Biblical. Psychology, history, sociology, science, and pop-culture can inform and illustrate. They cannot be the basis of the sermon. The sermon must be squarely rooted in the Bible. It could be a topical sermon where the preacher asks, “What does the Bible have to say about _____?” It might be an expository sermon where the preacher shows how the text relates to life. In both cases the goal is to connect the Bible to life. Make sure it does both. Make double sure it is rooted in the Word.
Fresh. I want to hear something—anything—I have not heard before. A new illustration, a new story, a new scientific discovery, a new biblical insight—something that I have never heard before. This is more difficult than it seems. Lots of us have heard lots of sermons and read lots of books. It is difficult, but it is not impossible. Lamentations 3.22 – 23 says His mercies are new every morning. You can squeeze the Text your whole life and it will keep releasing new insight.
Convicting. The sermon should touch the heart. It should be emotional. We don’t change lives through information alone. We must touch the heart. It must be emotional, but more than emotional. It must have what the old preachers called unction. It must have the feeling that God is all over it.
Funny. This one might be optional, but it sure helps. I heard someone say, “It is the rare communicator that can connect with an audience without some humor.” One of the things I like about www.sermoncentral.com is that you can search for illustrations by topic and text, then narrow the search to just humorous stories. One funny story in the middle of a sermon will snap a crowd to attention.
Practical. In the Great Commission, Jesus said we are to, “teach them to obey.” We are not to teach them just theology or the stories of the Bible. Great preaching seeks to apply that truth to life. It teaches them how to live the Christian life.
I hear many sermons that speak practically about how to do church. That is a start, but that is not what I mean. I mean preaching that relates to work and family and Monday morning.
Memorable. Good preaching sticks like Velcro to the brain. One great way to do this is the way Jesus did: reduce the main point to a coffee-cup saying. For example, Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” Those words are literally etched in stone today, two thousand years later. They are etched in stone in libraries and universities around the world. They are etched in stone by people who don’t believe in Jesus or even like Jesus. You know you have communicated in a memorable way when your enemies etch your words into stone in their buildings. One reason they do this is because Jesus often used pithy slogans to carry truth. You should do the same. Andy Stanley says, “Memorable is portable.” If you can reduce it to a slogan, they will take it with them and it will change their lives.
Simple. When the preacher is finished, he should be able to ask his six-year-old son what he said and the six-year-old should get it right.
Interesting. When preaching is good, people don’t look at their watches. People rarely get up and leave. They put off going to the bathroom. They don’t check their cell phones. They are not even tempted to. They are lost thought. Great preaching fascinates. Mediocre preaching bores.