What Makes a Good Sermon?

I was born into the church;  the Seventh- Day Adventist Church to be exact. Also, I have had the pleasure of visiting churches outside my denomination with my college gospel choir. With all that church experience you can imagine that I have heard a great deal of sermons. Some of them happen to be from from my father, who in my opinion is an excellent speaker. The man can start a conversation with a complete stranger. While I wasn’t blessed with the “gift of gab” as he calls it, I do have words of encouragement on how certain ministers can do better in giving messages.

Length A sermon in my  opinion should be no longer than 25 to 30 minutes. Any longer than that puts you at risk of putting people to sleep or causing them to walk out the door. I will be the first to admit that I have exited a sanctuary to get air during a sermon that didn’t quite reach me. Also, I have occasionally caught some Z’s and strained my neck against church pews trying to keep awake on a lecture like sermon.

American Christian pioneer and prolific author Ellen G. White explains that lengthy sermons give people more than they can remember, that the message could lose it’s flavor,  and “that which is spoken in the first hour is of far more value if the sermon closes then than the words that are spoken in an added half hour”. —Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 256. – {Pastoral Ministry 199.5}

Tone An audience will be not be bored with the message if you have some energy. No you are not required to yell; hop around; run in place; speak in tounges; or bang on objects to get your point across, but you don’t have to sound like you’re giving a college lecture either. White gives an excellent example of how one should speak the message.

“The voice is a great power, and yet many have not trained their voices in such a way that they may be used to their highest capacity. Jesus is our example. His voice was musical, and was never raised in high, strained notes while He was speaking to the people. He did not speak so rapidly that His words were crowded one upon another in such a way that it made it difficult to understand Him. He distinctly enunciated every word, and those who heard His voice bore the testimony that “never man spake like this man.”—The Review and Herald, March 5, 1895. – {Pastoral Ministry 199.2}

Topic You’re destined to touch on the same bible passages because the book has been around for centuries, but you should be able to bring up something new; a twist. Don’t make a habit of preaching about the same topics constantly.

White says, “We should draw fresh, new matter from the store-house of God’s Word. We are desirous that the angels of God may stand by our side when we are in the sacred desk, that God may impress the mind; that there may be glorious unfoldings of the truth; that it may be presented in the demonstration of the Spirit; that it may be meat in due season to the flock of God.”—The Review and Herald, June 4, 1889. – {Pastoral Ministry 187.3}

All these things in my opinion are what make a good sermon. To those who are blessed with the gift to minister through sermons, I pray that God continues to speak to others through you.

To prep for somebody who you know often preaches long, the following suggestions are recommended:

  • Eat a big breakfast.
  • Bring a snack. Preferably you should eat this outside of the sanctuary for reverence.
  • Get plenty of rest the night before.

If you care to read more of the writings of Ellen G. White I encourage you to read her books or download the app EGW Writings on your phone. Her books include The Great Controversy(1858), Desire of Ages(1898), Patriarchs and Prophets(1890), and more. If you are in your teens or 20s I highly recommend starting off with her book Messages to Young People(1930). 


Sources:

White, Ellen. “Pastoral Ministry.” EGW Writings . Ellen G. White Estate, Inc, 6 Oct 2016. Web. 30 Oct 2016.

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Be Like Your Pets

This is not intended to be an advice or insight piece. I consider it more of a testimony. It has taken me this long to post this because of a busy schedule and me finding the right words to say.

About two weeks ago, on a Friday evening, I came home to some dreadful news. Before the news I was pleased that I finished all my work on time and that I could just be at home and rest for the Sabbath hour. As I walked into the kitchen I see my mom and Dad sitting in the dinning room. By the uneasy look on my dad’s face I could tell something was wrong. I was right- our pet dog Oreo died while I was at work.

Dad explained that while I was away he found her in our backyard lifeless with flies surrounding her. I can only imagine what his immediate reaction was. Had it been me who found her dead my throat would’ve gone dry, my hands would’ve shaken, and my speech would’ve been like a computer with a virus. Before, I never thought it would ever hurt me as much if Oreo ever passed, but it did. I hunched over in my chair; my lower back already aching from standing all day. My cheeks were drenched with tears; a few of them hitting the wooden floor.  If my tears came in gallons they would have flooded the dining room. Mom patted me on my back; her warm touch melting through my shirt.

It seems like it was just yesterday, twelve years ago, when Dad took me and my sister Christina to get a dog. There she was- a black Labrador mixed with Lord only knows what. She was the only tiny black puppy in the bunch of tan colored puppies. She had a patch of white fur on her chest. Black and white like an Oreo cookie.

Oreo. That girl. She didn’t have a mean bone in her body. We always joked that if a burglar ever broke into the house she would jump on them and then play with them. Her tail was a nuisance. It was constantly brushing every item off of our coffee table. Loud noises didn’t agree with her. She preferred to be indoors during July away from the noisy fireworks. On Football Sundays she scrurried away from Dad’s yelling. She was a total cat whenever I gave her a bath. The struggle was getting her to stay in the tub. What dog refuses to get wet?

I think I really grew to love Oreo after Christina moved out of the house for marriage life in Hawaii. Oreo was moreso her dog because she was the one who truly wanted one from the very beginning. Oreo was my sister’s roommate and Christina would carry her around like a toddler. Some young girls have babies. Oreo was her baby. When my sister left I cried. Looking back I can only imagine how Oreo must have felt. Losing a mother figure and to not ever see her again. Me not wanting to let her feel lonely, I gave her more attention. I sometimes let her sleep beside my bed at night, I let her chill with me in my room, I gave her treats, and sometimes I talked to her to let her know that I knew she was in the room. When Mom and Dad were ever out of town, Oreo was good company to have around. Just having her there made me feel a little less lonely and the house less quiet.

The last time I saw Oreo alive was before work when I sent her outside for throwing up on the carpet again. What I didn’t know was that it was actually blood that she vomited up and not food. Why didn’t I know what it was, I thought. As I sat at that table part of me felt guilty for all those times I could’ve given her walks, those times I didn’t let her sleep in my room, and those times I put her outside for being in my way.  “I could’ve done more,” I told my parents. Had I known her time was but a short time away I would’ve told her that I loved her and bent down to hug her like I often did.

The most amazing thing about pets is their ability to love even if you’re unkind towards them. Some if them, if not all of them don’t hold anything against you. You can swat them for messing up the rug; tearing up the house; or getting in your way when you’re busy, but they always come back for attention or to give you company if you’re ever feeling lonely.

Just as Christ encourages us to have the innocence of a child, we can be like our pets and be loving towards one another.