What differentiates good preaching from mediocre preaching?
Surely you know it when you hear it, but it can’t be just a subjective thing – there must be some criteria that differentiate good preaching from not-as-good preaching.
I recently heard Timothy Keller differentiate between good preaching and great preaching. He said that “good preaching” is the altar and that “great preaching” is when God brings the fire upon the altar. In other words: preachers shouldn’t strive to preach “great” sermons, but should work to preach “good” sermons – because only God can take a “good” sermon and by the power of the Holy Spirit make it a “great” sermon within the hearer.
So what makes for good preaching?
Here are some thoughts:
- A good sermon, no matter what text it is preached from, has to preach the Gospel. Just as every town in England has a road which leads from it to London, every text in the Bible has a road from it which leads to Christ. If all the Scriptures ultimately point to Him, a good sermon must preach the Good News of Jesus Christ.
- Yet, a good sermon must be faithful to the text. It must not manipulate the text to simply be a “proof text” to back up the point that the speaker wants to make; it must be true exegesis, which determines what the author, and God through the author, intended to communicate through that text.
- Furthermore, good preaching is an art form – it must be informative, it must be touching emotionally, and it must be moving inspirationally. I heard Timothy Keller say that when you are preaching, people should be taking notes, but when you get to the part of your sermon that is about Jesus, you should seek to portray him as so captivating that people can’t help but stop taking notes when you talk about Him, and when they leave, they should leave wanting to do something because of what they’ve heard.
- Another friend of mine – and an elder at White Fields Church – put it this way:
- In our conversation he even put it this way: “A good sermon takes you to a place you’ve never been before, or it takes you to a place that is so intimate that you are emotionally moved”
What do you think? What are other essential elements of “good” preaching? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.