Preaching once used to be an authoritative and persuasive activity in many places. However, this has been on the decline in the last five decades, where scarcity of firm coherent bible preaching has hindered continued growth in the efficacy of the church’s ministries. Hence, there is the need for sermon preparation from the preachers before delivery. Any preacher with the responsibility of standing in the pulpit should commit him or herself completely to learning how best to prepare and deliver sermons for effective preaching. Recognizing the need for this, Jerry Vines and Jim Shaddix (1999), wrote their book, Power in the Pulpit: How to Prepare and Deliver Expository Sermons. The authors assert that many clergymen avoid having adequate preparation and usually just rely on the possibility of receiving divine inspiration while providing their sermons. Rather, they suggest that preachers should prepare for sermons, while God prepares them for the delivery. In their book, they address a balanced approach where they teach on how to prepare sermons as well as how to deliver them and avoid boring the audience. The book further states that some preachers do not prepare for preaching, hence mess around and end up preaching very little or coming up with irrelevant messages (Vines and Jim 5). Therefore, the book is a practical guide for preachers in expository preaching that is paramount in the local church life.
Many pastors after realizing the fact that authoritative and persuasive preaching is not as effective have turned to the more dependable method of biblical exposition. In their book, Vines and Shaddix have covered effective methods of research and presentation of messages aimed at inspiration and teaching for both clergymen and their followers. The book covers expository sermonizing in three parts, where the first part covers preparation for the exposition. The second part deals with the process of exposition, while the third part deals with presenting or delivering the message, citing that after preparation, delivery follows. Each part is further summarized below to give a much-detailed content of what the writers say about preparation and delivery of expository preaching.
Part one has dealt with how to prepare for expository preaching that many pastors have come to recognize as paramount to church’s development. The first part in preparation of exposition is defining the task. They say that, “… preparation for expositions lays the groundwork for expository preaching,” (Vines and Jim 5). The book says that preaching is rooted in divinity where God chooses to reveal Himself to us through choosing human beings to act as mediums to His revelation. They further say that preaching is also rooted in clear explanations of what God wants people to learn about Him. In the older centuries, teachers of Gospel taught through reading from the holy books, and interpreting every word as God intended it to mean. In this, the writers suggest that pastors should go back to the preaching, which is supported by the bible. Hence, preachers should seek to give clear explanations to the audience after they have recognized their convictions in preaching to get help from God.
The writers say that in order to reform preaching, a clear definition of what is expected has to be laid, the first being a clear understanding of theology in preaching. They further say that to consistently practice expository preaching, the preachers need to have firm convictions by knowing that their preaching approaches have biblical support. Furthermore, biblical roots bring about terms that serve as frameworks in the development of a right philosophy about preaching. Preachers should be honest with their personality while preaching, and at the same time, it is not supposed to be a broad-spectrum of information lacking any consideration of the audience. Hence, preparation of a sermon should serve to correct this where the preacher defines the message to preach to a certain audience considering different audiences require different sermons.
Preaching is seen as the word of God and His worship, which is a fundamental pre-requisite of preaching. Expository preaching has been defined in this part as the best or most recommended philosophy of preaching. It also recommends laying a foundation for preaching through the calling of God, word of God, worship of God and Anointing of God in order to have a better-defined meaning of expository preaching. The preacher is also required to develop him or herself before preaching, where he should be in a healthy heart, a healthy mind, a healthy body and a healthy routine to support him.
The second part deals with the process of exposition preaching, where there are five chapters. The first chapter deals with an analysis of the text, the second deals with unifying of themes, the third deals with designing the structure, the fourth deals with mastering the idea while the fifth deals with building the sermon. These are the processes followed in the process of exposition. The process deals with the preparation where the preacher goes through them before standing on the pulpit. This section addresses the mechanisms that preachers require in order to come up with good expository sermons. The section tends to provide the preachers with an idea of where to start, citing that, “His personal experience, however, may serve as a springboard to discovering what God says about a particular issue” (Vines and Jim 94). This tends to provide a way of analyzing the text or having a contextual study in order to realize its relevance to the audience. Throughout this section, the reader is provided with guidelines of preparing a sermon.
The writers provide several steps that can be used in the preparation of the sermon in each of the processes that make up the whole process. In the first process of analyzing the text, the first step is preparing the people, where the preacher should ask them to have their Bibles with them considering many may not be aware of expository preaching. The second step is choosing the text on which to expound. The text to be read will depend on whether the exposition is going to be a general one or systematic. A general exposition is selecting several verses in the Bible from different books, or chapters without having to follow exhaustively on one book or chapter. This will be determined by the message the preacher intends to preach to the people; hence, the verses should relate to the message. On the other hand, in systematic exposition, the preacher reads from one book, verse after verse or a whole chapter. In this exposition the preacher does not need to go looking for subjects from several books; rather, he only needs to identify what book to read according to needs of the audience.
