I see preachers today erring in one of two directions and rarely finding the balance. That is, some preachers are grounded in the world of the Bible and committed to the text, but when they preach they’re dull and lifeless. They put their people to sleep. On the other hand, there are other preachers who are very creative and passionate and effective communicators, but they are not rooted in the biblical text. I’m seeing both of these extremes. We need to have preachers who marry these two things—a commitment to the biblical text and a commitment to passionate, creative delivery.
– Dr. Hershael York (Professor of Christian Preaching at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky)
Dr. York makes a point that I think most ministers miss: It’s important that preachers be both biblical and creative. We don’t have to sacrifice one for the other. Creativity and solid theology are not mutually exclusive.
This conversation can get people antsy. Talk about creativity, and some take it as an attack on the Bible. Talk theology, and some pastors think you want them to live in an ivory tower.
The truth is, it’s important to preach the Bible, while using the tools that God has given us to communicate more effectively. God created our minds; He created our speech. Let’s learn to make the best use of His gifts!
Do you fall on either side of this tightrope? Here are some tips to help you become a good student of God’s Word and a creative speaker.
Four Ways to Preach the Bible Better:
- Instead of beginning with an idea and then moving to the Bible as a way to reinforce that idea, start with a passage from Scripture and find out what it means on its own.
- Stick to one main passage. Rather than jumping from verse to verse, not taking the time to explain the setting of each, choose one passage and preach it from beginning to end. When you do preach from multiple texts, make sure you’re placing each one in their respective context.
- Begin by trying to understand the author’s original intent before moving to the contemporary application. You’ll still want to cross that cultural bridge, you just need to find it first.
- Study. Don’t just research Google either. Buy some good, solid Bible commentaries (like The Expositor’s set or the NIV Application Commentary series), and/or Logos, and use them to help you understand the passage you are preaching. If you don’t read the work of others, you might think you’re letting the Bible speak on its own, but you’re really just letting your interpretation of the Bible speak on its own.
Four Ways to Preach More Creatively:
- Use powerful illustrations to emotionally connect to your audience. Dr. York uses the example of Nathan’s conversation with David in 1 Samuel 12 as a powerful picture of what illustrations can do. Rather than begin with Bathsheba, Nathan started with a story that captured David’s emotions. Sermon illustrations are a resource we’ve recently made available to pastors.
- I once heard it said that explanation without application is an abomination. After you’re finished explaining the text, relate it to your listener’s life. What does it mean to them, day in and day out?
- Don’t dumb down; simplify. Take difficult to understand concepts and break them down in a way that makes them easier to grasp. Say the same thing in different ways. Use metaphors.
- Use visual media to reinforce your point. Good sermon art can capture the essence of a biblical text and help people to remember what you’ve talked about. This is one of the reasons Ministry Pass is in existence. We want to give pastors great visuals at an affordable price.
If you’d like to learn more about Ministry Pass and how it can help you preach more creatively, download our FREE sample sermon series HERE.
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