SERMON KILLER #1: FAILURE TO ADEQUATELY PREPARE
“The interest of the audience is tied directly to the preparation of the presenter.” – Nancy Duarte
“If I only had more time to prepare my sermons, I know I could do a better job.” – Most Preachers I Know.
We’ve all been there. The fatigue from preaching this Sunday’s sermon wears off only to be exchanged with the pressure of
preparing for next Sunday’s sermon. I would love to tell you that we’ve created a pill that provides you with more time to
prepare. If we ever do, you’ll be the first to know. Well, you and the FDA.
The reality is this – there will never be enough time. You will never find enough time.
How’s that for some encouragement?Instead of wishing for the elusive dream of “more time” what we need to do is leverage better the time we have. We can all
leverage our time better.
From here on out, you hereby have the permission to place your sermon preparation at the top of the list of your priorities.
Go ahead and block a full day every week for this. Let’s start with Wednesday. No meetings. No hospital visits. No
interruptions. One full day each week.
We all know what it feels like to be prepared. Those are the days that preaching is fun. We also all know what it feels like to
not be prepared. And here’s the scary part. The audience can tell. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking they can’t. They’re
smarter than that.
SERMON KILLER #2: THE SERMON GOES TOO LONG
“Make sure you have finished speaking before the audience has finished listening.” – Doroty Sarnoff
I’ve rarely met people who say, “That was a good message, but I wish it was a little bit longer.”
Brian Croft of Practical Shepherding encourages pastors to determine the length of the sermon based on “where your
people are, not where you think they should be.” We must push our people, but we can’t push them beyond what they are
capable of receiving. A great message be hindered with twenty extra minutes of material, or the one last story.
Just because Mark Driscoll preaches for upwards of one hour, doesn’t mean your audience is ready for that much
information. I know Ezra read the entire book of the law “from morning until midday” (Nehemiah 8:3). In Acts 20:7, Paul
preached until midnight. Most of us haven’t developed our skill to the level of Mark Driscoll, and the Puritan preachers
didn’t preach two-hour sermons to an ADD generation.
SERMON KILLER #3: TOO MUCH CONTENT
The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do. ~Thomas Jefferson
Good things, when short, are twice as good. ~Baltasar Gracian, The Art of Worldly Wisdom
A sermon shouldn’t be a shotgun – spraying a wide array of points in the general direction of a target. Instead, it should be
a rifle, taking aim at a specific issue.
Too many points is no point at all. When you give 10 Ways To Do This or 7 Ways to Do That in a 30m inute message,
your people are drowning in a sea of bullet points. By the time you’ve reached the third sub-point under Main Heading
B, people are done. Too much content leads to information overload, and instead of thinking about what you’re saying,
people shut down their minds
What is the single most persuasive statement I want them to remember? Drill down on that one point; dive deep into
that one thing.
If you have too much content for one message, make it a series. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you have to say
everything on a subject in one message. It’s okay – in fact, it’s beneficial – to leave people wanting more.
SERMON KILLER #4: TOO FEW STORIES
Max Lucado writes: “In this post-modern culture in which we live — where people question absolute truth — they are
resistant to platitudes; they’re resistant to me making declarations of truth to them. A story can do that in kind of a Trojanhorse
fashion. Truth can arrive within the story and ride latent — a bit incognito — within a story, and people are more
prone to receive it. I think one reason is our society is just less open to platitudes, more open to stories.”
Studies have consistently shown that people more vividly remember ideas that move them emotionally. We remember
what we feel, more than what we hear.
Stories connect emotionally with people. And people will remember stories laced with Biblical truth far more than
the carefully worded bullet point list. I’m not talking about a cliché story from an Internet search or a Book of Sermon
Illustrations – I’m talking about a developed story with emotional depth.
Jesus’ teaching was full of stories. Matthew 13:34 says, “Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not
say anything to them without using a parable.”
Rick Warren gives three benefits to using stories in preaching:
1. Stories hold our attention. The reason television became so popular is because it’s essentially a story-telling device,
whether you’re watching comedy, drama, the news, or a talk show. Even the commercials are stories.
2. Stories stir our emotions. They impact us in ways that precepts and propositions never do. If you want to change lives,
you must craft the message for impact, not for information.
3. Stories help us remember. Long after the outline is forgotten, people will remember the stories of the sermon.
SERMON KILLER #5: NO CLEAR A CTION STEP
Most people listening to your sermon live in the status quo. In fact, they are naturally resistant to anything that challenges
the ordinary. This makes clarity even more important
What do you want people to DO as the result of listening to your message? That question should permeate your
preparation. The Bible tells us faith without action is dead, so keep people’s actions in mind as you wrap up. Point them in
a clear direction.
• In a sermon about serving, hand them a card with three serving opportunities.
• In a sermon about marriage, give husbands a practical challenge to plan a date with theirs pouse in the next seven days.
• In a sermon on faith, ask people to write down an area of their life where they need to act in faith.
Help people put feet to their faith by giving a simple and clear action step