After preparing the people and selecting the text, a preacher should ask him or herself what the text says. The first step in this is conducting a background study through reading more about the book from which the text comes from to have a better knowledge of what it was intended. For instance, reading further to know that Jesus was the speaker in the sermon on the mountain, one can easily understand that Mathew only recorded what was said. With such background, a preacher will understand the text better. The second step is studying the text by conducting a contextual analysis to get the meaning of a passage clearly. The other step is examining the structure of the passage. This entails structuring the text into different parts of different meanings. The writers say that the preachers should consider their passage as a block of wood. “Look at your passage as a smaller block of wood to be divided into its natural divisions,” (Vines and Jim 118). They say that the idea in this step is creating a visual display of the message using structural diagrams to help in showing a relationship between many ideas. The fourth step is doing a word study after the structure, by giving particular attention to the main words. They cite that, “Just as a great door swings on small hinges, the important theological statements of the bible often depend upon even the smallest words such as prepositions and articles,” (Vines and Jim 119). Hence, each word is important while preparing a sermon. The fifth step is considering any close reference to the message, which is considered as one of the best methods of getting the meaning of a message. The sixth step is considering the principles of revelation, where a preacher considers how a text relates to the other biblical revelations. This ensures the exposition does not go astray, but stays focused on the theme. After the six steps, the seventh, consulting commentaries, comes in where the preacher considers the observations made by others concerning the same passage. This is one of the major points in this book where it concerns preparation of the sermon itself.
The other process concerns unifying the theme where the authors say that after the process of analyzing the text, one should now synthesize it by putting back the pieces together systematically in a unifying way. The first step in this is outlining the main aspects of those receiving the message. This is asserted by the authors who note that, “A good expository sermon always is developed from the big idea of the passage on which it is based,” (Vines and Jim 122). The writers put the proposition as the next step where the preacher now moves from text study to developing a sermon by transforming the central idea to a proposition for the sermon that is supposed to be the catchphrase of the message. In this part, the authors have also dealt with designing the structure where they address its necessity and creation, mastering the ideas of the exposition and building sermons where they address writing a manuscript and developing the parts. In this part, they have argued that a preacher should not only be biblical, but should seek to be relevant by observing the culture of the audience.
The third pat of this book has dealt with how the message should be represented or how to deliver the sermon after its preparation. In this part, the authors come up with suggestions of how a preacher should communicate the message in a way that engages the audience. The suggestions range from the words and vocabulary to use for different audiences; hence, knowledge of the listeners is critical for delivery. The book suggests using more visualization in order to create more vivid memory in the audience because it engages them better. The first chapter of this part deals with expressing the thoughts. Some of these factors include understanding the preaching style, using the elements of preaching style, enhancing ones preaching style, using persuasive style, using dramatic style and evaluating ones style. Understanding these factors helps the preacher understand the best way of delivering the message to the audience in an engaging way.
In the second chapter of the third part, the authors suggest mastering voice skills that play an important role in delivering the sermon. The preachers are urged to understand the role played by voice, mastering their voice or the voice that suits the sermon, improving their voice, and taking care of it. The authors suggest that voice should be a key skill to practice and it should be taken care of considering that preaching is all about talking most of the time. In the voice, preachers are supposed to learn how to use different variations of voice such as tone, pitch and emphasizing through such variations. The following chapter suggests preaching through visualization with an example being the use of many vivid references. In addition, visual aids are recommended to create more vivid visualizations to the listeners.
Another major suggestion in this part is the use of body language or gestures while preaching the word. The final chapter suggests use of skills such as holding the ear while preaching to draw more attention to the listeners and using speech variation that also kills the monotony. They also suggest speaking with the body where they say, “When you speak to your congregation, you convey your message in two ways. You speak by means of words-verbal communication. You also speak by means of body language-nonverbal communication,” (Vines and Jim 305). Verbal and non-verbal communication are supposed to go hand in hand to complement each other to make the delivery more lively as well. This chapter also deals with augmenting the message where the preachers do not need to rely on their communication skills alone, but can also incorporate sound reinforcing technology, visual aids and innovative formats among others. This chapter also suggests to preachers how to go about an exposition without any notes to refer. They suggest that delivery with notes may make it less effective and learning to deliver without notes is better. The two authors provide suggestions on how to go about it. Lastly, they address the delivery of a sermon from the heart where preachers can preach passionately from their heart.
From this book, a lot can be learned about expository preaching especially for those of us who have never used it. I first learned about the reasons that made the church less effective everyday despite much effort in preaching. I realized that I was using the less effective method of preaching and that I should embrace expository preaching and avoid preaching authoritatively and sometimes using strong words that could instill fear for pulsation. I learned that preaching through explaining word for word and delivering the message as it is gives much knowledge of what God intends for us to learn especially for the audience.
