When a pastor treats the Scriptures as one more academic subject, his sermons will sound dry and boring. When the Bible fails to grip his heart, it will seldom go beyond his listener’s ears, let alone grip their hearts. Such is the theme of pastor Erik Raymond’s insightful post, “The Missing Ingredient in Many Sermons.” He compares preaching to cooking a good meal when he says,
Like cooking, preaching can become bland. It can fail to have that freshness worthy of the gospel table. There are many reasons why. One could identify a lack of preparation, lack of understanding, poor delivery, and shallowness. We would not disagree that under-cooking the homiletical meal is a problem. But there is something else that can make preaching bland: the deadly reality of not being personally wowed by the subject.
Some years back, I came across an article by Joe McKeever entitled, “I prayed for my preaching; And got answers I didn’t expect.” (It was included in The art & craft of biblical preaching, edited by Haddon Robinson and Craig Brian Larson.) I adapted his thoughts into four specific requests that I make each week as I prepare my sermons.
- I want a firm grasp of the Scriptures. I don’t want to preach if the text is not clear in my mind.
- I want the message from God to have a firm grasp on me, to grip my heart. I want to preach with genuine passion.
- I want to connect with the congregation. I’m tired of the “glazed-over” look on people’s faces. I want to have a good rapport with the people in order to communicate effectively.
- I want to see lives changed. I don’t want to settle for dispensing information. I want to see and hear that people have been transformed.
Raymond’s article reiterates the second prayer request. I want the Scriptures to grip my heart. I want to express a sense of awe and wonder as I speak of God and his grace. I don’t want to merely communicate information. If the passage doesn’t transform me, it will never transform the congregation.