Preaching is hard work.
To those sitting in the pews, preaching can look relatively effortless—especially when it’s done well. But don’t be fooled. Preaching exhausts the body and soul in ways incommensurate with its duration. I could work in the yard all day in 90-degree heat and (somehow) feel less exhausted than preaching two services.
But it’s not just the physical and spiritual toll that preaching takes. The complexity of the task is what makes it difficult. Just standing up and talking for 30 minutes (and making any sense at all) is tough enough for most folks. But on top of this preachers have to navigate a complicated passage, balance sensitive doctrines, weave together a coherent message, apply the message to people’s lives, and do it all in a manner that’s compelling, engaging, winsome, and never boring or dull.
No wonder James said, “Not many of you should become teachers” (James 3:1).
Given the complexities of preaching, there are a number of pitfalls all preachers (especially aspiring ones) risk falling into. Here are seven I’ve noticed over the years:
1. Confusing “expository” preaching with running commentary.
Somewhere along the way, some pastors have became convinced that the “expository” part of preaching means a sermon must sound like a commentary. They see it as a strictly chronological, running list of observations about the text.
Unfortunately, such a move confuses two different genres. While preaching should unpack the text, it differs from a commentary in meaningful ways. Primarily, sermons have an exhortational component that commentaries often lack—sermons speak not just to the mind but also to the heart. They’re concerned not merely with truth, but also with pressing truth into lives.
2. Assuming more illustrations is always better.
Illustrations are a critical part of an effective sermon. We often remember the illustrations more than the sermon itself. But that doesn’t mean (as some often assume) the more illustrations the better. Sometimes, less is more.
Charles Spurgeon, the master illustrator, said a sermon without illustrations is like a house without windows. But, he adds, you don’t want a house that is only windows!
3. Thinking that preaching Christ means preaching justification.
No doubt, justification by faith alone is one of the most precious doctrines we believe. It was at the center of the Reformation, and it is central to our understanding of salvation. But—and this is a key point—preaching justification is not the only way to preach Christ. It is one way to preach Christ; it highlights his salvific sacrifice. It highlights his priestly office. But Christ is also the ultimate prophet and king. Preach these offices and you are still preaching Christ.
If one fails to grasp this point, then every sermon gets bent back around to justification, no matter what the text says, and so every sermon ends up sounding the same.
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SOURCE: The Gospel Coalition