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A Sermon About A Sermon
June 9, 2015

A Sermon about a Sermon   Dave Campbell


One Sunday I preached a sermon about sermons.  Something I’ve never done before.  It would be like a song about a song or a book about a book, or a reality show about reality shows.  This particular Sunday, I preached about preaching.  To my surprise, it really resonated with the folks in the pews, probably because they are the people who come Sunday after Sunday to listen to what the Lord has laid on the pastor’s heart to bring to the pulpit.  It was of interest to them to know where these sermons come from, how they come together and the way in which they are intended to impact us.

I am of the belief that preaching sermons is still vitally important even in this day and age of technology and information overload.  The sermon is the “audible sacrament” and the preacher must speak with the touch of God.  I still remember the first time I was asked to preach over forty years ago in a small country church.  They must have thought that a 19 year old just saved off the street would have some good (or bad) things to say. I was a new Christian then and just getting started in Bible school.    I gathered my material, studied my text and even had a great quote from Charlie Brown.  I was raring to go.  I was prayed up and I had a fire in my bones. Then it happened.  I stood behind that pulpit and delivered my whole sermon in less than three minutes!  I didn’t know what to do next, so I went through the whole thing all over again. Now what?  An altar call?  Do we sing “Just as I Am”? I just turned red and handed it back to the pastor.  Who said I even wanted to be a preacher anyway? I have friends who still remind me about that embarrassing moment. They were there taking notes.  I like to think I’ve learned a few things since those days, so I’d like to share four crucial things about preaching God’s Word:

1.      Preaching must be Biblical. 

The preacher must be an expert in the Word of God.  The preacher studies, cross references, compares this precept with that precept, endeavoring to bring the whole counsel of God.  It is the task of the preacher to unfold the Scriptures to the people.  The Word of God is the only real Thing we have to bring transformation about in our churches.  Quite often the Word is replaced by philosophy, psychology, politics or personal hobby horses in preaching today.  I must confess that a few times I’ve heard preaching on the radio and wondered, where’s the Bible in this sermon? 

When the Apostle Paul spoke about preaching, he drew from the idea of the herald who only had one job: to proclaim the king’s message throughout the king’s realm.  It was not his business to embellish the announcement or superimpose his personal opinions to it. He didn’t add to it or subtract from it.  Just tell it the way the king said to tell it.  Such is the task of the pulpit minister.

I once read about a cathedral in Europe that was home to a beautifully ornate marble pulpit.  The front of the pulpit featured a sculptured relief of a recording angel looking up at the speaker with a quill in one hand and a scroll in the other as if to check on the biblical correctness of the sermon.  Not a far fetched idea at all.

The Word of God must be proclaimed without fear, without compromise, without prejudice, and without hesitation.  It is God’s Word which protects us, enlightens us, inspires us, lifts us, heals us and transforms us.  It is powerful, perfect and permanent.  Preaching must be biblical.


2.     Preaching must be anointed.


The Bible tells us that it is the anointing which breaks the yoke.  Anointed preaching has that affect.  But let’s be very careful that we don’t mistake anointed preaching for talented, animated, entertaining, theatrical gift of the gab.  There are all kinds of gifted motivational speakers who can charm the birds out of the trees, but it doesn’t mean they’re anointed.  They can prance across a stage, fire up a crowd, stir your emotions and dance like an organ grinder’s monkey, but it doesn’t mean they’re anointed.  A preacher can do all these things as well and speak with a lot of thunder, but there’s no lightning unless the anointing is upon him.  Consider the British Colonial revivalist of the mid 1700s by the name of Jonathan Edwards and his famous sermon “Sinner in the Hands of an Angry God.”  It is said that he would prepare his sermons while traveling between engagements writing the message out word by word. He preached the sermon to his own congregation in Massachusetts, then delivered it again upon invitation from a pastor in Enfield, Connecticut.  He stood in the pulpit and read his sermon in a monotone voice about the judgment of God upon the unrepentant.  Several times he was interrupted by moans and shrieks and people carrying out, “How can we be saved?”  People actually grasped hold of the pillars and pews because they felt they were sliding into the pits of hell.  There must have been a powerful anointing on his sermon that day.

God promised He would back up the preaching of the Gospel with His power and would stand behind His messengers. 

I shudder to think of the times I have preached sermons that lacked the touch of God upon them.  At such moments, our words just seem to fall to the ground with no affect.  I think every preacher knows that feeling.  Anointed preaching begins in the presence of God, with the Word of God, listening to the voice of God, preparing with the direction of God, then speaking as the oracles of God.  Preaching must be anointed.


3.      Preaching must be compassionate


The sermon may be informative, truthful, biblical and stirring, but unless it is delivered from a heart of compassion, it may not amount to much more than an inspiring speech.  Paul said it so well: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.”  (1 Corinthians 13:1)  It has been well stated that people don’t care what you know until they know that you care.  No one could ever say that Jesus didn’t speak with compassion.  We’re told in His Word that “He saw a great multitude, was moved with compassion toward them, and He healed their sick.”  (Matthew 14:14)  People tend to listen to someone who cares.  If we ever want to touch this young generation, we must speak to them with compassion.  This group of young folks have information at their fingertips.  They have witnessed countless atrocities on the news and by the time they reach the age of 18, the average teenager has seen some 22,000 hours of television.  Many grew up in broken or dysfunctional homes and had little parental input. One word used to characterize this generation has been “numb”.  One thing will touch them though, and it’s compassion.  Not “sloppy agape” but caring, compassionate ministry from a loving shepherd.  It may be even more needed for the times we have to preach about the tough stuff of correction or rebuke. Don’t let the people leave the sanctuary without knowing that you genuinely love them.

Without compassion, our sermons come across as “clangy”.  I have heard a few of these clangy sermons and I confess that I’ve also preached a few myself.  Let us remember that preaching must be compassionate.


4.      Preaching must be relevant.


Of course, Jesus was the Master Preacher.  We would do well to learn everything we can from Him. He was always current to the culture He spoke to.  People listened to Him because He spoke their language. In His parables He used references to the sky, the sun, figs, fish and corn just to name a few, to make truth come alive in people’s minds.  There was nothing boring or tedious about His preaching. He spoke and people stopped to hear what He as saying. 

King Solomon wrote about the preacher.  He said: “The teacher sought acceptable words, even to write down rightly the words of truth or correct sentiment.”  (Ecclesiastes 12:10)

A preacher works very hard putting his sermon together, gathering just the right wording with a story here and an illustration there and maybe even a little humour in the right place if it fits. (Be careful with humour though.  If you’re not good at it, you could end up stinking up the place.) He (or she) writes and rewrites it and even practices it in the privacy of the car or the shower.  It has to simmer a little through the week and be prayed over constantly and maybe, just maybe, once again the preacher can hit one out of the park for the Lord!


I’ve learned a lot since my first embarrassing and humiliating preaching experience in 1974.  But if I may say so, that sermon was five minutes of relevant preaching.  I still remember it well.  The sermon was about the fact that everyone is going through something and how even Charlie Brown himself said that “..the seeds of the soul are watered best by the tears of adversity.”  It may not have lasted long and it was pretty shaky, but by golly, it was relevant!  I like to think that’s why my friends still remember it 40 years later.  Ya, I think I’ll stick to that.

Filed under: From the Pastor's Desk


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