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Evaluating The Sermon: Ten Elements To Consider After You Preach

By R. Clifford Jones
If nothing else, preachers and their hearers generally agree that the sermon is the centerpiece of the worship service. Without downplaying the other elements of the worship service, they claim that the sermon is the "word from the Lord" for which worshipers come seeking. Evaluating the sermon, then, is a matter of crucial importance. Following are ten elements preachers should consider as they reflect on a sermon they have preached, as well as some pointers that should shore up that element and make for a better sermon the next time around.

Introduction

Did the introduction create interest or trigger tension? Did it bring listeners on board by revealing need and orienting the listener to what came afterwards? Did the introduction provide a structural overview of the sermon? Introductions are invitations for hearers to commit themselves for the long haul, hopefully the next 30 minutes or so. In the world of broadcasting there is a time-honored maxim that if you do not immediately grab the interest of the viewers or listeners, you will undoubtedly lose them. The same holds true for preaching. Much thought, therefore, ought to go into the introduction of the sermon, considered by many preachers to be the most challenging part of the sermon to prepare.

What makes for good introductions? Certainly not something like, "Last week we were in Ephesians 3, this week we'll be in Ephesians 4." Nothing about that statement is exciting or appealing. Stories, anecdotes, quotes, and the like have long been considered staples for introductions, and the more contemporaneous they are, the more effective the introduction will be. One other thing about introductions: they are most effective when they are not read. Especially is this true when the preacher is relating a story in which he or she is a character. And maintaining eye contact with your audience in the beginning of the sermon is a must.

I consider the title of the sermon to be part of the introduction, and how the title is announced is crucial. Long after the sermon has been preached, people will remember its title. A catchy, memorable title sets the sermon up, and causes people to adjust themselves in their seats, waiting for what is to come. The general rule is that a title should not be more than seven words and should hint at what the sermon is about without giving all of it away. A title is a contract between the preacher and his or her audience, meaning that a sermon that fails to speak to issues denoted or connoted in the title is a breach of contract. While preachers should strive to be creative and original with titles, we should remember to shun that which is jocular, jolting, and jesty.

Exegesis/Research

Did the sermon reflect eye-opening biblical exegesis and well-rounded research? Sermons lacking in sound biblical exegesis are the woe of many preachers. As much as post-modernism has created a thirst for an individualized, customized application of biblical truth, people still want to know that the fare the preacher is offering is exegetically sound. Hearers still place a premium on solid, biblical scholarship that is evidenced in deep, meaty sermons. People frown on frivolous, lightweight stuff that may tingle the ears and fancy the soul, but neither nourishes nor satisfies the deep longings of the human heart.

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