Mark #2: The Word of God drives the sermon.
Imagine your friend Sally is sick and greatly troubled. Desperate for help, she calls you and asks you to drive her to the physician. You drop everything and rush over, honored that she would reach out to you for assistance. She thanks you profusely as you drive her to the doctor’s office, and you can feel her hope rising as you get closer. This physician is known to provide help for people like her. Color returns to her face as her anticipation rises to meet him.
But imagine that when you get to the office and the doctor comes in, you cut him off every time he tries to speak to Sally. Every time the doctor opens his mouth to give direction, you speak over him and give Sally the best advice you can think of. After about 20 minutes of this, the doctor finally leaves the room to attend to another patient.
Can you imagine anything more grievous than this? Sally was literally in the presence of the physician who could help and heal her—with ears wide open to hear him—but you never let him speak.
This is what a Word-less sermon is like. Hurting people have come to church for healing. They are inside the doctor’s office, so to speak, eagerly waiting to meet and hear from the physician. How lamentable would it be if we (as pastors) took up their entire visit offering our best words of advice rather than letting them hear from the doctor himself?
Preacher, you will be tempted to use the pulpit to ride your favorite hobby horses, monologue your latest theological fascinations, showcase your greatest life achievements, or broadcast your political convictions. Resist this urge. As Paul tells Timothy, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2, NKJV, emphasis mine).
Word-less preaching is powerless preaching. Sure, we might inspire some listeners with our own wisdom or creativity—perhaps even influence their behavior. But true heart change comes from the Holy Spirit working through the proclamation of the Word of God. As Bryan Chapell put it, “Preaching accomplishes its spiritual purposes not because of the skills or the wisdom of a preacher but because of the power of the Scripture proclaimed (1 Cor. 2:4–5).”
Application: Before preaching, ask yourself:
- Have I clearly understood and communicated the author’s intent in the passage at hand?
- Do my points and illustrations serve the text (rather than distract from it)?
Have I connected the main point(s) of the text to the lives of my congregants? Have I connected the text to the gospel of Jesus Christ (to whom all of Scripture points)?
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