What is a Faithful Preacher?

All of this, and more, facilitates spiritual growth and maturation—not just for the preacher, but for his hearers.

Year after year, the rigor of preparing sermons has deepened my Scriptural knowledge. The thousands of hours wrestling with texts have been incalculably sanctifying. Moreover, preaching verse-by-verse through books in the Bible forces me to confront difficult doctrines, grapple with knotty texts, and apply the full complement of Scripture to my own life. Plus, regularly delivering sermons has knit my heart to my community and allowed me to grow as a preacher.

 

What does it mean for a preacher to be faithful? How does one even measure a preacher’s faithfulness? While I acknowledge that whole books can be written to address these questions alone, let me offer at least six marks of a faithful preacher.

A Faithful Preacher Knows His Audience

In order to be a faithful preacher, you must first know your audience. Different groups in different settings often require sermons that are different in style and depth. Thus, every sermon should be a customized sermon, crafted specifically for the recipients.

When I prepare sermons, I think through exactly who will be in the audience. I bombard myself with questions like:

  • How will this point strike the 80-year-old widow who lost her husband last year?
  • Will people be able to grasp this biblical concept as presented, or do I need to simplify my explanation?
  • What does this truth have to say to the young couple who is struggling with their marriage?
  • How might this concept be expressed in a way that is encouraging to the middle-aged woman recently diagnosed with cancer?”

Every sermon is delivered in a context, situated in a cultural moment with space and time realities. Preaching is not a sterile or clinical act. Therefore, in order to be faithful, familiarize yourself with your audience.

A Faithful Preacher Takes the Time to Interpret the Text

Faithful preaching requires being familiar, broadly speaking, with the text or book you are preaching. This familiarization takes place at both the macro and the micro level. At the macro level, it means having the big picture of the text clear in the mind. One way to accomplish this is by keeping track of context. For example, when preaching through a book of the Bible, I read through it at least twice in a row. Additionally, I peruse commentaries and other resources early on to help familiarize myself with the contours of the book.

Obviously, as my sermon preparation progresses, I will move from broad familiarization to a more technical analysis of the passage. Nonetheless, at this point, I am already trying to familiarize myself with the main idea of the text. Even though I may not reach a conclusion until after I have done more exegetical work, I am already asking myself, “What is the author saying in this passage?”

A Faithful Preacher Structures His Sermon Around the Theme of the Text

Faithful preaching involves structuring your sermon around the structure of the text. Not all sermons will, nor should, sound the same. The surest way you can confirm that your sermon structure is textually oriented is to preach expositionally. As you do, the theme and contours of the text will become apparent, and as a result, they will drive your outline.

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