Clarity Is King.
Most of the preachers I know work very hard at the craft God has called them to. They labor hour after hour, week after week, in order to faithfully feed the people God has entrusted to them.
They work hard to humbly exegete each text.
They dispense an immense amount of effort into every word.
They carefully craft nearly every sentence.
They give much thought to the illustrations they use.
They want the gospel to be front and center every time they climb into the pulpit.
Despite the hard work, there is one common shortcoming I see in a lot of preaching, including my own. It's a shortcoming that I believe separates the sub-par sermons from the good ones. This shortcoming is NOT missing the point of the text, or forgetting the gospel. It's an overarching lack of clarity. In preaching...
Clarity is king.
Apart from clarity on behalf of the one communicating, the listener is incapable of receiving the intended message. Listening to some sermons feels like trying to find your way through a smoke-filled room. You're just not sure which way is up and which is down. For all the hard work we're putting into our sermons, we can't neglect the ever-important question: Am I being CLEAR?
Here are a few places to be certain you're being clear:
I love words. I love learning new words and love reading, or hearing someone put together a beautifully crafted sentence. Words can also confuse, if the listener doesn't know what they mean. Sometimes we make this mistake by assuming that everyone listening to us is familiar with theological nomenclature that may seem like second nature after years of seminary, or study. The truth is, lots of people aren't familiar with terms like atonement, propitiation, and predestination. I'm not saying DON'T use these words, I'm saying make sure you take the time to explain them. Also, as a basic rule, don't use a fancy word when you can use a simple one.
Very rarely have I been confused in the pulpit. Very rarely have I listened to a preacher that seemed confused with his own thoughts. OFTEN I have looked out and seen the look on faces that says, "Yeah, I have no idea what you're getting at." When something is clear in your own mind it can be easy to skip steps in communicating your point. The problem is, when you skip steps you lose people. They can't just hear you jump from A to C. Without B, they won't know how you got to C and won't be able to follow your logic - I'm sorry if the choice to use those letters was confusing:). Work hard to take people through every step of your train of thought.
Sometimes it's not WHAT we say, but HOW we say something that throws people off. Maybe we make the mistake of being funny where humor isn't appropriate, or using a tone that sounds harsh. Often, listeners trip over these things and can't hear what we're trying to communicate. We need to make sure our hearts are clear as we communicate. More important, we need to make sure God's heart is clear. Saying what God says, but missing the heart from which He says it is just as damaging as misrepresenting what God said. If we want to be clear we have to get our tone correct.
When it comes to sitting under preaching, I want to be a sympathetic and gracious listener. Preaching is hard. There are just so many ways a sermon can go wrong. Aside from getting my interpretation of the text correct, nothing matters more to me than being clear. I want to be clear with my word choice, my train of thought and my heart. Whatever you're preaching this weekend, don't forget,