The logical question to ask is, "How are we to start the sermon?" The best solution can be found in the answer to the following question, "How did Jesus start His sermons?" He always began His presentations by talking about subjects in which His hearers were already interested. As a series of meetings progresses, this interest must be stimulated and fostered by arousing curiosity.
VISUAL AIDS.—We hear much today of visual education. Jesus made constant use of the art of visual education. He certainly did not confine all His illustrations to word pictures. He used object lessons. When asked about tribute money He immediately illustrated it by a coin. When speaking of the lilies He was in the midst of a field. One time in the midst of a great throng- He called for a little child. With His hand tenderly placed on its head He dramatically commented on the humility of. the child as a necessary qualification for heaven.
It was through these visual illustrations that Jesus meant to impress solemn things on the church. Baptism is a symbol. The Lord's supper is a symbol. It is through all these things that Jesus made available truths that were too deep for men to understand in any other way.
QUESTIONS.—One of the most successful methods that Jesus employed in His ministry was the question-and-answer method. His questions went right to the heart of things. "Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?"
When Jesus preached an evangelistic sermon He did not assume an attitude of "take it or leave it," but wrought a wonderfully forceful appeal at the conclusion. He pleaded for the acceptance of His truth. He appealed with mingled admonitions and warnings of rewards and punishments. The sermon on the mount closes with a most solemn appeal.
It is clear that an evangelistic sermon must contain more than the presentation of spiritual truths. It must contain the element of warning, most earnest appeal, and persuasion.
CLARITY.—When we preach we ought to speak clearly and distinctly. Our enunciation should be clear, and every word pronounced so that our listeners will not need to guess what we are saying.
Things to Avoid in Preaching
Here are some failings we should guard against: 1. Avoid faulty pronunciation of the vowels and indistinct articulation of the consonants. It is easier to use the vowel sounds correctly than it is to make the consonants under stood, but there must be a distinct articulation of the consonants in each word if we expect our congregations to understand.
2. Take care not to speak too rapidly and, incidentally, too long. This is a most serious fault. It is imperative that a man speak deliberately and with deep feeling. Much energy is wasted and the ultimate appeal fails when men do not understand us.
In preparing the sermon, the ministers will always find it advisable to avoid quoting long passages. Jesus made short sword thrusts with pointed verses. He looked to the Word of God for His source. He knew His Bible, and studied it.
It is a most unfortunate situation when the evangelist stands before his people and apologizes for physical disabilities. Why should one ask a congregation to sit and listen to a man who publicly confesses that he is not qualified to preach? No man ought ever to speak unless he has qualified himself by preparation, physically as well as intellectually. If we tell the congregation we have failed to qualify for the service, they lose respect for us. We can never be successful evangelists unless the people believe in us.
3. Do not assume a sort of ministerial "twang." It is offensive. Be yourself. Don't adopt a "pious" tone. At one time it may have been popular, but it is not considered good taste now. Never fall into the habit of a mono tone. This is a decided disadvantage to an evangelistic sermon.
4. Never mimic another man. Imitate no human being. Let a man be as eloquent as he can, let him be as great as humanly possible, but do not imitate him. Regard him as a worthy model, but do not try to be like him. Do not use flowery words and eloquent figures. 'Be perfectly natural. Do not use the word cataclysm unless it fits properly and naturally. If it doesn't come naturally, then the word flood will do just as well. Avoid any undue display of gestures. Never think about them. Let gestures come spontaneously with the sermon.
DELIVERY.—After we have prepared our sermon, its power depends largely on our delivery. We have prepared for the text. We have prayed to select the right material. We have prayed for other Scripture texts to build up the sermon. Now the crucial hour comes—the de livery of that sermon. We must put ourselves into it with faith, with consuming zeal, and speak for God. It is our hour. We must focus all we have done in a lifetime into this effort.
In conclusion, let us think of the following statement (I do not know who wrote it, but I am greatly impressed by it):
"'The Lord has given to every man his work. It is his business to do it, and the devil's business to hinder him if he can. So sure as God has given you a work to do, Satan will try to hinder you. He may throw you from it; he may present other things more promising. He may allure you by worldly prospects. He may assault you with slander, torment you by false accusations, set you at work defending your character, employ pious ^persons to lie about you, editors to as sail you, officials to accuse you, and excellent men to slander you."
"'You may have Pilate and Herod, Annas and Caiaphas, all combined against you, and Judas standing by you ready to sell you for thirty pieces of silver; and you may wonder why all these things come upon you. Can you not see that the whole thing is brought about through the craft of the devil to draw you off from your work and hinder your obedience to God?"
"'Keep about your work. Do not flinch because the lion roars; do not stop to stone the devil's dogs; do not fool away your time chasing the devil's rabbits. Do your work. Let liars lie; let sectarians quarrel; let corporations resolve; let editors publish; let the devil do his work; but see to it that nothing hinders you from fulfilling the work God has given you."
"'He has not sent you to make money. He has not commanded you to get rich. He has never bidden you to defend your character. He has not set you at work to contradict falsehood which Satan and his servants may start to peddle. If you do these things, you will do nothing else; you will be at work for yourself and not for the Lord."
"'Keep about your work. Let your aim be as steady as a star. Let the world brawl and bubble. You may be assaulted, wronged, insulted, slandered, wounded, and neglected; you may be abused by foes, forsaken by friends, and despised and rejected of men, but see to it with steadfast determination, with unfaltering zeal, that you pursue the great purpose of your life and object of your being until at last you can say, "I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do." ' " —Quoted in Living Evangelism by C. B. HAYNES, pp. 344-346.