You have never tried to make your message irrelevant, boring, or incomprehensible. At least I hope not!
But you find yourself preaching while questioning your effectiveness. You walk up to deliver a sermon lacking confidence in your content. You question your ability. Your capacity. Even your calling. You feel your church more tolerates the message than engages in the content.
Of course, this isn’t the case EVERY time you preach, but more times than you’d like to admit.
The easy solution is to become hyper-spiritual. Say you are “trusting” God and the Holy Spirit to speak in spite of you. Not to be irreverent, though. We know at the heart of preaching, spiritual intervention is necessary. But we all know the difference between “I’m ready to go and trusting God to do what only He can do” and “I’m not close to ready, so God perform a miracle.”
You could opt to blame your church. “People just aren’t the same today. They’re not committed! They’re consumers!” Well, yes. Yes they are. People are different today. But that should never be an excuse for ineffectiveness. You can’t change culture, but you can harness it and leverage it’s power.
Luckily, the fundamentals of effective preaching are just that – fundamental. But if you want terrible sermons on a more consistent basis, just follow this list of rules:
1. Don’t connect.
Content comes through credibility. Not the letters you proudly show after your name, but the connection you create with the crowd. Your credentials aren’t enough to connect to your crowd. Preachers and teachers too often mistake their academic credibility for their crowd credibility. Just because you are wearing a microphone doesn’t mean people care what you are saying, especially those who are skeptical of God, the church, and pastors.
If you want to ensure your content is never heard, never connect yourself to the audience. They won’t care, because they won’t know you care.
2. Don’t leverage felt needs.
The Bible is the ultimate source of truth. There is a seemingly unlimited amount of wisdom, life application, and help found in Scripture. But people are inherently selfish. They want to know exactly how what you are about to say is going to help them live better, enjoy life, or solve their problem. If you present the truth of Scripture before you engage their mind, you have a solution searching for a problem.
We call this “identifying the tension.” Every truth has a tension it resolves. You can find the tension by asking this question: What is the problem that needs a solution, the question that needs an answer, the tension that needs a resolution, or the mystery that needs illumination?
If you want your sermon to be ineffective, be sure to leave out any tension to hear the truth. The Christians will listen politely. The non-believers won’t come back.
3. Give tons of information.
For some reason we Christians have been led to believe more information makes for deeper sermons. But more information is the last thing we need. We have MORE than enough information. Christians as a group are the most over-informed, under-applied people I’ve ever seen. What we lack is handles of application.
If your sermon goal is loading up on information, please find a better goal. Or just accept ineffective as your result.
4. Make it boring.
People are consumers. We hate it in the church, but rather than fight against it, we should leverage it. If people are going to be visual, then leverage illustrations. I recently saw a stat claiming people remember only 10 percent of what is said three days later. Add a picture, however, and your recall rate will soar to 65 percent. Don’t fight that, leverage it. Use illustrations and images to help your congregation engage and remember.
We love using “sticky statements” to help make messages memorable. Such as, “Conversations create connections,” “Your growing relationship with Jesus is built on your growing trust in Jesus,” and “Church isn’t somewhere we go, it’s someone we are.”
Of course, you can just read the Bible to them if you prefer. Just make sure you wake them up when it’s over.
5. Make it LONG…
I hate reading the 250-page book that has 100 pages of actual content. The author just repeats themselves over and over to better prove the point – or to get more pages to the publisher. Many sermons feel like that. They go on and on and on. That’s good for batteries, but bad for messages.
Here’s a suggestion: Don’t preach for time; preach for purpose. Don’t preach the time allotment; preach the time necessary to make your point. If you can do it in 28 minutes, do it in 28 minutes. Sitcoms somehow make it happen.
If you want your sermon to be ineffective, preach for length. Your listeners will be sure to tune you out.
6. Make it a “Saturday Night Special.”
When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Somebody important said that.
When it comes to your message, the time your put into preparation will directly correlate to the effectiveness of your preaching. Plan ahead. Decide on topics, series, and passages weeks in advance. Leverage Evernote or other tools to capture ideas, illustrations, and stories.
Or, you can just ramble for a while, say a few Greek words to impress the Christians, and circle around a passage until the time runs out. That’s always an option.
Being ineffective is NEVER a preacher’s goal. But too often preachers don’t consider the simple components of a successful sermon. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be that way.