Improving the quality of preaching is a necessity, Iorg says in spring convocation
In his spring 2021 convocation message, published digitally February 3, Gateway President Jeff Iorg said pastors must be committed to persistently improving the quality of their preaching.
“In the midst of cultural upheaval, questions are rightly raised about how church leaders should respond,” he said. “The temptation and faulty assumption hinted at by the question is we need to do something new or different.”
Instead of a new solution, Iorg said the focus should be on doing “old things well.”
“One timeless strategy, needed right now, is declaring the Word of God: clearly, passionately, prophetically and tirelessly preaching the gospel and its implication as detailed in the Bible,” Iorg said.
Preaching is the priority function of pastors and an indispensable element of worship in churches of a wide variety of theological lineages. It is vital to the ministry of the church and as a learnable skill, pastors must invest time in developing it.
Iorg described four ways contemporary pastors can improve their preaching. The first, and most important, way to assure strong preaching is to center it on the Bible. The biblical text must be the nucleus of the sermon, not just a casual reference. The preacher must thoroughly exegete the passage to determine the content, form and objective of the message. Then they must craft the sermon with the ultimate goal of personal transformation in hearers.
“We preach for life change: conversion for unbelievers; sanctification for believers,” he said.
“Good preaching proclaims conclusions emerging from the study of the text, but synthesized and delivered in a succinct way by a well-prepared preacher.”
Iorg said the second aspect of improving preaching, developing good application, is even a more crucial need among evangelicals. Good application is based on the biblical text and provides a specific plan of action that challenges hearers of the message to do something they can accomplish. A preacher must be connected to the needs of their people and spiritually guided to have the mind of Christ to deliver good application in a sermon. It requires “pastoral insight, spiritual discernment, and personal courage,” Iorg said.
“Preaching is confrontational,” he said, “and insists on change.”
The third way to improve preaching is through effective use of illustrations. Iorg said they should be short, fresh, varied and focused. “The purpose of an illustration is to concretize an application
by showing how it looks in everyday life,” he said. He warned against humorous insertions that don’t serve the text and referencing violent or immoral media.
Iorg’s final point was to use technology carefully. He said overdependence on technology can have a “deadening effect” on the sermon.
“Technology damages preaching when it alters message content or stilts message delivery. Sadly, in many cases today, that seems to be the case,” Iorg said.
Preachers ought to spend more time developing oratorical skills than on preparing presentations, which have a tendency to distract from the text. He also encouraged churches to keep the sanctuary well-lighted during the sermon. Dimming the lights implies the preacher is an actor and the listeners an audience. Instead, the preacher and the hearers ought to be in dialogue as a performative act of worship to God, the audience.
Iorg concluded by restating the centrality of preaching in the ministry of the church. He said it is the primary means to address cultural challenges with the Word of God.
“We need preachers with courage to speak the truth, with clarity and precision, based on pastoral knowledge, in a generation that has lost its moral moorings and is devoid of spiritual direction,” Iorg said.
“The church and the community needs sound preaching. Since this is true, it behooves us to do it better.”