Encouragement for Preachers of the Word

An unexpected note in the mail, a kind word after service, or an encouraging phone call. The body of Christ is called to encouragement. The writer of Hebrews calls us to encourage one another (Hebrews 3:13). And let’s be honest, sermon prepping and sermon preaching is always demanding, often discouraging, and usually exhausting. I’m sure each of you reading this are doing so with hope for some needed encouragement. And so, may we be encouraged as we consider both some equipping tools and encouraging words.

When a Good Sermon Becomes a Great Sermon

We all know the difference – a good sermon is not a great sermon. And while the Lord graciously will use a good sermon to save and sanctify his people, we should seek to preach great sermons. Great sermons reflect excellence, the glory of our glorious Giver. God calls his people to faithfulness. In desiring faithfulness in preaching, let’s consider a few elements that distinguish a good sermon from a great sermon.

  • Passion from the preacher. Paul tells the church at Rome to “not be slothful in zeal” (Romans 12:11). There’s a call to preach with passion. If you’re not passionate about the words you are saying, do you really expect your listeners to be passionate about applying the words you are preaching? Now, we all have a different style, a different voice. Preach in your own voice. Be yourself to the glory of God. But please don’t be boring or lacking in zeal. And yes, this also involves both a sense of intentionality and authenticity.
  • Hope for the listener. Can you remember a sermon that just made you want to go crawl in bed and never get up? You know the sermon that made you feel awful about your sin, all of the suffering, and all of the evil – and yet, gave you absolute no hope. I’m sure we’ve all heard one of these sermons. And while there most certainly is a place and time to be especially somber in our awareness of our sin, we must certainly always couple that with a Kingdom hope. We have hope because of the resurrection of King Jesus. A better day really is coming.
  • Illumination by the Spirit. Pray that the Spirit will do what only the Spirit can do. It is the Spirit who draws, illuminates, and awakens. Fervently pray for the Spirit to work. Your well crafted sermon is just words on a paper and words spoken from a stage apart from the divine intercession of the Holy Spirit. Ask the Spirit for a “waking up” to the reality of brokenness and the redemption in Jesus.

A great sermon zealously preaches the hope of the Gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit. A great sermon is preached when the pastor is compelling, clear, convicted, and in community. A great sermon is preached when the Spirit wakes up the hearers to story of redemption – to the reality of sin and to the redemption in our Savior.

Words for Every Preacher to Daily Consider

Some of you reading this have faithfully preached God’s Word for decades. And while you’re seasoned, you may be exhausted. Others of you may be young, fresh out of seminary, and eagerly await your next opportunity from the pulpit. And for all of us, I’d like to close with a few words of exhortation to daily consider as a preacher of the Gospel. And while there are so many words of wisdom I could share, I’ll keep it clear (my application in light of a common preaching error previously mentioned here) and simply share one foundational and essential encouragement.

Examine yourself before the Lord before you exhort others in the Lord. We’ve all seen the recent fall of several well-known preachers. Perhaps, even one of your favorite preachers has disqualified themselves from ministry. Or maybe you find yourself walking in hidden sin. Friends, I urge you with these words – examine yourself before the Lord prior to exhorting others in the Lord. You can’t give others what hasn’t gripped you. James reminds us to “look in the perfect law, the law of liberty” (James 1:25). Brothers and sisters, we must examine ourselves. We must ask the Lord to search us and show us any grievous way that we might walk in godliness (Psalm 139:23-24).

So how we do we faithfully and consistently examine ourselves? Fight the urge to be busy. Fight for a rhythm of rest and reflection. Slow down before the Lord before you serve the Lord. The Lord will sanctify you, sustain you, and keep you. Position yourself as needy prior to preaching to others who are needy. And “the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:10-11).

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