Do you have beautiful feet? You might want to consider
In my article titled “Preparing Sermons that Deliver,” you were instructed about how to prepare biblical messages. This article is designed to guide you through the delivery phase of homiletics. Sermon preparation and delivery should not be thought of as two separate acts but in a unified manner. Broadus wrote, “And as the preparation is not a speech till it is spoken, so the mere manner of speaking should not at the time receive separate attention.” The two are intricately linked, and the preacher should not seek to put them asunder.
Moreover, preparation and delivery of the sermon should come from one unimpeachable source: a person of integrity. Yes, character counts! Aristotle latched onto this truth more than two millennia ago when he wrote, “The orator persuades by moral character when his speech is delivered in such a manner as to render him worthy of confidence.” Paul’s praise of Timothy in
The Use of Voice and Body
The apostle Paul said in
Sadly, the public reading of the preacher’s biblical text has lost the prominence it once held. “Unfortunately, the reading of Scripture in worship services today is often relegated to secondary status — if it is read at all.” The advice given by Grant and Reed in Telling Stories to Touch the Heart should he heeded, “Some find that reading the story aloud 20 to 30 times privately allows them to be truly comfortable when they read to an audience.” Your goal should be to imitate Jesus, who read the Scripture with such reverential conviction in
Read the Scripture with good posture. Aspire to reflect the author’s tone of the passage with your voice. Bartow’s observation is profound that “neutrality is an interpretation.” Don’t attempt to imitate others with your voice. Be content with the tool (the voice) that the Supreme Tool Maker has given you and trust that God’s Holy Spirit will use that unique tool for the glory of God.
Clarity of speech is an integral part of effective delivery. The preacher should strive to speak clearly so as to be heard. Spurgeon opines, “Some men are loud enough, but they are not distinct; their words overlap each other, play at leapfrog, or trip each other up. Distinct utterance is far more important than wind power.”
The appropriate volume is also necessary in preaching. “The most natural way of determining the proper volume for your message is to speak so those most distant from you can easily hear.” Again, Spurgeon’s discretion should be heeded, “Understand that reaching everyone does not require blasting anyone. Save the explosions for the moments they are needed.”
“We constantly communicate to one another by the way we clothe and groom our bodies.” The clothing of the messenger should always be appropriate for the occasion. The preacher doesn’t want his attire to distract the audience from the good news being proclaimed. This means he should find out what kind of dress is best suited to the environment in which he is preaching, then dress accordingly.
God has designed the human body to move. Therefore it is natural for the preacher to move (not pace, which displays nervousness) when he is preaching. The preacher should look to children for their example. Broadus observed, “The freedom and variety of action exhibited by children when talking to each other shows that it is perfectly natural.” For this reason, the preacher should move naturally during the message freely expressing his words with appropriate movement. His movements should be in stride with the mental and emotional elements of the message.
The preacher should seek to use gestures that are appropriate to his message. Robinson gave the following advice, “Your gestures emphasize your speech. Contrast saying, This is extremely important,” with your hands hanging limply by your side, then make the same statement with a closed fist, shaken at the word extremely.” Robinson then goes on to give some useful examples. “At a football game fans cringe when their favorite runner falls victim to a crushing tackle; sometimes spectators actually will kick the seat in front of them while watching a crucial field goal.”
There are three things that you should practice when it comes to gestures. First, they should be done completely. People don’t want to watch arms go up limply when you are imitating the referee showing that a field goal is good. Second, you should vary your gestures. Parishioners don’t want to see a person who habitually is making the same gesture. Finally, make sure your gestures have appropriate timing. Spurgeon is reported to have said to his class of preachers that when you are speaking about heaven let your face shine with the radiance of the sun and all its glory; but when you are speaking about hell, then your natural face will do.
God not only has given you eyes to see with but also to use for communication. Your eyes can reflect if you are interested in the person you are having a conversation with. Conversely, your eyes can communicate that you really aren’t interested in talking to someone because of the lack of eye contact with that individual. Hence it is very important for the preacher to use his eyes congruently in the process of speaking.
It is crucial for the preacher to relive the text he is preaching through the normal use of the eyes. Craddock writes, “Reexperiencing one’s material during delivery offers immense help in this matter. The various textures and moods of the message will move the eyes naturally, unless one already has learned poor habits.” This aforementioned advice is superior to using the eyes systematically moving from the preacher’s right to left mechanically staring at a person for a couple of seconds in each part of the congregation. Your audience shouldn’t sense the message is contrived.
The Paraclete’s Power Through Passion and Prayer
The act of preaching should be accompanied by God’s anointing. Vines and Shaddix wrote, “As the preacher grows confident in God’s call and builds upon that foundation, strong convictions about God’s Word and the practice of intimate personal worship, divine anointing will not be far behind.” They describe the anointing as “the spiritual fervor that flows through a man in the preaching event.” It is from the anointing that God enables a person to preach with passion.
There are many styles of preaching. However, each messenger of God’s Word must demonstrate passion in preaching. In other words, he or she needs to demonstrate a strong feeling about the message beign communicated. Craddock observes the necessity for passion in preaching. “It is difficult to believe the message of the gospel given by the Scripture and for this occasion germinated in the compost of study, imagination and prayer could be preached as though nothing were at stake.”
Why do some preachers lack passion in their preaching? Alex Montoya gives some reasons why preachers are not preaching with passion in his excellent book Preaching with Passion. He cites the following reasons for passionless preaching: imitation of seminary lectures, intellectualism, inexperience in life, inhibited personality and ignorance of the audience.”
The good news is that you can learn passion in preaching as you depend upon God’s Holy Spirit.
How can the experienced pastor keep his preaching fresh? “Nothing will fill you more with the sense of God’s strength and presence than long, uninterrupted periods of prayer.” Your preaching ministry will be greatly enhanced by following the convictions of the apostles in
There always has been a linkage between strong preaching and much prayer. John Piper has made a significant contribution to homiletics through his book The Supremacy of God in Preaching. Piper has been greatly impressed by the late Jonathan Edwards. Piper quotes Edwards who said ministers, “in order to be burning and shining lights,” should walk closely with God, keep near Christ, seek God and converse with Him in prayer as He is the fountain of light and love.
In 1874, Frances Ridley Havergal penned a beautiful hymn of devotion, “Take My Life and Let It Be.” One stanza is:
“Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love;
“Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee,
“Swift and beautiful for Thee.”
May these words be true of your feet as they carry you to proclaim His precious Word.
John A. Broadus, On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons (4th ed., San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins, 1979), 264.
Aristotle, Art of Rhetoric (Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 2006), 17.
Steven J. Lawson, Famine in the Land (Chicago, IL: Moody, 2003), 95.
Reg Grant and John Reed, Telling Stories to Touch the Heart (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1990), 15.
Charles L. Bartow, Effective Speech Communication in Leading Worship (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1988), 86.
Charles H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1954), 115.
Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1994), 317.
Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, 115.
Duane Litfin, Public Speaking (2nd ed., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1992), 321.
Broadus, On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, 290.
Haddon W. Robinson, Biblical Preaching (2nd ed., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001), 110.
Fred B. Craddock, Preaching (Nashville, TN: Abington, 1985), 220.
Jerry Vines and Jim Shaddix, Power in the Pulpit (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1999), 64.
Craddock, Preaching, 220-221.
Alex Montoya, Preaching with Passion (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2000).
Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, 185.
Bruce Mawhinney, Preaching with Freshness (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1997), 137.
John Piper, The Supremacy of God in Preaching (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1990).