Those listening that day expressed amazement over Jesus’s teaching, “for He was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Matt. 7:29). The Lord did not just talk about the kingdom of God. He called His listeners into its reality and His dominion. Preachers today would do well not only to preach Jesus to their people, but, asking for the Spirit He promised in this message (Matt. 7:11; see Luke 11:13), seek earnestly to preach like Him.
As a homiletics professor, I think about preaching a great deal. But recently I have even more so. This month I taught an intensive Doctor of Ministry class on preaching. I am preparing to address the subject of preaching and holiness at an upcoming conference. I regularly evaluate men and their sermons. Whenever I am able, I take the opportunity to preach myself. I love to encourage God’s people with His Word, and coach others in doing so as well.
But the main teacher of preaching I try to consistently point my students to is Jesus Himself. He is the Master Preacher. He is the living Word who not only preached the kingdom of God and gave His very life for it, but shows us how to proclaim that message to others. He is both the true subject and instructor of homiletics.
One key lesson to learn from Jesus in preaching is this one. You must address your audience directly. Jesus used the imperative in preaching. In other words, He often used the second person.
Young preachers tend to draw back from the use of the second person in preaching. They hesitate to use the direct address of saying “You” to their hearers. Yet they are not alone. Many Reformed preachers have this tendency as well, preferring the “safety” of the third person, lecture-style of preaching. We need to remember the exhortation of John Angell James:
Our hearers must be made to feel that they are not merely listening to the discussion of a subject—but to an appeal to themselves—their attention must be kept up, and a close connection between them and the preacher maintained, by the frequent introduction of the pronoun “you,” so that each may realize the thought that the discourse is actually addressed to him. Many preachers do not come near enough to their congregations.