Avoid a Bad Sermon: How to Preach So They'll Actually Listen

preaching Apr 08, 2022

When you stand up to preach, you want them to listen. But you’re competing for their attention.

On any given Sunday, the people you preach to are coming with weight on their shoulders and stressors in their heart. They’re in the room, but their minds might be hanging out somewhere else.

Why? Because life can be difficult, as you and I both know.

So what do we do? How can we preach so they’ll listen?

Well, let’s start here:

How to Preach a Bad Sermon

A bad sermon can be many things, but one major way a sermon can miss the mark is this: the sermon only lives in the biblical world. 

It sounds heretical, I know, but hear me out.

If you open your sermon and what you say has to do with what’s going on in the biblical text...

If you teach through the biblical text and place everything in its historical context…

If you make everything primarily about what the original biblical audience would have thought…

And you don’t connect it to your hearer’s lives, you’ve not preached a sermon. You’ve simply led a Bible study. And an incomplete one at that.

You see, a good sermon is a dance.

A Good Sermon is a Dance: The Two Tango Partners

A good sermon requires that the preacher helps the congregation dance well.

When we preach, we must keep many “worlds” in mind. The two main ones being:

  1. the world of the Bible
  2. the world of life today

These are the two tango partners. The Scriptures and life today.

A good sermon is a dance between the Bible and life today. And a good preacher prepares with this in mind.

Instead of only being concerned about word studies and commentary insights, a good preacher reflects on the concerns of today.

If you want to preach a good sermon, you must start with how you prepare. When you uncover the concerns embedded in the biblical text, your next step must be to connect those concerns with the concerns of life today.

Your job, preacher, is to make sure that people have opportunities to dance with Scripture instead of watch Scripture dance by itself.

How to Preach So They’ll Listen

So when you stand up to preach, begin with the world of life today. After all, that’s the world that people have on their mind.

They might be concerned about a relationship, a job (or a lack of one), a housing situation, or a big decision. They might be battling anxiety or depression. They might be fighting for faith and trust in the Lord. 

So start in the world of life today. But don’t stay there.

Move them toward the hope that they have which is embedded deeply in the world of the Bible.

Show them how that world dances with this world, for the writer of both is alive and well, working just as He always has.

When you make a point and teach the truth, be sure to illustrate and apply it in ways that help your listeners connect the dots from the Bible’s world to their world.

A good sermon is a dance.

A dance that the word of God always leads.

Our job as preachers is to invite our listeners to the dance floor and let the Lord lead their hearts.

Grow in Your Preaching

If you want to be faithful to the text, prepare efficiently, and craft your sermon memorably, I’ve got just the thing to help. It’s called the 10-step guide to writing a sticky sermon and it’s yours for free. Just click here to grab your copy.

Write sermons that stick!

Learn the 10-step process to crafting and writing a memorable, transformational sermon. Download this free guide today.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.