5 Words That Weaken Every Sermon

Determining which words to include is an indispensable part of sermon preparation

Preaching is to be text-based, derived from the Word of God. Thus, by definition it is objective and authoritative, and arrive as a certain, sure word. Therefore, the instinct to stipulate, “this is just my opinion” should send off alarm sirens in the mind of the preacher.

 

Preaching is God’s ordained method to convey his Word and build his church. As such, preaching is every pastor’s principle responsibility and every church’s primary need. Therefore, every pastor must preach, and preach well, every Lord’s day.

However, good sermons, like good meals, do not just happen. They are intentionally crafted by bringing together essential elements. In the case of preaching, one essential element is key words. Determining which words to add and which words to subtract is an indispensable component of sermon preparation.

As I’ve previously argued, certain words will strengthen most any sermon.

Conversely, some words weaken the sermon. If used at all, they should be used knowingly and sparingly. Consider these five words that weaken every sermon.

Thing

“Thing” has long been a pet peeve of mine. That is why I was so pleased to see HB Charles address this issue in his helpful book On Preaching. Charles writes:

Get “things” out of your sermon. . . .  The word “things” is nonspecific. The more specific you are, the more compelling your ideas will be. So try other key words instead of ”things” . . .

State three requirements for Christian discipleship.
Share five benefits of forgiving people who have wronged you.
Describe the dynamics of a healthy church.
Explain the signs of true conversion.
Present three principles to practice for loving your spouse.
Warn of the dangers of living selfishly.*  (84)

What makes “things” helpful—its flexibility—also makes it weak. It has so much versatility it lacks clarity and force. A word that can mean so much usually means very little.

Opinion

Preaching is to be text-based, derived from the Word of God. Thus, by definition it is objective and authoritative, and arrive as a certain, sure word. Therefore, the instinct to stipulate, “this is just my opinion” should send off alarm sirens in the mind of the preacher.

The need to clarify, “This is just my opinion” is likely due to one of two factors. Either the preacher is spending too much time away from the text, thus forfeiting authority and undermining biblical preaching; or, when on occasion, you are intentionally (and justifiably) offering your opinion, you may be underestimating your crowd. They can probably sense you are moving to a word of application not specifically stated in the text, and there is no need to overly clarify you are opining.

On other occasions, when you come to a debatable interpretation of a passage—one in which credible evangelical scholars differ—and you feel the need to make your congregation aware the text’s meaning is debatable—consider using the phrase “I believe” as opposed to “My opinion is.”

For example, stating, “Evangelical Bible scholars are of mixed opinion on the meaning of this phrase, and after careful study, I’ve come to believe it means….” Is stronger than “Evangelical Bible scholars are of mixed opinion on the meaning of this phrase, but my opinion is…”. The former implies careful study and reflection, with a measure of confidence. The latter sounds more whimsical, less grounded and less certain.

The bottom line is, if you feel the need to offer a naked “This is just my opinion” what follows probably is not worth offering anyway.

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