Preaching Better – Let Process Flow From Content

dropletMost preachers are process junkies.

We obsess over sermon length and structure, whether-or-not to use PowerPoint, if we should preach in a series, etc.

Most of the discussions I have about preaching center on these issues. And that’s fine. These are the tools of of the trade, after all, and we want to use them well.

I’ve participated in these discussions. I’ve written about how to preach better and I’m currently working on a blog post on the process I use to prepare sermon series’.

But I’ve discovered a simple principle underneath all the process that we often forget.

Process should follow content, not the other way around.

I think there are two defining rules every communicator needs to follow:

1. Decide what you need to say

2. Say it in the best way possible

That’s it.

Everything else should follow after that. From sermon length, to series length, to use of illustrations, video clips, Q & A, etc.

Use the process that best communicates what needs to be said and let everything else go. 


Where Process Fits In the (…ummm) Process

So why talk about process at all, then? Why not just “let the Spirit lead?” (often just an excuse for people who didn’t prepare properly).

We need to understand various processes of communication so we can use the best possible process for each communication situation.

The truth is, most of us who communicate regularly (as in preaching one or two times each week, and/or blogging two or three times each week, like I do), will fall into familiar patterns. And that’s fine. It’s a waste of creative energy to re-make your format for every sermon or blog post. But we should never tie ourselves down to any one process, either.

There is no “best” preaching method, just the best method available for any specific message.

For instance, pastors are fond of saying things like “no one ever complained that a sermon was too short.” In general, I agree. But not always. Shorter isn’t always better.

If a sermon (or a movie, a book, a concert, etc) is great and requires extra time to do it well, people are OK with it going longer. A long, good sermon is better than a short, bad one.

But – let’s admit it – a short, good sermon is a thing of near-miraculous beauty.


Use the Right Tools In the Right Way

So let’s keep learning new ways to communicate. We all need to add as many helpful tools to our preaching belt as possible.

But let’s never forget to use the right tool at the right time to communicate the right message in the right way.


So what do you think? What preaching tools have helped you?

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(Droplet photo from orangeaurochs • Flickr • Creative Commons license)

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5 thoughts on “Preaching Better – Let Process Flow From Content”

  1. I have recently had a well meaning fellow pastor feeding me the “secret” of a short service and a shorter message as the answer to numerical “growth” because he’s seen that work in his church. Meanwhile, the David Platt’s and John Piper’s of the world preach for an hour to a packed house. The old preacher’s adage really is the best- “I tell them what I’m gonna tell them, I tell them and a tell them what I told them.” Throw away the watch and take down the clock. Let God be your guide.

  2. If you are someone worth listening to for an hour, people will listen. If not, then they won’t. The key is to find your “general” sweet spot.

  3. Having 4 children ages 19 to 25 I have been told by them that they dont want to hear a Bible history lesson with boring “facts”, they are tired of irrelevant sermons that dont speak to the problems they see all around them, being told they dont pray enough, give enough, serve enough, read their Bibles enough….sitting in church and listening to someone talk for 30 or 40 or 50 minutes is the most counter culture thing they do all week. They are a generation of multi task communicators…sitting and listening to a monologue while doing nothing else…well the sermon better be outstanding if its going over 20 minutes..if the church dosent start to recognize the huge shift in how ideas are communicated…an entire generation will find some other way to communicate truth that will be more in line with real life experiences.

  4. I am convinced that nothing is more vital than laboring to faithfully preach the biblical text so our listeners grow in their comprehension of Scripture. A very good way to sharpen our homiletical skills is through participation in a workshop conducted by the Charles Simeon Trust.

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