The last twenty-five years has seen the development of some very good preachers. Perhaps you have experienced the preaching of Timothy Keller or David Platt or Francis Chan. Keller is calm in presentation and fills sermons with background information from biblical times. He is intentional in his outline and lays out the truths clearly. He even approaches the sermon with an intellectual flare that almost sounds like an excellent lecture. Because of his gifts, he appeals to the person who wants the truth argued and proven in an almost apologetically fashion. David Platt truly grabs the attention of my students with his conversational, almost emotional style. He is text oriented and fills the sermon with masterful illustrations. Francis Chan is a whirl of activity, moving all over the stage. He is creative, animated, and very personal. In our biblical preaching classes, we want our students to be exposed to preachers like these. Each of these preachers possesses a style of preaching so different from that of the other two that one wonders how in the world what each does in the pulpit can be called preaching in the same sense. And yet each continues to enthrall audiences with unique presentations of God’s Word.
How can these three men be so different and yet so effective with their preaching ministries? What common feature in their sermons endears them to congregations and places them in the category of great preachers? For that matter, what will it take for you, with your own style, to establish an effective preaching ministry? We think we have an answer to those questions. We believe that all three of these men, and many more like them, exhibit an understanding of biblical preaching. They approach it in different ways and present sermons their own ways, but in the end they all arrive at the same place.
Good preaching is biblical preaching. You are now probably asking yourself what that means. What is biblical preaching, and how can I imitate great preachers? This textbook seeks to show you the way, or at least a way to that kind of preaching. Our goal is to help you develop a process that will allow you to preach biblical sermons week in and week out in your own way—sermons that challenge and encourage growth in your congregation. So where do we start?
Defining a Biblical Sermon
In the 1960s, in A Quest for Reformation in Preaching, H. C. Brown declared that Protestant preaching in America was in a crisis because too many ministers held to “inadequate and inferior concepts about the ministry in general and preaching in particular.”1 Unfortunately, these inadequate and inferior concepts of preaching have probably plagued the church throughout much of its history. Until preachers grasp the goal of the preaching event and come to a clear understanding of how structure and content contribute to that goal, the people in our churches will continue to suffer under weak and ineffective preaching. Therefore, it is imperative in a textbook on homiletics that we come to grips with the basic building blocks of biblical preaching: the elements of developing an effective biblical sermon.
Obviously, a biblical sermon is necessary for biblical preaching. But what exactly is a biblical sermon? One way to define it is to connect the sermon to the concept of biblical authority. A biblical sermon is one that carries with it high biblical authority. In such a sermon, the biblical text serves as the basis, and the message communicated through the sermon follows closely the intended meaning of the biblical text, thus drawing its authority from that text.
Brown classifies sermons according to how well they reflect the intended meaning of the text. Direct biblical sermons are the best, for they “employ the natural and logical meaning of the text in a direct, straightforward fashion.” Indirect biblical sermons tend to depart from the intended meaning of the text and stray from the central idea in the scriptural passage. Casual biblical sermons, continues Brown, utilize Scripture in a rather “free and loose” way. The combination biblical sermon attempts to combine all of these categories, while the corrupted biblical sermon intentionally or unintentionally abuses the Scripture.
The direct biblical sermon carries the highest level of biblical authority. If our goal is to preach with the authority of “thus says the Lord,” then it is critical that we ground our sermons firmly and directly in the Bible. We should endeavor to develop and preach direct biblical sermons.
Adapted from Preaching God’s Word, Second Edition by Terry G. Carter, J. Scott Duvall, and J. Daniel Hays. Copyright 2018 b Terry G. Carter, J. Scott Duvall, and J. Daniel Hays. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.
About the Authors:
Terry G. Carter (PhD, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) is chair of the department of Christian ministries and holder of the W.O. Vaught Chair in the Pruet School of Christian Studies at Ouachita Baptist University. He teaches homiletics, pastoral ministry, Christian history, evangelism and church growth, missions, and survey of the Bible. He is author of The Journal and Selected Letters of William Carey.
J. Scott Duvall (PhD. Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) is professor of New Testament at Ouachita Baptist University. He is the coauthor with George H. Guthrie of Biblical Greek Exegesis: A Graded Approach to Learning Intermediate and Advanced Greek and with Terry G. Carter and J. Daniel Hays of the textbook Preaching God’s Word: A Hands on Approach to Preparing, Developing and Delivering the Sermon.
J. Daniel Hays (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary; PhD, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) is dean of the Pruet School of Christian Studies and professor of Old Testament at Ouachita Baptist University. He is the author of From Every People and Nation, and he has coauthored Grasping God’s Word; Preaching God’s Word; Journey into God’s Word; The Story of Israel: A Biblical Theology; Iraq: Babylon of the End Times?; Apocalypse; and The Dictionary of Biblical Prophecy. He teaches adult Sunday school at his local church in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, and preaches frequently throughout the nation.