By Charles Ensminger
Preaching is no easy task. It takes time, dedication, deliberation, and prayerful consideration – and this is before you even step behind the pulpit.
If you are just beginning your journey as a preacher or even if you are a “seasoned” preacher, taking time to assess your approach to the sermon is still a good idea. Here are a few observations offered for your consideration.
1. Be yourself.
God has called you to be who you are. You are not called to be someone other than yourself. Having said that, building a bridge between the “preacher” and the “everyday” person isn’t always easy, but it needs to be done. People want authenticity, and the only way to do that is by being yourself.
2. Embrace the butterflies.
There is nothing wrong with being nervous. When it comes to preaching, butterflies in the stomach may very well be a good thing. Even having moments of doubt about what you are doing is normal. What you do with the feelings of doubt, even uncertainty is important, though.
3. Be aware of your context.
Understanding your context and the context of your congregation is equally important. How you say what you say is critical. You don’t have to change who you are, but you need to understand your background, the background of the church, and be able to respect who they are as you preach. A sermon at a small church may be the same as at a large church, but how that sermon is delivered may change slightly.
4. Start with the text.
Getting to know what the text says is crucial. Reading the text as you deliver a sermon is not a good idea. You have to engage with the text first and foremost. While commentaries have their place, reading a commentary before you read the passage isn’t a good idea, either. You have to hear the text yourself if you wish to create a sermon that is both yours and speaks from the text.
5. Be aware of the potential prophetic.
The sermon is a vehicle for proclaiming what is not always easily heard. Yet as a preacher, you will find there are times where your words (and your role) carry a weight you did not expect. Yet you must speak prophetically from time to time, and you need to be prepared both to do so and to accept the consequences.
The Rev. Charles Ensminger is senior pastor at Allen Memorial United Methodist Church in Athens, Tennessee.
Excerpted and adapted from Crafting the Sermon: A Beginner’s Guide to Preaching by Charles Ensminger, copyright © 2019 GBHEM Publishing. The book is available at Cokesbury and Amazon.