Part 4 of this series explained the various types of sermons the elder-preacher has available, and once he or she has settled on the subject, the series explained how best to organize and prepare it for use in the pulpit. Part 5 deals with preaching styles and delivery and how to prepare for the sermon, including the importance of dress, what can affect the effectiveness of the sermon, where to find sermon material, and when to start preparing for it.
Evangelistic—In this style, the ring of the preacher’s voice is usually more dramatic. However, it often includes a series of doctrinal sermons in a special location and behooves the speaker to be more active in the pulpit. It also includes the use of graphics in some form, especially since graphics are becoming more and more common with some pastors, primarily because today’s society is more visually oriented.
Pastoral—This style usually exudes less movement, is more personal, and utilizes sermons adapted to the needs of the congregation.
Conversational—In this style, the preacher talks as if he or she is having a personal conversation with someone. In other words, there’s no formality in the presentation.
Didactical—This type of delivery is more like a professor teaching a class: straightforward, with the ring and tone of a classroom teacher.
FACTORS WHICH AFFECT PREACHING STYLE
Distance from the congregation—Some preachers feel intimidated if they’re too close to the audience and thus can’t deliver their sermons as well. Others feel at ease at any distance. Self-confidence is an important factor, because when you have it, you can preach with greater power, since fear keeps you from being able to concentrate adequately on your sermon.
• Adolescents—You would obviously talk differently to adolescents than to an older congregation. Some of your terms would be different—you would use language that they understand better within their age group, and you would speak in a more casual, friendlier tone and would perhaps use illustrations more adapted to their age group. Some appropriate humor can be beneficial.
• Young adults—The manner with this group wouldn’t change much, except you would be a little more serious and use illustrations appropriate for them.
• Traditional elderly—With this age group, you have to be more serious, although some humor can be acceptable, but your illustrations must meet their expectations.
• Erudites—These are professors, academics, scientists, and researchers who are receptive to the gospel but expect a serious, knowledgeable, precise presentation with the facts correct.
Presence or non-presence of PA system—Some preachers can’t wax eloquent without it, especially if the audience is large and distant from the pulpit. Some preachers don’t like to hold a microphone; others do. I once knew an evangelist who could hardly perform without a microphone.
Preaching aids (according to the type of sermon). Some preachers feel weakened in their delivery if they don’t have graphics such as PowerPoint or some other type of visual display.
FACTORS WHICH AFFECT PREACHING DELIVERY
• Spiritual preparation—A good preacher will spend lots of time on his or her knees, pleading for the Holy Spirit to instill humility, direction, power, good concentration, and a spirit of love, both in preparation and in delivery. When you feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life, and especially as you go into the pulpit, you will definitely deliver your best.
• Theme preparation—Selecting an appropriate topic is important but, to do this, you must know your congregation well. When you feel like you have a really good, appropriate topic, you will deliver better and with more power.
• Dress—As one of my parishioners once told me, “Pastor, when you dress good, you feel good.” And from experience, I know that when you feel good, you do indeed, deliver better.
• Health—How you feel physically will definitely affect your delivery. Don’t go to the pulpit when you are sick, unless the circumstances absolutely demand it.
• Self-confidence—It goes without saying that the more self-confidence you have, the more powerful your delivery will be.
• Temperature—If you are shaking with cold or burning up with heat, your delivery will be weakened.
- Well-being with spouse and family.
- Well-being with professional superiors.
- Well-being with church members.
• How you stand and what you do with your hands— You must be conscious of any bad physical habits you have, conscious or unconscious, like scratching yourself, using the same gesture over and over, throwing your head back, licking your lips, tapping your foot, and the like. These habits will affect your audience, and if you become aware of such a habit while preaching, it will distract you.
• How you personally behave yourself—In a nutshell, remember to be yourself. Pretending to be something you aren’t will clearly be seen by the congregation, and it will diminish the impact of your sermon.
HOW TO DRESS FOR THE PULPIT
How you dress may affect you and can affect your listeners as well:
• Not sporty—In today’s society, the members in some of our churches attend very casually dressed. In those churches, you can probably dress without a tie, but in traditional churches, this would be out of place.
• Clothes and ties which are not too bright—A preacher is viewed as a representative of God, and the general view of God is as someone who would be dressed conservatively, so your best bet is to dress so your members see God.
• Always clean, with hair combed and shoes shined— Neat and tidy is always impressive.
• As a preacher, it’s nice to keep one set of clothes—or your best—just for the pulpit, if you can afford it.
• Be bodily clean and use deodorant (of course, always be clean). A bad body odor will turn off many in your congregation.
• Wear colors that match. Women in particular will notice if you wear mismatched colors.
• Be shaved, unless the style is definitely bushy and the congregation is accustomed to such.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR THE DELIVERY OF YOUR SERMON
• Review your notes/outline/manuscript enough times to feel you have it securely in your memory.
• Practice verbally in a mock pulpit with an imaginary congregation.
• Mark your notes with one or more word guidelines such as: smile, pause, emphasize vocally, lower your voice, look intently at congregation, etc. Some preachers are rather stoic, and to break this habit, it’s good practice to write reminders in your sermon notes.
• Carry out the above exercises at night before you sleep—This stamps your notes more deeply in your memory.
WHEN TO START PREPARING YOUR SERMON
• As soon as you can.
• Usually at least one week before—some preachers are working on several sermons at the same time.
• Long enough ahead of time so you can have it comfortably ready and feel confident about presenting it to the congregation.
• Not the night before—but many do so.
WHERE TO FIND SERMON MATERIAL
• From your parishioners through visitation. If you visit your parishioners regularly, you will find problems that need to be addressed.
• From reading:
a. The Bible. You should spend more time with the Bible than with any other book. H.M.S. Richards usually found most of his sermons in the Bible.
b. The SDA Bible Commentaries
c. Other Bible commentaries
d. Ellen G. White material
f. Other pastors’ sermons
g. Original languages
i. News magazines
j. History books
k. The Almanac
l. Christian literature
m. Ministry magazine
n. Adventist Review
o. Internet (see “Expository Sermons”)
• From your spouse.
• From other pastors.
(To be continued)
Lamar Phillips is a retired minister and church administrator who served for 39 years in six world divisions.