If This Weekend Were Your Last Sermon
When teaching week after week it’s possible to lose a sense of direction when it comes to our preaching, the Gospel and moving the church in a clear and intentional path from the pulpit. Step back and try this exercise to get a little perspective: If this Sunday were the last sermon you ever preached, what would you teach? Your topic will be yours individually, but let me suggest a few ideas to keep in mind that you can apply this week and every week (even if it’s not your last!).
Centrality. Choose topics that are at the heart of the faith, versus peripheral messages that might address a political or social issue, but will be forgotten in a year or two. Ask, “Will this teaching matter in 10 years? In 20?” Impart wisdom from God’s Word that is at the core—Who is God, who are we in Christ, who has He called us to be, and what has He commanded us to do? If this were your last sermon, what would you leave your disciples with?
Clarity. Preach in plain language with concise phrasing that is memorable. Ask yourself, “What do I really want to say?” and try to say that in a sentence, two at most. Preaching often suffers when we skirt a topic or issue without bringing clarity to the teaching. Make your words few and make them count. If this were your last sermon, how would you make sure the congregation remembered what you said?
Accountability. Look for ways to build in accountability among members of the body. Phrases like, “Tomorrow morning in your quiet time…” or “When you and your spouse are in the Word this week…” or “When you are teaching your children in family worship time tonight…” imply an expectation of these daily faith-builders in the lives of families. Season your teaching with opportunities to practice what is preached outside of the Worship Center. If this were your last sermon, how would you instruct your disciples to ensure the teaching is carried through?
Passion. Preaching can suffer when the teacher does not show passion for the topic. Don’t teach what you don’t both believe and practice. And if you must teach it, develop a passion for the teaching in your own life before trying to impart it to others. If it’s a challenge personally, it’s fine to talk about that—it comes off as genuine desire to become more like Christ in that area. The Bible is a radical and often difficult book to live by. It’s message is pressing and urgent. If this were your last sermon, what would you say from your heart about your own beliefs that would inspire and encourage others?
Want to know how Jesus would handle that last teaching session? Read John 15-17, where Christ taught His disciples just before going to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray and then be arrested, setting off the sequence of trial and crucifixion. It’s amazing to read the passage in that context, knowing this was His last free evening with His students.
Author: Eugene Mason, Communications Director for Cross Pointe Church under the leadership of Dr. James Merritt.