Effective Preaching for Easter
The supreme work of the Christian minister is the work of preaching. This is a day in which one of our great perils is that of doing a thousand little things to the neglect of one thing, which is preaching.
–G. Campbell Morgan
As I prepare for my sermon on Easter, our church will look into Luke 24. We’ll consider the resurrection by using the story of Jesus’ interaction with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. But there is so much more to preaching than just picking a passage and whipping together an outline. For Easter, I want to encourage pastors to consider these four principles for effective preaching.
Prepare your own soul. The temptation you face this weekend is to preach to impress people. To do so, you may spend the majority of your sermon preparation time searching for clever illustrations and wordsmithing each phrase. Jonathan Edwards wrote, “If a minister be driven with a fierce and intemperate zeal and vehement heat, without light, he will likely kindle the like unhallowed flame in his people and to fire their corrupt passions and affections, but will make them never the better, nor lead them a step towards heaven, but drive them apace the other way.” Preparing yourself with strong exposition, compelling illustrations, and a well-crafted outline is good. A holy man who has allowed the Word of God and the Holy Spirit to purge him through the preparation is better.
Present truth to the people. Easter is about the truth of the resurrection and its defeat of our sin. To fully appreciate it, people need the truth. Count on the fact that you will be tempted to offer a “5 Keys to a Happy Life” message. Don’t give in to that insidiousness. Instead, stand up like a man with a spine of steel and tell the truth. God is holy. Man is sinful. Jesus is the atoning sacrifice and is risen from the dead. In his lecture The Two Elements in Preaching, Phillips Brooks said, “It is good to be a Herschel who describes the sun; but it is better to be a Prometheus who brings the sun’s fire to the earth.”
Engage the crowd. Engagement does not mean to be loud, extroverted, use clever props, or get outside of your own personality. Jonathan Edwards engaged congregations and crowds constantly. Yet, he reportedly would have never been considered as an engaging personality. Instead, he had engaging content. Martyn Lloyd-Jones wrote, “Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire.” Let your passionate engagement of the text drive your passionate engagement of the crowd. The Holy Spirit does not need you to be Billy Sunday or Jonathan Edwards or St. Augustine. Just love the people before you deeply enough to persuasively tell them the gospel.
Embolden the church. As you preach, give courage to those who need it. Believers should feel commissioned rather than overlooked. They should be inspired to witness rather than feel it is “the preacher’s job.” John Stott stated, “Expository preaching is opening up the inspired text with such faithfulness and sensitivity that God’s voice is heard and his people obey him.” Present the message of Christ’s resurrection in such a clear way that believers are certain that they can do the same.
As you preach this Easter, I pray that it will be as your own act of worship. Abandon your heart and mind to God so that He might be exalted.