The Place of Theology in Sermons

The recent State of Theology study by Ligonier ministries puts into quantifiable results the fact that the Evangelical Church is astoundingly ignorant and misinformed about the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. It isn’t hard to understand this when sermons continue to get shorter and substance grows thinner. Moralism, stories, pop psychology, and video clips fill up the time given for preaching and the results are predictable.

How can we beef up the theological content of our sermons while not overwhelming our congregations with long dissertations and dry lectures? As in many things in life, we must strike a balance. How can we do that?

  1. Preach the text. Expositional preaching is not the same as a theological diatribe. Every text contains theology, but not every theological message is expositional. Stick to the text and explain the passage by making the theology in it clear.
  2. Make sure you understand the depth and breadth of the theology in the text. As the one expounding the passage, you must know the greater concepts of theology inside and outside of the passage. Pull out that systematic theology and refresh yourself with the broader and more full ideas involved in the particular theological concept you are addressing. This will guard you from saying something contradicted elsewhere in Scripture.
  3. Be clear about the theological idea before you preach on it. Nothing makes a muddy sermon than not knowing what you are talking about. If you can explain the main idea of a theological concept to a 10 year old, you understand it well. Break it down into bite-sized ideas and use illustrations or similes in order to communicate to different levels of spiritual maturity.
  4. Don’t be afraid of using theological terms, but be sure to define them. Don’t avoid using words like justification, atonement, even hypostatic union, but make sure that you define the word and idea. But be careful that in defining a word, you don’t oversimplify a complicated concept for the sake of being clever.
  5. Connect the theology with living for Christ. God places theological concepts in his Word because they are important, but it is the job of the expositor to mine the riches and point out the practical application of each idea to life. Show them the riches of theology and make them thirst for more. The Puritans were masters at this!

As we add theology each Sunday we will serve up rich, meaty spiritual meals that will satisfy and strengthen the congregation. Your church doesn’t have to be near a seminary, highly educated, or even made up of mature believers to do this. Start at whatever level your church is at spiritually, and then move them toward greater maturity and theological precision with patience and love. Not only will they thank you for it, you will be inoculating the church against false doctrine and false teacher as well, making your job as a shepherd so much easier.

A Tool to Sharpen Your Preaching (weekend repost)

If we want to improve in any skill, we must practice. This axiom is also true for preaching. If you don’t get many opportunities to preach, them you won’t be able to grow as an expositor. But there is an additional tool beyond practice that is also needed. As a matter of fact, it goes hand in hand with practice. It’s feedback. We need help with seeing our blindspots and our weaknesses in our sermons and delivery. One good place to get helpful feedback is from our church–those people that love us and want us to grow in our skills.

Read the full post and see the sermon evaluation form here: A Tool To Sharpen Your Preaching

Do’s and Don’t’s of Sermon Introductions

Do not:

  1. Make your introduction disproportionate to the sermon. Your intro is like a porch to your sermon (the house). Make the porch fit the house.
  2. Cram details into the sermon that should more properly be placed into the sermon under a main or sub-point.
  3. Avoid eye contact or read your intro. Eye contact is important to engage your listeners. Know your intro so well that you will not need to read it. With that said, lengthy quotes are seldom appropriate in an introduction.
  4.  Introduce your first point, or a sub-point or idea in your sermon. This is confusing. Introduce the main point, which should cover your proposition and outline.
  5. Introduce the book, genre, author or audience. This material is background, but not the main idea of the text.

Do:

  1. Be clear, and concise. Make an impact that will leave your listener wanting more.
  2. Be creative. Introducing every sermon in the same manner gets as tedious as a bologna sandwich every day for lunch. Mix it up.
  3. Be careful in your use of sensational or shocking introductions. They may distract from the message proper, and if over-done will desensitize your listeners over time.
  4. Be brief. Don’t repeat yourself or use multiple illustrations. Get to the main idea and transition into your proposition as quickly as possible. Your job is to exposit the text—so move on to it!
  5. Be energetic. Nothing invites a wandering mind and a good nap than a boring preacher.