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Ten Commandments for Preaching

By J. Tyler Scarlett | Pastor of Forest Baptist Church in Forest, Virginia.

When it comes to preaching and teaching the Bible, we all fall short. Who hasn't quoted the wrong reference or (worse) read the wrong passage of Scripture altogether? Who hasn't, in the heat of the moment, accidentally gotten tie-tongued and credited Paul with the words of Peter? You may even find yourself creating a homiletical mountain out of an exegetical molehill.

Everyone makes mistakes, but for all the mistakes preachers can (and do) make, here are 10 that we should do our best to avoid at all costs.

1. Thou shalt not put words in God's mouth.

God is more than capable of saying what He means and meaning what He says. He doesn't need our help to add to or take away from His Word. We have no business saying God said something He didn't say. That's why we must handle the Word of truth accurately (1 Timothy 3:15). If you've ever been misquoted (in conversation or a newspaper), you know how frustrating that experience is. Imagine how the God of the universe must feel when one of His messengers misquotes Him. We need to be sure to get the message right!

2. Thou shalt prepare and preach every message as though it were thy last.

Even if it is only to a small Sunday night crowd, the preacher never should take his or her responsibility lightly. Why? Because it very well may be the last sermon you ever preach or the last sermon someone listening ever hears. Furthermore, we don't know what God's Spirit has been doing behind the scenes. A rebellious teenager or wayward spouse may be on the verge of repenting and trusting Christ. The listener's need is urgent, therefore the preaching should be urgent.

Preaching is not a playground for frivolous fun,but a battlefield for gutsy warfare. It is where the very issues of life and death, heaven and hell, hang in the balance. As the great Puritan theologian and preacher Richard Baxter,once eloquently said, "I'll preach as though I ne'er should preach again, and as a dying man to dying men." We should seek to do the same. 

3. Thou shalt not present the Word of God in a boring and non-compelling manner.

Newsflash: If people are falling asleep during your sermon, it's not God's fault. If God's Word is sufficient to transform lives, isn't it also sufficient to keep people's attention? Don't get in the way of the transforming power of God's Word by letting it become boring. To preach and teach the Bible in a boring and unpersuasive manner is, I believe, a sin.

This is not to say every preacher has to be dynamic, witty and entertaining. It does mean, however, that every preacher should see him or herself as God's messenger and spokesman for that moment. He or she must plead passionately and desperately with those listening to hear and heed God's Word.

4. Thou always shalt point to Christ in thy message.

Seeing that Jesus Christ is the focal point of every passage, it stands to reason that He should, therefore, be the focal point of every sermon. As Dennis Johnson writes, "Whatever our biblical text and theme, if we want to impart God's life-giving wisdom in its exposition, we can do nothing other than proclaim Christ."

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