We did a survey a couple of weeks ago, and we are slowly but surely answering them here on the blog. Our hope is that we can be clear and honest with you.
I have three goals when I preach. I want to say what the Bible says. I want to do all that I can to make the Bible understandable. And I want to help people respond to what the Bible says with honesty and hope.
So for me, preaching should be biblical, understandable and helpful.
Preaching should be biblical. The main idea of my sermon is built on the foundation of the text. I should be saying what the Bible says. This is what we call expository preaching; not necessarily a word-by-word explanation of the text; but building a message from the syntax and genre of a text.
This is why a sermon out of the Psalms or Luke comes off as more creative or artistic than a sermon out of Romans or 1 Peter. Different genres demand different approaches to communicating the message of the Bible. But the goal of every sermon is to be expositional in saying what God is saying to us through this particular sliver of the Scriptures.
Preaching should also be understandable and helpful. When I taught preaching in graduate school, I had a question I asked at the beginning of my review session with my students: how were you helping people understand and apply the Bible? No two preachers are alike in how they answer this question. And for good reason: no two preachers are alike. Andy Stanley is not John Piper. And John Piper is not Matt Chandler. And Matt Chandler is not Tim Keller. And Tim Keller is not Steven Furtick. And Steven Furtick is not Matt Adair.
The challenge for me and every preacher is whether our efforts to be understandable and helpful actually produce understanding and clear steps towards applying what we’ve heard. There are ways that I do this well and other areas of communication where I struggle. Someone might find me very understandable and helpful while the person sitting next to them might find me rather confusing and unhelpful.
So for me - and for anyone who preaches in one of our gatherings - our goal is to be biblical, understandable and helpful.
Do I always win? No. That’s why I work at my craft and listen to you as you ask questions and give feedback about my sermons. And it’s why all of us put our hope in Jesus. He is the real preacher in the room on Sundays. I am humbled and encouraged by the thought that while God uses me to talk to you through a sermon, his work is not limited by my flaws.