The art of writing sermons and devotionals.
By- Casey & Kaylee York
Gospel not gossip
To say that Gospel should be the focus of any sermon sounds a bit trite — though there have been preachers who use political happenings and current events to stir their congregation. This may seem to be well received, but it typically isn’t necessary to illustrate God’s word, and runs the risk of alienating certain members of your church.
Rather than confronting people about their political leanings, it is your job to polish and clarify the Christian lens through which they view the world, not to ensure they are never tempted by sin or lies. By dissecting, and digesting current events, a wise shepherd will be able to identify key inflection points where political leaders come into conflict with the philosophy of Christ, then highlight those choices in your sermon.
First, expose them to the specific passages dealing with the behaviors or choices you wish to illuminate, explore how Christ encourages us to act in these scenarios, then ask your congregation to reflect on the contentious public event through this new understanding. All you can do at that point is have faith that God will work through them as he has you.
A sense of the culture of your church
The path each of us walks will be improved by different challenges and temptations. These deeply personal issues will vary person to person, but trends can certainly be identified and predicted. If your congregation consists mainly of people who are not very privileged or wealthy, it may be hard to maintain faith in God’s plan for them. They may see what appears to be endless bounty for some, while they struggle to exist. Conversely, you may lead a church whose members have mostly achieved professional success, or have been blessed with greater than average income.
You must put consideration unto the way that certain trends in the demographics affect your church family, and how they may shape the lens by which your brothers and sisters see the world. From there, you may develop the wisdom to not only recognize the challenges before your flock, but to see what perils can be found in their strength.
You sit at the head of a table
Your tone and delivery can open hearts and save souls. If we think of ourselves as coming down from “on-high” every Sunday to deliver pearls of wisdom, this will reflect in your delivery. This can close minds to your message faster than a soapbox and a sandwich board with “The End Is Near” scrawled on it. We should instead think of ourselves as an elder member of a family whose earned wisdom grants them the honor of guiding the conversation. Always remember that humility is a necessary tool of flawed people. Like a family, your congregation has not only seen your finest moments, but has more than likely endured some of your mishaps. Remember; a preacher, priest, or pastor is not closer to God, but is his perfectly imperfect herald. It may help to think of yourself more like a big brother in Christ than a father practicing the ex cathedra of his position.
Know yourself, your delivery, and the triggers for consistency
God has already emblazoned a message across your heart, and at your best you have the power to share this message in a way that will reinvigorate your congregation’s passion to walk with Christ, giving them peace and strength in their earthly lives. Is there a certain prayer that has always brought you comfort? A favorite breakfast that gives you a feeling of vitality, or even an extra-comfortable pair of socks?
No human being can bring the peak of their “A-game” 50 Sundays per year, but by studying your habits, and the effect of your different affects, you can essentially derive a recipe that will get you “in the zone.”
Illuminating the path
Say what you’re gonna say, say it, then say what you said. This may sound redundant, but your knowledge can cause you to make some false assumptions of the knowledge of others. The depth to which a theologian has taken their studies is a great strength, and must be considered when preaching. Among the worst outcomes of a church service is a lack of consent regarding what was actually said, and/or meant. Open your service by introducing the topic, your motivation, and which books and passages of the Bible the group will be looking at for guidance. Once you have done exactly that, revisit the key points and summarize the takeaway.
Tie Old Testament teachings to Christ
Christianity as a faith spans the Old Testament and the new. When we are covering the Old Testament, we will not have stories of Christ as he had not yet taken physical form in our world, but it must not be forgotten that He is the guide by which we understand the writings that precede him. When we look back at the lessons of books like Judges, a strong relationship with, and knowledge of, Christ reveals so much. Books that predate Christ have been illuminated by his coming, and in the context of our Savior, take on richer meaning.
Call to action/ponderance
An effective church does more than lift up its congregation — it plugs itself into a network of other Christians making real change in the world. Even if your church doesn’t have a strong focus on works, we as Christians have a duty to spread the word, and the ways of Jesus. Upon letting Christ into your heart, most will find themselves energized to stand up against affronts to his teaching or the ignorance thereof. By organizing your house of God, this energy can be unleashed as an unstoppable force for good. Missions around the world are feeding the starving and educating those who have never known Christ, and your flock can be as potent as any of them.
Meet with your small group leaders or congregational hosts regularly so that they can keep you more aware of the needs of your members. This will ensure that you can deliver your sermon in such a way that the small groups can further explore your preaching, and strategize on how to let that portion of the gospel work in their lives.
Well-crafted, concise devotionals can revisit or expand on your teachings throughout the remaining days of the week. Some churches have daily devotionals, some only for special events, themes, or holidays. A well-crafted devotional typically looks at one specific piece of gospel and explores its meaning in our lives and in our faith. This is typically condensed to between 100 and 400 words. Daily devotionals are a great opportunity to not only keep Christ in the forefront of our lives, but to gain a deeper understanding of the sermon.
Event devotionals help fight against the secularization of the world by reminding us why God has chosen for us to experience these events. For many Christians, the stress of giving their children a “happy Easter” may eschew the deep significance of this day. This is an instance where a powerful devotional could bring them back to Christ with little time invested.
The heart of worship is genuine thankfulness
Fire and brimstone have their place, but you will likely find that most Sundays of the year, your flock will be better served to be reminded just how wonderful of a world our Lord has given us. If you are worth your salt, you have already spent your fair share of time reveling in the miraculous beauty of our world, the divine craftsmanship of its loving creator, and the way he works in every moment of our lives. It is your job to ensure that even the most doubtful skeptic in your congregation may appreciate the bounties of this place, and the challenges that temper us to receive and recognize those gifts.
If you require help writing sermons and devotionals, Ghostwriters Central stands ready to assist. Just click on Contact.