A friend of mine, Nik White, and I recently sat down to evaluate my preaching strengths and areas where I can improve. This is truly a humbling, yet transforming exercise. I initiated the meeting because I was feeling particularly bad for one of the brow beaters I recently delivered to the amazing church I serve. Many pulpits bear an encouragement such as “Preach the Word,” but one pulpit bore an amusing message to the preacher. It was a simple but searching question: “What are you trying to do to these people?”
The evaluation proved incredibly helpful to me. We talked at length about how great sermons marry visceral applications with practical/intellectual applications. This exercise got me thinking about what other authors and teachers have said are the most important preaching principles. What if you could synthesize all the principles down to something memorable?
The 1989 film Dead Poets Society starred Robin Williams as a literature professor and pseudo father at a boy’s boarding school. The movie climaxed when the school administrator dismissed and asked Williams’s character to leave during a class while his students watched. His final words to his passionate students were “Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.” Popularly translated, the Latin phrase carpe diem, means seize the day.
Because of the cultural tectonic shift happening right now, we must return to God’s Word to seize the day for his glory. Carpe Diem serves me as a memorable outline for the nine essential principles of preaching. I have seen and heard these principles discussed in preaching literature for the last ten years. There are more principles, for sure, but these are the ones that consistently make messages and messengers great.
1. Closeness with God - Power in preaching comes from closeness with God and not from trying to impress people.
2. Authentic Delivery - Be yourself. Confidence in our unique voice is a matter of trust in God.
3. Relevant Application - Relevant preaching requires us to live with the chronic pain of merging reflection and biblical application.
4. Pointed Idea - Pointed preaching is difficult because it requires us to identify a controlling idea.
5. Engaging Curiosity - Preachers must generate curiosity for the sermon to be engaging.
6. Dependable Exegesis - A dependable sermon is founded on an accurate exegesis of Scripture.
7. Integrated Process - “Preaching without notes does not mean preparation without notes. Indeed, carefully constructed notes are the basis of freedom from note in preaching.”
8. Evaluative Feedback - The purpose of evaluation is transformation through true feedback.
9. Memorable Intent - Anything memorable has two distinct qualities: It is worth remembering and it can be easily remembered.