching should be Kingdom focused is simply to admit it must be God-oriented. Since the Bible is our basis for faith and practice, good preaching always proceeds from the biblical text. But we also must remember all truth is God’s truth and God’s Kingdom exists wherever God’s will is done. If pastors truly believe God created the world, established the principles of science, and ordained the institutions of marriage, family, and government, we should keep our studies up-to-date and be willing for our preaching to address the most pressing intellectual and sociological matters of the day. With similar motivation, good preaching should aim to support the life of the church without idolizing church life. I like to remind myself that good preaching will make sinful people want to be closer to God and godly people want to be closer to sinners. That means “church people” will start wanting to spend more time in the world and “worldly people” will start wanting to spend more time in the church. When that happens God’s Kingdom and Church both thrive.
3. Good preaching is communicated clearly at delivery, but best proven over time.
God chose to communicate to us through words, so it’s safe to say He cares about language. Good preaching, then, will be thoughtful and clear. There should always be at least one traceable, coherent point; appropriate time should be allotted for teaching that puts the biblical text in context; and the words that are chosen should be both meaningful and memorable. That’s a lot of pressure. But remember, the difference between a good sermon and good preaching is like the difference between a good meal and a good diet. The value of a pastor’s ministry isn’t determined by his latest sermon, but rather the preaching he serves over a period of time. Not every sermon will be well received or speak to every person’s present circumstances, just like not every meal can be a favorite and not every healthy side dish tickles the taste buds. Good preaching is best proven over time, typically years. And great preaching is proven over decades.
So stop trying to deliver a killer sermon. Make it a goal to deliver (or find) consistent, good preaching. Good preaching makes healthy Christians, healthy Christians make healthy churches, and healthy churches grow to the glory of God.
*Listen to Scott preach, every Sunday, by clicking here.