By Louis Venden, PhD
When it comes to preaching and sermons, regardless of a speaker’s topic, style or text, there are some fundamental expectations that listeners have.
A congregation’s “Bill of Rights” (i.e. right expectations)
We are expecting that your sermon will have a clear and “substantial” relationship to Scripture, and that you will deliver “a message you have received—not just one you have concocted.” We will look for Scripture to “glow with new light.” Remember, our deepest need and question: “Is there any word from the Lord?”
We’ll be expecting an introduction that shows you have thought carefully about just how you will begin. You have a clear way and a reason why you “break the silence;” why you start your sermon this way.
While we listeners can only get your sermon’s “pieces” in a time/hearing sequence, we’re going to expect to have a real sense of those elements “fitting together” – i.e. that what you are saying now has some connection with what you said a few moments or minutes ago and leads the way toward what you will be saying next. We’ll find the sermon “puzzle” coming together.
From the beginning we’re going to feel that your sermon is going somewhere. There is a goal/destination to which you are leading/guiding and we will feel we have “arrived” with you.
We’re going to know that what you are talking about matters deeply to you: that you believe what you are saying, “is worth a person risking their life to hear.” (Remember Fred Craddock’s observation that the most fatal comment about a preacher is that “S/he preached as though nothing were at stake.”)
We believe in and will be looking for the gentle but powerful work of the Spirit, present in your preparation and your delivery – and bringing us the Bread and Water of Life. We expect that through your preaching Christ will be in our midst mighty to save. That in and through your words His Word will be heard.
Louis Venden, PhD, Professor of Theology and Ministry, Faculty of Religion, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA. Better Sermons © 2005-2008. Click here for usage guidelines.