What should a sermon be like? Should it be the equivalent of a lecture, or a family chat, or feel like a stand up routine? Should it include ten tips, five tricks or three steps, each beginning with the letter “p”?
A sermon may be all of these things—or it may be none of them. But a good sermon does not try to be any of them. It is not mere entertainment, any more than mere intellectualism. A good sermon intrigues the mind and stirs the heart—but not through the efforts of the preacher, but through the Word of God.
Tim Keller describes it this way in his book, Preaching:
[Preaching compellingly] means not merely informing the mind but capturing the hearer’s interest and imagination and persuading her toward repentance and action. A good sermon is not like a club that beats upon the will but like a sword that cuts to the heart (Acts 2:37). At its best it pierces to our very foundations, analyzing and revealing us to ourselves (Hebrews 4:12). It is built on Bible exposition, for people have not understood a text unless they see how it bears on their lives. (21)
A good sermon does these very basic things: it leads us to repentance and compels us to action. Tips, tricks and well-timed jokes won’t do these things. But drawing our hearers’ attention toward the gospel in any and every text—from Genesis to Revelation—always will. This is no easy task, but it is always worth the effort.