From the book, I have learned that preaching does not just come automatically, or rather, having a sermon to deliver requires preparation. Before reading this book, I always knew that preaching only required me to expound on a certain topic according to the verse read. Preparing for a sermon was just a matter of knowing what text to read and I would think about it before the sermon. Mostly, I would walk to the pulpit with an empty mind without a clear knowledge of what I would deliver, and I would wait for the Holy Spirit to guide me. However, I learned that preaching requires preparation in advance. There are steps of preparing a sermon to make it effective. More so, I learned that as a preacher, I should prepare the sermon while the Holy Spirit will prepare me for the delivery. I realized that preparing for a sermon requires more time and thought as well as dedication in all ways possible. Moreover, I learned a lot about the process of preparation where it involves a whole lot more than I ever imagined. With this, I realized that preachers have a big task in their way than one would think of considering that one has to go through that process.
I have learned that in order to make better sermons; there is need for studying the Bible everyday while considering of a passage to have different relevance for different people. Hence, it is important to have a good knowledge of the audience in order to know what it requires to engage them in the sermon and to gain a response. Previously, my sermons were addressed at the general public kind of audience despite being in a church with a congregation that I am used to. After reading the book, I realized that there is need of having a focused message for a certain audience rather than preaching a general message that may not fit every audience. In addition, preaching a focused message increases the chances of learning for the audience since they have a more solid message rather than several messages from a general preaching. After learning the use of expository preaching, having to look for a topic to preach is easier since after analyzing a passage, the message or topic in the particular passage is easily grasped. More so, having a focused message from one passage or systemic preaching where enough background study has been conducted makes it easy to deliver the real meaning. I learned that preparing the audience before the sermon probably in the previous sermon by telling them what the next sermon will be makes them eager to learn more, and makes the sermon lively.
Before reading this book, I thought expository preaching did not make much a difference when it came to preaching. I have learned several benefits of using expository preaching, and today, I advocate for it with my whole devotion. I realized that with expository preaching, both the preacher together with the audience, we are able to cover the Bible completely without neglecting some of the most neglected parts, especially using systematic analysis of the Bible. Every topic will be covered eventually by following a systematic expository preaching considering no topic will be skipped in such a preaching. The audience is able to learn more truth about the Bible as opposed to the other kind of preaching where several verses are selected, and the pastor preaches on them sometimes to fit certain topics. Through expository preaching and preparation, a preacher is able to stay on focus and avoid misinterpreting the Bible or swaying away to include other points to suit a particular topic. I also learned that expository preaching is the true worship of God, and that it is supported by the Bible. More so, it is the only way to deliver the true meaning of God’s word without manipulation.
In addition, I learned that standing in the pulpit requires more in order to deliver a good sermon. This is because body language in preaching goes hand in hand with verbal communication. Moreover, using variation more effectively makes the sermon better. Above this, I learned that visualization is very crucial during delivery to create a long-lasting vivid image of the message. Through body speaking as mentioned in the book, the audience got more attentive when I first practiced it.
Today in my sermons, I have embraced expository preaching effectively although at first it was not easy. With this book, I have found a true companion guide for expository preaching, where I get guidance for preparation, through to developing the sermon and finally delivering the sermon. On my side, it has been the perfect manual for expository preaching every Sunday in my church. In all my ministries, after learning that expository preaching is the best way to go, as well as the best way of worshiping God, I implement it more often.
The book has been helpful in preparation of sermons everyday where some people told me recently that my sermons are becoming better every time, and they find more knowledge of the Bible from reading through passage after passage, while others commented on verses in the Bible that they thought they knew but realized they had a different distorted interpretation. Through following the guidelines of the book, I am able to come up with better sermons every Sunday, and delivering them has become easier since I have adopted the right skills as stipulated in the book especially in delivery.
The knowledge from the book has helped me in my life especially when it comes to analyzing texts not only in the Bible but also in other texts during my studies in order to understand them better. Through the steps laid in the book such as reading more background information to understand a text and consulting closely related references, I have come to use this skill in every aspect of my studies. In addition, through practicing my communication skills as outlined in this book and using both verbal and non-verbal communication together with visualization, I have become a better communicator. In a general context, through this book, I have learned more study skills considering the book deals with the preparation of the Bible and this requires good study skills and analyzing.
In conclusion, the book has proven to be a good companion for all preachers and students of theology who wish to practice expository preaching. It gives a good guidance especially for those who have never practiced this kind of preaching. The guidelines for preparing a sermon are of most importance together with its delivery considering that many preachers did not require preparing sermons as they managed to manipulate the message to suit the topics they thought are good for the audience. In general, the book has a lot to offer all people interested in expository preaching.
Vines, Jerry and Jim Shaddix. Power in the Pulpit: How to Prepare and Deliver Expository Sermons. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1999. Print.