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How to preach a good sermon

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Part 7: Holding interest in your sermon

(Content of this section: A good sermon needs a wee word of introduction)


If you are going to preach a good sermon you'll need to carry the congregation with you. But before you can carry them with you you have to get them with you.

How do you get them with you? I recommend using some basic public speaking skills such as making eye contact with your audience, directing your voice so that it’s reaching people right at the back and starting with a simple introduction that draws them into your message. This simple introduction should let everyone know that this sermon is going to be worthwhile listening to.

(Content of this section: Make use of some public speaking skills in presenting your sermon)


Preaching is public speaking. Indeed the word 'preach' in the English New Testament is in the majority of places translated from the Greek word 'kerusso'. Kerusso can be translated 'to be a herald' as well as 'to preach.' A herald proclaims messages publicly. As a preacher you are to proclaim your message in such a way as to both call attention to it and to make it plainly heard to your public.

(Content of this section: As you preach let your passion over the message come out in the sermon)


Speaking with passion is a key to delivering a good sermon. Your sermon preparation time should have left you with your heart full of a message you are convinced God guided you into for the congregation you are going to be preaching to. You should come to the congregation with a sense of joy and even excitement about what God has shown you from His Word - the revelation from the Holy Spirit of the counsel His Word proclaims for His people.

Your passion will often be enough to carry people with you. You don’t have to be showy to express passion. Your tone, rhythm and pace of voice will express your passion. The people will stay on board with you as you develop your message simply because they’ll want to know what you are so passionate about.

(Content of this section: Telling life stories and illustration helps hold interest)


Nevertheless, in carrying people with you you need to make use of some public speaking skills. Public speaking devices like telling anecdotes, giving illustrations, making use of language that provides people with pictures and relating some of your own life stories will help carry people with you until your message is fully presented.

(Content of this section: You are going to need some outline notes if your sermon is to be effective)


During your sermon preparation you should create notes for your sermon. Notes help you carry people with you.

I like to use a combination of outline notes and complete notes. My outline notes guide me through the development and presentation of the sermon so that I can be effective in delivering the message I believe the Lord has given me for the congregation. My complete notes are the words of certain special things the Lord gave me while I was preparing the sermon. They are complete notes of things that I know I'm going to be best reading rather than trying to reproduce them from memory or by inspiration at the time of the sermon.

I hear some preachers write out full notes of the entire sermon. I cannot personally quite see why this is necessary. I would rather rely on my heart being full of the message and the Holy Spirit giving me the words to express it best at the time the sermon is presented.

In any case, you can easily lose a congregation if you sound like you’re just reading a prepared script. It is easiest to keep a congregation with you if they feel you are holding a conversation with them. This requires a degree of spontaneity in the way you speak.

(Content of this section: Speaking extemporaneously from your heart will help carry the congregation with you)


Do follow outline notes and do sometimes read the complete notes of things the Lord gave you earlier. However, even when reading a complete note, if you sense you might be losing the congregation break off from the notes and speak extemporaneously. Speak from the heart out of the abundance of revelation and understanding that the Lord put there while you were preparing the sermon. God’s Spirit will guide you in this as you speak and He will also add a few things to it as you go.

At the same time, though, stay on track! A good sermon has one main message for the congregation. If you get sided tracked from your sermon outline notes by spontaneous story telling or something similar you could end up never properly and fully presenting the main message the Lord gave you for the congregation to receive.

(Content of this section: A good sermon has a good close to it that calls for a response)


Finally, close the sermon by bringing it to a conclusion. Leave the congregation with a clear final close to the sermon that embodies the substance of your main message and gives them a course of action to take as a response to it.

(Content of this section: A good sermon needs a good basic structure to it)


Notice that in writing the above I have provided a basic structure for the sermon. The basic structure is this opening, development, conclusion.

The opening is to be a simple introduction that draws the congregation into your message and lets everyone know that this sermon is going to be worthwhile listening to. The conclusion is to be a summing up that embodies the substance of your message and leaves the congregation with a course of action to take as a response to it.

The development is what will carry the congregation from the introduction to the conclusion. It should carry them to the conclusion and leave them keen to say 'Amen' as it ends. I will cover the development phase of the sermon shortly.

(Note: the above refers to sermon structure and not order of preparation. As regards order of preparation get the body of your sermon first and afterwards look to the Lord for how to give it a good opening and an effective conclusion.)

Preview of content in next part:

  • A good sermon is delivered by a herald and its message so proclaimed
  • Consider how essential a call to respond is
  • The preaching style of the apostle Paul
  • The preacher must both proclaim the Good News and call for a response

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