Listeners do not want to feel like the preacher is unprepared and making it up as they go along. This undermines credibility. At the other extreme, today’s listeners are often unimpressed by excessively crafted wording. Gone are the days when crowds would “Ooo!” and “Aah!” at unending alliteration (did those days really ever exist?) Our challenge is to find the balance.
I recently heard someone preaching a literary masterpiece of a sermon. It was too much. The craft was overwhelming and it became totally distracting. Once people become impressed, or even distracted by your ability to memorize, you’ve probably gone too far. When preparing a sermon I usually aim for a “prepared natural” style.
Writing a manuscript allows the preacher to give attention to every word in the message, but this does not mean that the sermon should end up as a literary masterpiece. Write the sermon for the ear, but with a “prepared natural” style, then the wordcraft should not feel excessive.
Let “clever” be the seasoning. A little alliteration, assonance, wordplays and pithy sayings tend to go a long way. Be subtle lest you overwhelm the listener, because clever wording is not always clever.