Crafting a Good Pentecostal Sermon
By Rev. Crystal Schmalz, M.Div.
Preaching the Word of God is one of the greatest honors and responsibilities one can undertake. When you feel called to preach and teach people The Word, you will also feel a call to studying the scripture. Both women and men are called to preach the Word. The gifts of Ephesians 4:11-12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Romans 12:6-8 are for the entire Body of Christ, and both women and men have these gifts. Acts 2:17 declares both women and men will prophecy, preach, and proclaim the Word of God!
There are typically two types of preaching styles you can use to set up your sermon. The first is expositional. This style is often the best style for preaching with clarity and harmony. If you want to discover the scriptures, dive into the true meaning and context of the text and really begin to see the scriptures come alive, try using exposition in your sermon crafting.
Here is how you can use the expositional preaching style. Allow the Spirit and your own interest to lead you to a particular passage of scripture. You might select a chapter in the Bible, or you might focus on a passage with five to ten verses. You will read the surrounding chapters and context to understand where the text fits within the larger scope of the scripture. Next, you will narrow your focus on a specific text, and dig in deep. Once you have chosen the scripture (or the scripture has chosen you), read it in several different translations of the Bible (ESV, NKJV, KJV, NIV, NRSV, etc.). Reading the text in other translations will help you come to a fuller understanding of the passage if you are not able to translate the original Hebrew and Greek. After you have read the passage several times, ask the Holy Spirit to open your understanding and speak to you about the meaning of the text. After you have read the text, and God has pointed out special points of the scripture, you can now consult commentaries and other sources to help you put the text together. Don’t pull a special point out of the text without having other sources to help support your preaching point. This method often leads to a private interpretation of the text, which we know is wrong (2 Peter 1:20). If God points something out to you, God will often confirm this “revelation” with other scriptures and with other people writing about the topic. As you begin to craft your sermon, you will most likely think of stories or experiences from your life which will come to your mind as you read the text. You can insert these into your sermon. In the beginning you will have a lot to study, and not all of it will go into your actual sermon. You can either write down main bullet points as an outline, or you can write word for word what you are going to say. In the beginning, it is important to write word for word, because nerves can sometimes get the best of you and your mind might go blank in front of everyone. Manuscripting is giving you a backup plan in case you freeze up. Here is a sample outline for a way you might craft your sermon.
1. Read and begin to explain the passage of scripture. Go line by line, and retell the story. It is okay to contextualize to help the readers understand the text.
2. Tell some personal stories, and relate them to the scripture. A sermon which comes from the heart gains attention, but always realize the text is more important than your story. You add stories to help maintain attention, but the scripture is what will convict, challenge, and transform lives.
3. Explain how this passage of scripture is relevant to your audience, and applies to their story and life. Make the scripture come alive. Ask the audience to imagine themselves in the story or passage. Use inductive and deductive reasoning when retelling the scripture.
4. Use feelings and emotions. Feelings are an important part of being human, and feelings help us understand our thoughts and behavior. You might ponder with the audience about the feelings of the characters in the passage, which will be another connection point.
5. Make eye contact. Always look at your audience. Don’t stay focused on your notes. Connect with the people you are preaching with. Practice your notes several times before you actually preach, and become familiar with them. You don’t have to memorize them, but you do need to know the flow and direction of where your sermon is going.
6. Give the audience some practical tips for applying the message into their life. You might do this in the form of asking challenging questions or making bold statements.
7. Continually allow the Spirit to lead and guide you while you preach. God might put something in your mind and heart to say that is not in your sermon notes. Be open. Obey the Spirit. Be sensitive to the voice of God. Open your ears and eyes to see the needs of the people.
8. Conclude by wrapping up all odds and ends in the sermon. Bring the sermon back to the main point and text. Make sure your sermon explains the Biblical text, applies the Biblical text, offers personal experience and story, and gives practical tips for further study and exploration.
9. Decide what type of response or invitation to prayer you might like. Pentecostals often end their sermons with prayer as the response and invitation. Other traditions use communion, offering, or a challenge of sending as the response and invitation. The content of your sermon should determine your choice when choosing an ending.
The second style of preaching which is often used in Pentecostal circles is topical preaching. Topical preaching is when you have an idea, go and find a scripture to support your idea, and then find other scriptures in the Bible to connect to your sermon. This style of preaching often has the danger of not using the Biblical text properly. A pick and choose arrangement sometimes happens. The problem is that we take scriptures out of context, and because we do not have a focus we get lost and use the scripture wrongly. There is a place for God speaking an idea to you, and a topic, but the best way to approach this is to allow the topic to lead you to the scripture, and then use the exposition style to understand that passage. Always remember, your idea is not as important as the scripture. If God truly gives you an idea and topic, then there should be one passage of scripture to support the topic.
One of the biggest challenges a preacher can have is in the narrowing of their sermon. We always want to preach more than what we have time to preach. A good sermon will have one main point and a few sub points. Don’t preach five sermons in one sermon, because most likely the audience will walk away not having heard any of your points. Most Pentecostals do not take notes during the sermon time, and have a hard time remembering sermons. By the way, it is okay to take notes during sermons. You should always question what you are hearing, and go back in your own personal study time and read The Word of God and ask for revelation and illumination. If you have five sermons to preach, develop a series, and preach them over the course of time. If you are evangelizing, preach one sermon. Be sensitive to how long you are preaching. A good preacher can preach their message in a half an hour or less. The more you plan, the better you will be able to deliver your sermon. Know when to stop! Some preachers go on and on, and lose the people in their sermon. This is frustrating! If you look out, are connected with the audience, you will see and know when it is time for you to start wrapping up your sermon.
Another challenge in preaching is, knowing your audience. When you craft your sermon, you want to relate it to the people you are preaching with. If you are preaching to a younger crowd, insert stories which apply. If you are speaking to an older crowd, insert some material from an older generation. Always keep in mind the audience you are speaking to, and think of special ways you can help them relate to your sermon. Most likely, you will have many different ages, cultures, and groups. Add some variety and diversity to your sermons. Our church is diverse, and beautiful!
Finally, be yourself. Don’t try to preach like someone else. You don’t have to scream, jump on pulpits, or make people cry. You don’t have to be boring, rude, or an egoist. Allow your unique style to come across. If you are a woman, be a woman. If you are a man, be a man. There is nothing gender specific about raising your voice, both women and men raise their voice. There is nothing gender specific about raising your hand and being passionate while you preach, both women and men do this. Growling is just plain silly, it’s a gorilla behavior, not specific to either women or men!
Be yourself, and allow God to use you to speak words of encouragement, hope, salvation, power, healing, direction, guidance, faith, love, humility, and reconciliation. As you can see, sermon crafting takes time and preparation. You need to plan when you are a preacher. If you think you are going to get into the pulpit and the Holy Spirit is going to magically speak, you are probably wrong. God expects you to study, prepare, and plan for your sermon. God might take over during a sermon, and that will be awesome, but usually God uses your humanness to preach and speak to the people. This is not an all-inclusive sermon crafting article, but I think these few tips will help you get started.
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