How to Evaluate Your Sermon Before You Preach It - Part 1
Thought Leader: Jeff Francis, M.A.
I’ve preached a lot of sermons. Some of them good, and some of them not so good. I now find myself in a different role. Instead of preaching several times a week, I’m at a place where I just get to listen. I listen to a lot of sermons. But I also spend a lot of time thinking about those sermons. What makes a good sermon? What makes a sermon memorable? How can I know those listening are going to live out this message? One of the ways to answer those questions is to have a good system to evaluate your preaching.
There’s a lot of talk about evaluating a sermon after it is preached, but often the best time to evaluate a sermon is before you preach it. It’s my belief that every sermon should include at least 10 specific things. These things aren’t exactly the 10 commandments of preaching, but I do believe they are what every sermon needs. They are things every preacher should be thinking about and strive to incorporate when preparing for the delivery of his/her sermon.
These three preaching necessities listed must be the foundation for any sermon and should act as a rubric when evaluating your message. The series of questions following each one can be used as a grid to filter through your content and see what areas need improvement prior to preaching the message.
What does every sermon need? Check out Part 1 of my list and see what you think.
1.BIBLICAL: Every sermon must be Bible-based & consistent with the author’s original meaning.
Of course, this is non-negotiable. Everyone wholeheartedly agrees 100% on this point, but I often hear sermons that aren’t entirely true to the Bible. There are times when we’ll preach things that are actually wrong (unbiblical), but most often we preach a biblical theme, but from a passage that doesn’t actually teach it. Doing this means we’ve twisted the meaning of a passage to make a point, which then becomes false-teaching. When I make the Bible say something it wasn’t intended to say, it’s no longer the word of God, It’s the word of humans. And those words don’t have power and authority.
We are modeling for the congregation how they can study the Scripture. They will approach the Bible the same way we approach it in our sermons.
Building sermons on a biblical foundation will allow people to walk away from every message seeing the Bible as their authoritative guide for faith and living, not just the words of the Pastor.
Questions to ask
- Is the Bible the foundation of this sermon?
- What is the author’s original meaning of the passage I’m preaching from?
- Am I being true to that meaning in this message?
- What is the eternal principle(s) from this passage that is true for all Christians in all times?
- Have I felt pressured at all to make a Bible verse or passage say something that it may not really say?
- Will people understand how to study the Bible better by the way I present the Word of God in this message?
2.JESUS: Jesus must be the centerpiece of every sermon, and each sermon must help people see how the gospel impacts their life.
Just like any good story, a good sermon needs a problem to resolve and a resolution to the problem. Whatever problem you are preaching on, the resolution can be found in Jesus. When preaching on the Old Testament, we have to preach through the grid of the New Testament. Though the mention of Jesus can’t be found in every Bible passage, the scriptures and content in our sermon should bring people back to the idea that if I obey what’s being taught then I am going to be more like Jesus as a result. After his resurrection, the disciples don’t even realize Jesus is walking with them on the road to Emmaus, but Luke writes, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (Luke 24:27) Do people see Jesus in our preaching? Does our preaching overwhelm them with how great and glorious Jesus is?
We must teach our people to ask this question about any topic or problem in life: “What does the gospel have to say about this issue?” The gospel is not just good news for the sinner. It’s good news for the believer. People must walk away from every sermon with an idea of how great Jesus is and how the gospel impacts their life every day.
Questions to ask
- Will people see how great Jesus is through this message?
- Is it clear to people that they should be more like Jesus and that obeying this message will help them do that?
- Have I presented the gospel in this message?
- Is this sermon full of “good news” or is it more focused on presenting bad news?
- How does this sermon help me to personally make Jesus the center of my life?
3.DISCIPLESHIP: Every sermon must call people to be and to make disciples of Jesus.
We could preach 100 different sermons on 100 different passages dealing with 100 different topics, but every one of them has the same goal in mind. We preach to help people become more like Jesus so that they can help others become more like Jesus. We must challenge, exhort and encourage people to grow. This means we have to tie everything we preach and teach back to the goal of making disciples and growing spiritually. That is after all what we’ve been called to do. (See Matthew 28:18-20.)
In my current role, I often speak to groups of college age students on the subject of discipleship and what it means to be a disciple. This is at an Assemblies of God institution and many are kids coming from a church background. However, most of these students don’t have a good understanding of what discipleship is or what defines a disciple. I’ll ask, “What does it mean to be a disciple?” They don’t know. And I’ve yet to talk to someone that had a clear understanding of how to make disciples. Our people must hear this on a consistent basis throughout every sermon so they can begin to live it out.
There’s dozens of definitions of what it means to be a disciple. In my opinion, a disciple of Jesus is someone that is reorienting (restructuring) their entire life around Jesus. It’s not that we live our lives and he goes with us. It’s that he lives his life through us. Jesus is the center. Our preaching must challenge people to be growing disciples of Jesus, help them understand what it means to be a disciple in everyday life, and explain the logical steps in how to apply it.
Questions to ask
- Does this sermon clearly communicate that living this message will lead my listeners to grow more like Jesus?
- Have I clearly communicated the specific ways in which this message challenges people to grow?
- Have I encouraged people to take what I am talking about and share it with others?
- Have I shown them practical ways in which they can share this with others in their family, work, etc.?
- In what ways does this message challenge me to grow personally?
These are just the first 3 areas where you can evaluate before you preach. There are 7 others that we’ll cover in our next 2 parts. Think through how you can use each of these steps and the questions that go along with them to help you evaluate your next sermon before you preach it.
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