A sermon prepared does no one any good (with the possible exception of the preparer) until it becomes a sermon presented. Since even the best of preparation loses its impact if poorly delivered, proper presentation must not be neglected.
What are the types of delivery? What are the rules governing delivery? What are the hindrances to effective delivery?
The well-known preacher, George Wakefield, described seven types of delivery. There may be different labels for each of the types, but any church-goer who has heard many preachers will recognize one or more of them.
The Sesquippedalian Preacher – Loves polysyllabic words that enable him to say nothing at great length. Uses big words to conceal little thoughts.
The Wishy-Washy Preacher – Characterized by vague generalizations that leave the hearers guessing at what he is trying to say.
The Pyrotechnic Preacher – Fourth of July fireworks for every service. Gestures flash, illustrations flame, and nostrils flare. The hearers are awed, but can’t tell you what it was all about fifteen minutes after the service. They are impressed with the messenger but miss the message.
The Anecdotic Preacher – Strings stories together for the allotted time. Often lacking a theme to tie them together, the hearers soon lose interest. They look forward to the sermon’s equivalent of “They lived happily ever after” – “Let us stand and sing.”
The Flowery Preacher – His expressions are as pretty as posies. Phrases flow and poets are quoted. Unfortunately, there is more rhyme than reason, more sentiment than scripture, and more poetic exegesis than practical exhortation.
The Mellifluous Preacher – A well modulated voice pours forth an unending flow of milk and honey, but it is all sweetness and light with no conviction. It has a firm grip on all the rules, but, lacking certainty, it fails to grip the hearer’s conscience.
The Paregoric Preacher – A sure cure for insomnia, it numbs the posterior and blunts the brain. It gave birth to the parody of the child’s prayer:
Now I sit me down to sleep,
The sermon’s long, the subject’s deep.
If he should quit before I wake,
Please give me a little shake.
If you failed to find yourself in this list, don’t take great comfort just yet. Your absence from the list could result from one or more of several possible causes. First, you may just be reluctant to admit even the possibility that you could fall into one of these unflattering categories. (You may not want show your hearers the list and ask their opinion of where you might fit!) Second, the list is illustrative, not exhaustive. You may fit into some other category that is no better than those listed.
The ultimate test of delivery is effective communication. There are some guidelines (both positive and negative) that aid effective communication. We shall look at those next.
You Must Hear the Gospel
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)
You Must Believe
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You Must Repent
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You Must Confess
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
You Must Be Baptized
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
You Must Be Faithful Unto Death
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)