Let’s look at some real examples of effective preaching. Our text will be from Acts 2 where Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, and from Acts 3 where the lame man was healed while they were on their way to the temple. In both of these instances Peter ministered in such a way that thousands were saved. I think we can learn a lot from Peter (Acts 2:14-38 & 3:12-26).
Effective preachers must study. As you look at these two messages from Peter, you will see that he had studied the word. In both instances he was suddenly given the opportunity to preach, and he was “instant in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). There is no shortcut to “studying to show yourself approved, a workman that needs not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
When I first started preaching I would minister on a different book of the bible every service – and we had three services each week! I used at least seven commentaries on each book. After researching them thoroughly, I would then seek the Lord as to how He wanted me to present the message and what kind of application He wanted for His people.
This took a lot of time and effort, but it was well worth it. It placed ample research under my belt to draw upon later when I wouldn’t have as much time. Taking shortcuts to in depth study will rob you of the rich jewels that the Lord desires to give you from His word and Spirit.
Effective preachers must memorize the Word. There is nothing more powerful than the Word of God. Peter, in his sermon on the day of Pentecost, quoted large and obscure passages of scripture. He didn’t pull out a scroll and start looking things up, he knew them by heart. We have the promise that His word will not return to Him void (Isaiah 55:10-11). It is sharper than any two edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). The word will do more in the hearts of people than I ever can. When I was first saved I made up my mind that I wanted to give people God’s answer to the problems of life and not only what I thought. My opinion is not worth much, but what God has to say is of eternal value.
Nothing has helped me in my preaching and teaching more than the memorization of scripture. Even if people have a hard time taking it all in, it will go on to work in their lives for years to come. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would “bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever he has said unto us” (John 14:26). His promise is that He will bring the appropriate scripture to us when it is needed the most. It was said of Jesus that when He was in a house in Capernaum, and there was so many people crowding into the house that there was no longer any room, that “He preached the word unto them” (Mark 2:2). It’s the word that makes our ministry truly effective as it did Jesus’.
Effective preachers must be dependent upon the Lord. Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) If we’re going to be effective preachers and teachers of the word we’re going to have to be in complete dependence upon Him. Peter learned this the hard way. Remember he said to Jesus that, “though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.” And again, “though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee” (Matthew 26:33 & 35). I think Peter meant his commitment but you see he was depending on himself and not Jesus. He had a very hard lesson to learn. When he stood on the day of Pentecost I believe he was no longer leaning on his own strength but completely on God’s.
I honestly feel sorry for those who have so many strong natural abilities. It’s hard for them not to depend upon those natural strengths instead of depending completely upon Him. I know that any thing of worth coming from my life is totally and completely Him. I believe God has gifted me with an ability to handle His word, but I also know without a doubt it’s all Him and that I can never get up to minister without His divine aid. Every time I cry out to Him, letting Him know that unless He does it through me, it is bound for disaster. Let’s abandon any self confidence and self dependency and place it all on the Holy Spirit to do His work through us. It’s only what He does through us that will have any true and lasting effectiveness.
Effective preachers must have an experience with the Cross. When the lame man was healed and everyone began to look to Peter and John as if they were someone great, Peter was quick to turn their attention away from them and direct it all to Jesus. He said, “why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk?”(Acts 3:12) Peter was quick to let them know it wasn’t them but Jesus. He even took it a step further to say it wasn’t even his faith but the faith that came from Jesus (Acts 3:16).
Today we might say it is Jesus coupled with our great faith and little do we realize we wouldn’t have the faith we have if He hadn’t given it to us (Romans 12:3). If we haven’t had a true experience with the cross, where we give all the glory to Jesus, our effectiveness in ministering the word will be limited at best. There will be times inevitably that people will look to us and we must take great care to continually point them to Jesus. God will share His glory with no one.
Effective preachers need support. No matter how great we think we are and how great the call of God is on our life, we can’t do it alone. It was said of Peter, “taking his stand with the eleven” (Acts 2:14). They stood behind him in full support of him, his ministry, and all he was saying. If we’re going to be effective, it’s imperative that we have people who are behind us in full support, no matter what.
It’s interesting to me that just days before this Peter had denied the Lord. In the natural, they probably wouldn’t have chosen Peter. To be honest, I wouldn’t have chosen me, but God did. They knew, in spite of the failure Peter had experienced, he was the one Jesus had called and chosen, so they stood behind him in full support. Let that be a lesson for us. Let’s stand behind the man God has called. He may not be perfect, and he may go through some struggles now and then, but he’s still the one God has called and chosen.
Jesus said, “if you have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who will give you that which is your own” (Luke 16:12). Everyone needs a good “amen” corner! Others will notice those who are supportive of you and it will cause their confidence in you to be increased. If the truth be known, it encourages me when I know I have strong men and women standing behind me. When they are there and their support is made evident, it encourages me making me stronger, more confident and bolder than ever. Let’s get behind the man of God and make our support evident. As for those of us who are called, let’s realize we can’t do what God has called us to do unless there are faithful people who will get behind us.
Effective preachers must use voice inflection. It was said of Peter after he stood that he “raised his voice” (Acts 2:14). It doesn’t mean that he was screaming and yelling. No one likes it when people are screaming at them. A little child once said, “why is he so mad at us” referring to the preacher. On the other hand, people are bored to tears when a person is ministering in a completely monotone voice. It’s hard to keep their attention and could easily put them to sleep!
We want people to get as much out of what God has given to us for them as possible. The point is when we are trying to make an emphasis there should be a change in our voice to display the point that we’re trying to make. God will help you with this as you go on in your ministry. Often it will develop as we are impressed with the importance of what we are attempting to get across. The best thing I can say to you is, be yourself. Don’t try to be someone your not.
Effective preachers must be informative. Peter said, “let this be know to you” (Acts 2:14). We always want to give people fresh insight and new understanding. This, like the first point we brought out, is going to take diligent study. It doesn’t come easy; there’s no shortcut to hard work. It also has to do with our imparting the mind of God to the people which will require us “having been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13), spending much time “seated at His feet” (Luke 10:39). We need to be able to give them, “thus says the Lord.” Lets dig into the word and seek the face of the Lord so we too can say, “let this be known to you.”
Effective preachers must be exhortative. “And give heed to my words.” We must be challenging. It does little good to give people information if we’re not going to move them to put it into action and implement it into their life. “We ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip” (Hebrews 2:1). If they don’t give heed to the word preached they could easily let the truth of God’s word slip away from them. “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:17). “For unto us was the gospel preached as well as unto them, but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith, in them that heard it” (Hebrews 4:2).
People will not profit from our ministry unless we some how get them to put the Word into practice. It won’t be easy and often they won’t like it, but we must challenge them to “give heed to our words.” The bible says, we are to “provoke one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). It was Simeon of Cyrene who was pressed into service to bear Jesus’ cross (Mark 15:21), and very likely it was the same Simeon in Acts 13:1 who became one of the leaders in that great church. We never know what might become of those we challenge. Let’s press our people into the service of the Master!
Effective preachers must get to the point. Peter didn’t beat around the bush. He got right to the point. After giving careful explanation as to what had taken place on the day of Pentecost he quickly told them, “you nailed to the cross… and put Him to death” (Acts 2:23). After the healing of the lame man, he was quick to tell them, “you disowned the Holy and Righteous one… and put to death the prince of life” (Acts 3:14-15). Notice he said you not someone in general. We must stop playing games with people and set the truth forth plainly. If God has called you to preach the Word don’t quit! Remember, the “gifts and callings of God are without repentance” (Romans 11:29). God’s Word will not return void. He will prosper your work and ministry in due season.