A Text for Preachers on Preaching

“Now this is the main point of the things we are saying…” Hebrews 8:1

As a Christian I can say without hesitation that I owe my very life and soul to preaching. Christ saved me for sure, but He used sermons to do so. By God’s grace, manifested through the preached word, my sinful soul was brought from death to life. I thank God for preaching and preachers. A dear pastor friend once told me that he was sure, when conscientiously and diligently done, preaching and pastoring is the hardest work in the world. I don’t doubt it. And I have been blessed to have been exposed to great preachers and pastors in my life (including right now). I also listen to other preaching regularly.

And like most laymen, I have come to appreciate that not all preaching is created equal. Not every sermon hits the mark. Much of the problem, it is to be lamented, is the fault of the hearer. God is not unjust. And if we fail to pray for our preachers it is no wonder that we so often miss the point of their preaching. We hearers are guilty of sinful listening more often than we care to admit. It might be said to many congregations, ‘you get the preaching you deserve.’ Maybe if our lives improved our preaching would improve too. Just a thought.

But sometimes, just sometimes, the fault may partially lay in the sermon itself. According to our text, there is such a thing as pointless preaching. It is possible to go on and on about nothing at all. And the author of Hebrews draws his attention to this problem with preaching when he writes saying, “this is the main point of the things we are saying.” As I meditated upon this text I saw some hints for preachers which might be worth sharing.

Consider, if you will, these 3 admonitions which can be drawn from the words of this text.

First, before preaching, be sure you know the point of your text. What, exactly, is the text saying? The author of Hebrews appears to have known his point: “this is the main point.” What about the point of your sermon? Is it obvious to you? Can you see it clearly? Has the force and weight and importance of this main point gripped your very soul? The Holy Spirit is not the author of confusion, but far too many preachers and sermons are. Know the point! This main point ought to be big enough to constitute a “MAIN point.” Note that our text does not speak of “many main points” but simply “the main point.” Every sermon needs a main point; some great reason for getting up and speaking to those who are gathered. As Jesus said to Peter, “I have something to say to you (Luke 7:40),” so every preacher should approach preaching as having something, some one great thing, to say.

Second, you need other points to help clarify and emphasize the main point. Thus the writer in our text speaks of the “main” point. If there is a “main” point, then there must be “other” points too. The Greek word for “main” literally means “the sum.” The author of Hebrews writes “all we have been saying adds up to this.” The preacher should have more than simply a single point to his sermon. There will be minor points, the sum of which will add up to the main point. Sadly, some sermons never seem to add up. When the points don’t come clearly from the text, and don’t all add up, the people are left in confusion. Therefore, find the minor points and be sure they support and help clarify the main point. This will take some study. This will take some prayer. This will take wrestling with the text and with the Lord to get to the heart and meaning of the passage. What? You have found a text and have a point? Good for you. Thank God. Now go back to your study and to your knees and dig up some more points to help illustrate, explain, clarify and illuminate the main point you will be driving home to us. If there is a “main” point, then there must be”other” points as well. Find them in the text, and bring them out.

Third, and finally, make sure your hearers know your main point every time you preach. Note how the author of our text says “THIS IS the main point…” He states it. He holds it up for all to see. He puts his point up on (as it were) a pedestal for easy viewing by all. He has labored by prayer and study to ensure that nothing is left obscure, uncertain, or confusing. Think carefully through the words you will use to help your hearers get the point. You know it. But do they? Avoid any rabbit trail that will lead your hearers away from your point. Beware distracting words! In the next chapter of Hebrews the author says on a certain subject “of these things we cannot now speak in detail.” What wise advice! Are you putting too much detail into things that are utterly unrelated to your main point? These are wasted words and only serve to distract your hearers from “the main point” of what you are preaching.

A word of caution to hearers: For any listeners to sermons who stumble across these words, I would caution you against any complaints about the preaching the Lord has provided for you. Preaching is hard work. And the Lord’s wisdom in providing this preaching for your soul should not be disputed. He knows what we need better than us, and we have much cause to give Him thanks. Preaching is no easy task. Clarity and precision are more difficult to achieve than you may think. Be very patient with the preacher and pastor the Lord has given you. Remember how patient Christ is constantly with me and you. Thank your pastor and pray for him, and may the word of the Lord dwell richly in your soul.

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