Welcome to The On Preaching Podcast, the podcast dedicated to helping you preach faithfully, clearly, and better.
In this episode, we will talk about simple preaching. No, we should not dumb down the message. But we should not strive to be deep, profound, mystical, technical, or academic. We should not talk over the heads of our hearers.
We believe in the perspicuity of scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Scripture is clear. And the aim of preaching is to be help the hearer understand the truth of scripture. Jesus himself modeled simple preaching. And, throughout church history, strong preachers have been characterized by simple preaching.
How can I preach simply?
Bible Exposition. Expository preaching is a strategic way to preach simply. Find out the main point of the text. Build your sermon around the God-intended meaning of the text. The preacher who simply strives to be a mouthpiece for the text is more prone to be heard with understanding.
A Single Text. It is better to base your sermon on a single passage of scripture than a collection of verses. Explain, apply, and illustration that one text. Keep your hearers focused on a single passage. Help them go deeper with one scripture instead of mentioning multiple passages in passing.
Proper Interpretation. You cannot explain a subject simply if you do not first fully and properly understand it. Simple preaching doesn’t start in the pulpit. It starts in the study. Work hard to come to a proper and accurate understanding of the text to preach it simply to your people.
A Clear Structure. Simple preaching requires more than standing in the pulpit with scattered remarks about the text. A clear structure aids you and your hearers to understand the message of the sermon. It provides a clear roadmap that moves the sermon to its logical conclusion.
A Big Idea. The sermon should be about one thing. Interpretation is one. There is only one meaning in the text. Find it and craft your sermon around it. Be ready and able to state your sermon’s main point in a clear, present-tense, active sentence.
A Gospel Focus. Paul says, “Him we proclaim” (Colossians 1:28). Simple preaching focuses on the divine Person and redemptive Work of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is said that Charles Spurgeon claimed that he chose a text and made a beeline to the cross. Make sure your sermons are all about Jesus.
A Target Audience. Prepare and preach your message to the people who will be present before you in worship when stand to preach – not your professors, not your preaching peers, not online viewers. Focus on the needs of those who will be present and speak to them in the sermon.
Plain Language. Don’t talk over people’s heads. Speak in plain language that everyone can understand. Explain your terms. Use clear and direct language. Illustrate truth. Don’t dumb down the message. But work hard as you craft the message to be understood.
Conversational Style. Don’t try to “sound like a preacher” – whatever that means. You will never find your voice in the pulpit if you do not use your own voice in the pulpit. Imagine you are talking to a friend over a cup of coffee. Be natural. Be sincere. Be yourself.
Believing Prayer. Ultimately, simple preaching is about more than your preparation, presentation, or personality. It is a spiritual reality that requires the enabling help of God the Holy Spirit. Pray that the Lord would help you to speak simply, clearly, and faithfully.
Godly Humility. You are not worthy to preach because of your merit, goodness, or righteousness. Preach the gospel to yourself and remember what a privilege it is that God would use someone like you to proclaim his word. Then, be a beggar who tells other beggars where to find bread.
Unless you are simple in your sermons, you will never be understood, and unless you are understood you cannot do good to those who hear you. – J.C. Ryle
BOOK RECOMMENDATION: Simplicity in Preaching by J.C. Ryle