“Today Master Morlin pleased me very much when he preached. He instructed the common people about the duties of wives and maidservants. A wife, he said, should think that she is in a holy estate and that her husband is a gift of God; a maidservant should also think that her work is holy. The people can take this home with them, but nobody understands a sermon that is turgid, deep, removed from life.”
I suggested to Bucer and Osiander that they refrain from erudite preaching. Philip doesn’t need to be instructed, and I don’t teach or lecture for his sake, but we preach publicly for the sake of plain people.
Christ could have taught in a profound way but he wished to deliver his message with the utmost simplicity in order that the common people might understand. Good God, there are 16-year-old girls, women, old men and farmers in church, and they don’t understand lofty matters! If one can present fitting and familiar comparisons, as Link can do in masterful fashion, the people can understand and remember.
I prefer to preach in an easy and comprehensible fashion, but when it comes to academic disputations watch me in the university; there I’ll make it sharp enough for anybody and will reply, no matter how complicated he wants to be. Some day I’ll have to write a book against artful preachers.”
— Luther’s Table Talk, No. 5047, June 11, 1540.
To me the Gospel is just one great Figure standing with outstretched arms.
— Phillips Brooks
A preacher was getting a little careless in his preaching preparation. His people noticed that there wasn’t as much “meat” as there had been before. The preacher found an anonymous note in the pulpit which said simply: “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.”
He took the note to heart, began reading the Bible more fervently and returned to his former and more thorough study habits for sermon preparation. It showed in what he produced on Sunday morning. Not long thereafter, he found another note in the pulpit. It said: “Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord.”
You don’t get a well-fed church from serving fast food.
— Bill Hybels
“As you are now, so once I was; as I am now, so shall you be. So be content to follow me.” Someone made an addition: “To follow you I’m not content, until I know which way you went.”
— Epitaph On A Tombstone
The story is told about an old American Indian who attended a church service one Sunday morning. The preacher’s message lacked real spiritual food, so he did a lot of shouting and pulpit pounding to cover up his lack of preparation. In fact, as it is sometimes said, he “preached up quite a storm.” After the service, someone asked the
Indian, who was a Christian, what he thought of the minister’s message. Thinking for a moment, he summed up his opinion in six words: “High wind. Big thunder. No rain.”
(When the Scriptures are neglected, there is “no rain.”
Only when preaching is based on God’s Word are His
people blessed and refreshed!)
Over a century ago, Ralph Waldo Emerson pictured a lifeless sermon:
“A snowstorm was falling around us. The snowstorm was real, the preacher merely spectral, and the eye felt the sad contrast in looking at him, and then out of the window behind him into the beautiful meteor of the snow. He had lived in vain. He had not one word intimating that he had laughed or wept, was married or in love, had been commended or cheated, or chagrined. If he had ever lived and acted, we were none the wiser for it. The capital secret of his profession, namely, to convert life into truth, he had not learned.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature Addresses & Lectures, Emerson’s Complete
Writings, (Wm. Wise & Co., 1926, I), pp. 137-138.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon was sharing with a class of ministerial students about the importance of making the facial expression harmonize with the sermon. “When you speak of heaven,” he said, “let your face light up, let it be irradiated with a heavenly gleam, let your eyes shine with reflected glory. But when you speak of hell — well, then your ordinary face will do!”
He that has but one word of God before him, and out of that word cannot make a sermon, can never be a preacher.
— Martin Luther (1483–1546)
A New Testament preacher … has to be surgical.
— Oswald Chambers (1874–1917)
A preacher must be both a soldier and a shepherd. He must nourish, defend, and teach; he must have teeth in his mouth and be able to bite and to fight.
— Martin Luther (1483–1546)
Author James C. Humes, writer of speeches for five Presidents, wrote an award-winning Churchill biography. His book, The Sir Winston Method, is a must read for every pastor. This book offers Sir Winston’s five rules of oratory and leadership, which Humes distilled from Churchill’s private notes.
1) Begin strongly.
2) Stick to one theme.
3) Use simple language.
4) Paint word pictures.
5) End with emotion.
Henry David Thoreau once wrote: “It takes two to speak the truth. One to speak and another to listen.” Walt Whitman confessed: “To have great poets there must be great audiences.” I like that — someone to write and someone to appreciate. To have great messages from God, there must be a well-prepared spokesman and there must be an equally well-prepared congregation. They work in tandem with each other.
In any church service, the congregation preaches more than half the sermon. The congregation brings an atmosphere with it. The atmosphere is either a barrier through which the preacher’s word cannot penetrate; or else it is such an expectancy that even the poorest sermon becomes a living flame. With which atmosphere did you come to church today?
“If you preach the Gospel in all aspects with the exception of the issues which deal specifically with your time — you are not preaching all the Gospel.
“When you are on top of the mountain, there are always problems you don’t know about yet. When you are in the deepest valley, you need not despair, because the Word of God is always at work.”
Rev. Wayne Dobratz