When the sermon comes to a close, the church should remember the truth of the text rather than the personality, stories, application, and other component points of the sermon. The most important part of the sermon is not the preacher—it’s the truth of the text of Scripture. Communication is key when it comes to preaching and teaching, and one thing is for sure—we must not preach with dispassionate and cold hearts as if God is dead and truth is boing.
There is an art to illustration. Some people are better at it than others, but such stories could be in the form of serious illustrations that point to the truth of the Scripture or humorous stories that help illustrate truth with a lighter touch. When preaching the New Testament, skilled preachers often weave into their sermon such examples from the Old Testament in order to illustrate the truth of the passage. It’s always better to bring in a Bible story rather than a personal story when possible. The Bible is the best commentary on the Word of God. However, using personal stories can often personalize the sermon that brings warmth and realness to the surface which causes people to see and understand easily.
One thing to consider when using stories is that it requires skill to tell stories well. Just throwing information at people randomly is not the best way to illustrate a passage. If we want people to leave with truth, our stories should be used with precision and should never overshadow the text. If people leave remembering the story better than the truth of the Scripture—that would be a tragedy. This is why using humor must be done with care and precision so that the joke or funny story is not the highlight of the sermon. The truth of the text must be the highlight of the sermon or Bible lesson.
Connecting the dots from the theology to the everyday ebb and flow of life for the believer is essential in preaching. However, there is a balance to strike in relationship to the preacher and the congregation in this process. Often times, people in the congregation expect for the pastor to do all of the studying, all of the exposition, all of the explanation, and all of the application. In all actuality, part of the work of receiving the Word of God is to seek to make application to yourself as the Spirit of the Lord guides.
In preaching and teaching the Bible, it’s good to point to a big sovereign God from the pages of the Bible and to put the cookies on the bottom shelf as often as possible. Connecting the dots from the truth to the front porch of people allows the people to understand and gain the truth of the passage. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones once described preaching as “logic on fire.” This theo-logic was more than dispensing information to people from a pulpit. The aim of preaching is to make the truth come alive. We see glimpses of this as we read Nehemiah 8, when the priests gave the people the sense. In other words, they made sure the people understood the truth that was being proclaimed by Ezra the scribe.
Another tool or method for delivering truth is the use of quotations by other noteworthy teachers, preachers, or theologians. We must remember, there is no new truth under the sun. All truth comes from God and has been delivered to us in his Word. Truth finds its source in God and is passed on and explained through the years. We all stand upon the shoulders of men and women who have gone before us.
If the ultimate goal is to deliver truth to people’s hearts rather than building up a big personality before the people while pretending to come to such understanding in a vacuum—the use of quotations can help people see and grasp the truth. One person might describe a verse with one set of vocabulary and descriptive word choices while another uses a different set of words and descriptions and sometimes as you stand there in a conversation with two or three people conversing about a subject, one person may communicate in a way that causes the lights to come on for you. In preaching and teaching, the same thing can happen by simply using a quote from someone who has a helpful way to describing the truth.
Whatever we do in preaching, we must be sure that we do not come across as brilliant and boring. The skill of preaching and teaching is to make the truth move in the hearts of people. This is not possible by a cold and dispassionate delivery. Dispassionate preachers produce dispassionate church members. At the end of the sermon, it’s not about the dramatic story or the personal application. The main emphasis isn’t focused upon the use of a really nice quote or even the personality of the preacher. People in the congregation need truth and they must leave remembering and rejoicing in the truth of God’s Word. After all, it’s not the joke, the story, or the quote that sanctifies a person—it’s God’s truth (John 17:17).