We are half way through our list. Some of these may be errors you always diligently avoid. But there may be one in here that makes you or I reconsider an aspect of our preaching. Actually there may be occasions when we fall into some of these approaches, but feel it is necessary in those circumstances. That is fine, there aren’t as many rules in preaching as people may think. But it is good to step into them aware of the potential weakness of the decision, rather than as a habitual approach.
6. Impose a sermon structure instead of letting the text’s structure influence your message.
Those who are committed to preaching as a ministry governed by rules and tradition will regularly cross this line. For it to be a sermon it must have . . . tends to lead to imposition of “correct structure” on Bible texts. It is interesting how few texts genuinely offer a standard number of parallel and equally weighted points. Much more often there is a flow of thought or plot, a combination of one dominant thought with supporting elements, or whatever. Let’s be careful that we don’t abuse a text by forcing a sermonic grid onto it in an attempt to preach the text. We may be left preaching a bruised and caged specimen.
7. Preach a preferred cross-reference
I remember listening to a set of lectures on tape (remember tapes?) The cover said they were lectures on the Pastoral Epistles. The labels on the tapes said the same. Actually, the lecturer also kept referring to the Pastoral Epistles too. But the overwhelming sense I got when listening to them was that the lecturer wished he were in Romans. He went there constantly. Maybe he felt he’d missed out when a more senior lecturer got to do the prized epistle.
When you preach a text. Preach it. It is inspired. It is useful. It is worth the effort to study it and understand it and preach it. Don’t take the short-cut that may or may not be there to a more familiar, a more “preachable” or a more exciting text.
8. Preach a plethora of cross-references.
Every now and then I hear a preacher who seems to be entering the “who can reference the most Bible books in thirty minutes” competition. Please don’t. There are few good reasons to cross-reference, don’t do it otherwise. (See here and here for the main two reasons in my opinion.) Every moment taken in a cross-reference is time not used in preaching your preaching text, if it doesn’t add to the preaching of this text, don’t let your time be stolen.
We’ll finish the ten tomorrow, although ten is not the limit, there may be more!