Effective preaching is more than just about what you say. It's also about how you say it.
Too many sermons fail not because of bad content, but because of bad delivery.
Nobody how experienced you are, you should never stop learning. You should always be a student of sermon delivery because there is always room to improve.
So here are nine tips from my book Preach and Deliver, that every pastor needs to know.
1. Start Fast
The first words from your mouth should be powerful. They should compel your audience to want to hear more.
What are you talking about? Why should I care? How does this impact me? These are questions people in the audience want to know.
People in the audience are only going to give you a minute to decide whether they want to listen or think about all the other things they have to do.
Instead of sliding into your sermon, you need to start with a bang— like a bullet from a gun.
2. Be the Same On-Stage and Off
The moment you step on that platform, your life is in the public eye. People will judge you on everything you say and do. You need to be the same person on stage and off.
Far too many pastors fall because their private life doesn't line up with their preaching life.
Authentic preachers stand on the stage, rip open their chest and reveal their heart to the congregation. Everything they say and do comes from deep within them. It's not an act. It's who they are deep inside, even when nobody's watching.
3. Look People in the Eye
Your eyes are a powerful tool. When you look at people, they look at you. It makes the message personal. You aren't just speaking into the abyss; you are speaking to them.
When you look at everyone, you connect with no one. But when you focus on one, you connect with everyone.
Eye contact signals engagement, confidence and trust. Trustworthy people look you in the eyes. Liars look away.
4. Vary Your Pace and Tone
Variety grips our interest. Sameness, like the sound of a babbling brook, lulls us to sleep.
Don't be afraid to raise your voice for excitement, make sound effects when telling a story, whisper in a tender moment or stand in silence for a few seconds.
Moving your voice, like moving your body, captures attention.
People need space to think, and variety to keep their attention. A great message wrapped in a monotone voice is a tragedy.
5. Speak Simply
Don't make people feel like they need a dictionary or a seminary degree to understand what you are talking about.
Use the common language of your audience, so the good news will be clear for all to hear.
6. Invite Engagement
If you want engagement, you need to ask for it.
If you want people to be more engaged, it starts with preaching great sermons. But after that, you have to give people permission to interact with your message and encourage them to do it.
Ask questions. Encourage a response. Ask people to stand, sit, raise their hands or make a noise. Use pictures, videos and illustrations. Crack a few jokes. Tell stories.
Allow people use more than their ears in your sermon, but also their eyes, hearts, hands and imaginations.
7. Show, Don't Tell
Don't just tell me what to do. Show me.
- Don't just tell me to be a better father; use an illustration to show me how.
- Don't just tell me to read my Bible; teach me how to do it.
- Don't just tell me to pray more; tell a story to inspire me to action.
Your application should be more than just a statement telling people what to do. Take it a step further and give examples.
8. Argue with Yourself
After you make a point, argue with yourself. Ask yourself a question that some people in the audience are probably thinking.
- "Come on. You don't really believe that. Do you?"
- "That's impossible!"
- "But what about...?"
Object to controversial elements in your sermon before skeptical people do. Then, you can give a thoughtful response to their objections.
9. Finish Strong
There are two common reasons conclusions get weak: The preacher ran out of time and had to end abruptly, or they were lazy and didn't work to write a strong conclusion, so they keep talking in circles until finally coming to a halt.
The best conclusions are neither abrupt or lazy, but deliberate. They summarize the main point and drive it home.
Like a hammer to a nail, you need to hit the central point until you drive it into the mind of your audience.
Summarize your sermon, cast a vision for a desirable future, challenge the audience to take action and end with a memorable closing statement.
Brandon Cox has been a pastor since he was 19 and has served churches, large and small, including serving as a pastor at Saddleback Church. Currently, he is planting a purpose-driven church in northwest Arkansas. He also serves as editor of pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders, as well as a blog about men's issues, a blog about blogging and a blog about social media.
This article originally appeared at ministrypass.com.
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