I’m afraid that many of our hearers would respond to the title of this post by pleading, “Please don’t!”
To be sure, if preachers are brave (or foolhardy) enough to think that they have something worthwhile to say, then they are going to have to work hard during the first 30 seconds of the message if they hope to take any of their hearers with them.
As far as I can remember, I have only ever been criticised once for preaching too short a sermon. And that was the occasion, many years ago, when I actually forgot one third of my message (I had foolishly tried to memorise the whole lot, and I’ve never repeated that particular form of idiocy).
It’s generally a silent tussle between the preacher and his congregation. He wants them to have more, whereas they would quite happy with a little less.…
Clarity in oral communication comes naturally to some gifted communicators. The rest of us need to work at it. The following is based on this post by Andy Naselli, which is itself based on Miller & Campbell’s book (details at the bottom):-
Less is more. . . . Say less, and people will remember more.
It’s all about the ‘big idea’. . . . It’s easier to catch a ball than a handful of sand.
Although it can be useful for a preacher (especially a young preacher) to write out the sermon in full, there are sound reasons for the preaching itself to be from notes, rather than from a full manuscript.
Preaching from a full manuscript:-
usually leads to ‘bubble preaching’. The preacher has prepared every word of the message, and that is needed now is to read it off the paper. Eye contact with the audience, and rapport with them, will be severely restricted.
In chapter 14 of The Art and Craft of Biblical Preaching, Michael Quicke, while acknowledging the difficulty of classifying preachers and preaching types, suggests that a fourfold structure may be helpful. What follows draws on that chapter, but includes my own thoughts as well.
1. Teacher preachers aim to impart scriptural instruction. They stay close to the biblical text, and seek to explain it and apply it. They will often preach consecutively through a book of the Bible, taking one section (such as a paragraph) at a time.…
There is great pressure on today’s preacher to be ‘positive’. “Don’t criticise me, judge me, accuse me,” hearers seem to be pleading. “Uplift me, inspire me, encourage me.”
To what extent should preachers give in to this pressure, and to what extend should they resist it? This question is addressed by Craig Brian Larson in chapter 68 of The Art and Craft of Biblical Preaching.
As Larson says,
One of our most important decisions when crafting a sermon is whether to frame it positively (what to do, what’s right, our hope in God, the promises) or negatively (what not to do, what’s wrong, the sinful human condition).…