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).…
How can preachers secure the attention of their hearers?
This is no trivial matter. Sin cannot be taken out of people, as Eve was taken out of Adam, while they are fast asleep. And yet some preachers seem not to care very much about it: some of them stare up at the ceiling, as if they sought the attention of the angels, while others have their heads buried in their notes, as if they were talking only to themselves.…
As a teacher, I’m well acquainted with the expression ‘Death By Powerpoint’. In fact, I use the expression myself, in order to remind myself and my students that it is easy to bore people to death using Powerpoint.
In some Christian circles (although not my own immediate circle) the use of Powerpoint in preaching is severely frowned upon. Among the reasons I have seen given are:-
it lends a ‘professional slickness’ which is incompatible with the nature of biblical preaching
it inhibits learning because it requires people to attend in both the visual and the auditory channels, leading to ‘cognitive overload’
it focuses the preacher’s preparation on the technical aspects of the message, rather than its content
similarly, it focuses the hearer’s attention on the technical aspects of the message, rather than its content
in drawing the hearer’s gaze away from the preacher, it detracts from the inter-personal aspects of preaching
it can make preachers lazy, by doing their job of communicating effectively for them
My response to most of these objections would be, ‘It ain’t necessarily so’. …