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How to preach a good sermon

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Part 6: Relevant sermons

(Content of this section: A test for whether our sense of God's direction for the sermon is correct)


In a previous part I wrote, “Let your prayer continue as your start to prepare your sermon until you sense the Lord speaking to your heart about what to preach” and I gave you some guidance on how this “speaking to your heart about what to preach” is likely to occur. What is also needed is to have some way of testing if you are getting it right on your “sense of what to preach”.

The test I use as to whether I’m correctly sensing what the Lord is speaking to my heart about for the sermon is given by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians. Here it is,

But he who prophesies speaks edification and exhortation and comfort to men.

1 Corinthians 14:3 - NKJV


You might immediately say, “I thought we were looking at preaching not prophesying?” Yes, but the kind of preaching we are looking at is to be prophesying, prophesying that is not in the sense of foretelling something to come but rather in the sense of forth telling divine counsel for the current time. A good sermon will tell forth divine counsel apt for the time, place and the people of God hearing it.

So Paul gives us a test to apply to the one who prophesies in the sense of forth telling the divine counsel. It is a test we can apply to our sense of what we’re hearing from God about what to preach, about what to present in our sermon.

(Content of this section: Questions to ask yourself as you prepare your sermon)


Ask yourself, “Is my sermon going to build up the hearers, that is to say, edify? Is my sermon going to comfort the hearers, that is, comfort in the sense of to encourage? Is my sermon going to exhort the hearers, that is, call them to move from where they spiritually are right now to where they ought to be?”

Now this is where relevancy comes in, to build up you have to start where the hearers are, to comfort you need to minister into the area where comfort is needed, to exhort you have to call to the hearers in the place where they presently are. I once heard a sermon of a pastoral nature - a message of building up and exhortation to God’s flock - preached to a festive gathering of people most of whom were not Christians. Since it had little or no relevance to the people in the gathering or the situation, it consequently did little or nothing for them. It was not a good sermon.

A good sermon will do something in or for the hearers. It will minister divine counsel relevantly to them. They will hear words that speak to them about their condition and their situation. They will listen because it is saying something timely. Whether they respond will then be a matter for them and the Holy Spirit.

(Content of this section: An example from Paul of preaching a sermon that is relevant to the hearers)


The apostle Paul gave us a good example of establishing relevancy for the sermon when he addressed the men of Athens. He did it straight away as he began his sermon. Below are his opening words. Notice how he picks the hearers up where they are in order to take them to where they ought to be.

“Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: “

Acts 17:22 - 23 - NKJV


In his sermon Paul then called on the men of Athens to move from the place of ignorance about the God unknown to them to the place of knowing this God for themselves through Jesus Christ. It was relevant and had an immediate impact. People were challenged by the exhortation and it brought a clear response, in some people a negative one and in others an expression of hunger to know more. This was a good sermon.

(Content of this section: A preacher should know something about what people are facing)


It's worth noting here that Paul took time to find out something about the people he was called to address. If you are going to preach a relevant sermon you're going to have to find out what is relevant to the lives of those your sermon will be addressed to.

If it's not your own church congregation you are going to be preaching to then do something about finding out about the people you are going to be ministering to. What sort of community do they belong to? What sort of culture do they belong to? What is the likely make up of the gathering going to be? Will it be mostly women or all men? Will it be people from many different types of employment or just one? Will there be a lot of unemployed people in the gathering?

If it's your own church congregation then you should know them well. A pastor should have a relationship to his congregation like a godly and wise grandfather to his extended, close-knit family. At least in broad terms, you should know the sort of things people in your church are going through in their lives at any given time.


In any case though, if your sermon is going to be a relevant sermon you need to go back to seeking the Lord in prayer. You need to ask Him, "What is the congregation experiencing or facing or concerned about or bewildered by at this time that you want me to minister Your Word into so that they may be comforted, guided, strengthened, healed or delivered?"

If your sermon is going to speak to hearts and minds in a way that causes God's Word to come to life and relevancy to the hearers then you are going to have to seek the Lord. You will need to request of the Lord, "Father, show me Your Word for Your people at this time."

May God guide you to a sermon that is powerfully relevant to those who will hear it.

Preview of content in next part:

  • A good sermon needs a wee word of introduction
  • Make use of some public speaking skills in presenting your sermon
  • As you preach let your passion over the message come out in the sermon
  • Telling life stories and illustration helps hold interest
  • You are going to need some outline notes if your sermon is to be effective
  • Speaking extemporaneously from your heart will help carry the congregation with you
  • A good sermon has a good close to it that calls for a response
  • A good sermon needs a good basic structure to it

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