12 Things Good Preachers Do Well

A composite picture of a good preacher

(Summary of the forthcoming IVP book)

The 12 things good preachers do well may be summarised as:

  • apply ancient truth using contemporary engagement;
  • be aware of cultural and philosophical challenges to the Gospel;
  • inspire a passion for the glory of God;
  • let the Bible speak with simplicity and freshness;
  • be a Word and Spirit preacher;
  • use humour, anecdote and stories to generate enthusiasm and dismantle barriers;
  • create interest; apply well;
  • make much of Jesus Christ;
  • be urgent and fervent in reaching the lost;
  • persuade people by passionate argument from the Bible;
  • teach with directness, challenge and relevance;
  • preach the whole counsel of God.

 If we add to this Jesus’ authoritive sermons, Paul’s passionate plea for faithful preaching (2 Tim 4:1ff), and Barack Obama’s contemporary use of ancient rhetoric, we may state that good preaching requires the following:

 Be relevant and show how the Bible is of direct interest and application to this to your congregation today.  Immerse yourself in God’s word so that you are speaking from his agenda and not your own, and in order that people sense that God’s agenda is controlling what you are saying.

 Use humour and story, show your humanity but in a way that helps the congregation see that you have found your joy, purpose and meaning in God.  Give the congregation food for thought and send them away fed on God’s word, but at the same time wanting more.

 Work hard to make your sermon clear, simple, and memorable using repetition, alliteration, rhetorical techniques etc which work for you.  Use language and words as the well sharpened tools of your trade.  Communicate the weighty importance and urgency of what you are saying, allowing it to move you and your congregation.

 Be familiar enough with your material to speak naturally and in a way that shows that this message has already impacted you.  Don’t be bookish, but be people-ish!  Don’t disconnect with people in order to prepare a sermon.  Rather prepare sermons by loving, praying for and rubbing shoulders with the people to whom you are preaching.

 There are a number of things which we have not said about preaching in this book:  We have said almost nothing about prayer and very little about the godliness and integrated life of the preacher.   We have concentrated on the act of preaching itself and noted the good things which preachers do well.  In fact none of the things listed above will be accomplished in preaching if the preacher is not growing as a Christian and deeply committed to preaching as a spiritual task. 

 The word that it sometimes used to describe such preaching is sometimes is unction:

There is sometimes somewhat in preaching that cannot be ascribed either to matter or expression, and cannot be described what it is, or from whence it cometh, but with a sweet violence it pierceth into the heart and affections and comes immediately from the Word; but if there be any way to obtain such a thing, it is by the heavenly disposition of the speaker. [1]

Unction is the word that is used to describe the extraordinary way in which God transforms the human words of the preacher in such a way that they come with the full force of God’s word: challenged the spirit and giving the hearer the sense that the living God has personally addressed me today.  I long for more of that preaching today, don’t you?

[1]  Attributed to E.M. Bounds, http://www.reformationandrevival.org.uk/5.html


4 thoughts on “12 Things Good Preachers Do Well

  1. val September 3, 2010 / 7:35 pm

    And this Gospel shall be preached. It is written in Jer 31:22 KJV that the Lord hath created a new thing in the earth, a woman shall compass a man. The man is Satan (Isa 14:16). It is written in Gen 3:15 that a woman will bruise Satan at the heel of time. The heel of time is of the feet of Dan 2:33 a time not long before the return of Christ. Check out the bruising of Satan line upon line here a little and there a little Isa 28:9-10 at http://thegoodtale.wordpress.com


  2. Tom September 18, 2010 / 12:09 pm

    Many preachers are direct, but offensive. I think being direct, but not offensive is perhaps the most important preaching skill. Most preachers are so emotionally offensive and out of touch with the ‘feel’ of themselves as a speaker that my generation (millenials) finds them rude and uncaring.


  3. Tom September 18, 2010 / 12:10 pm

    I like your list Simon


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