When I was young and thinking about preaching, wondering if I ever could preach, I came across The Elements of Preaching by Warren Wiersbe and David Wiersbe. There are only a few books that deserve the title life-changing, but this book deserves that status in my life.
The Elements of Preaching presents 26 simple lessons on preaching, along with 14 simple prohibitions. As the title suggests, it aims to cover the elements of the subject, "the simplest principles of a subject of study." It is not a book on how to prepare sermons. Instead, it is a book of basics that "that the preacher must grasp before he can adequately begin to use what the other books teach." It's like The Elements of Style, except it's for preaching.
Here's a sample of the simple lessons:
- Preaching is the communicating of God’s truth by God’s servant to meet the needs of people
- Keep your preaching within the bounds of what the text says and what the people can receive
- Preach to express, not to impress
- Never be satisfied with your preaching
Here's a sample of the prohibitions, "some of the sins preachers commit that we ought not commit:"
- Wasting time on long introductions to our sermons
- Basing our sermons on suppositions instead of Scripture
- Concluding sermons with vague generalities
The book concludes with a ten-point inventory for the sermon. It deserves to hang in the study of every preacher. It's simple, but foundational. It includes questions like:
- Is the message solidly based on Scripture?
- Does it exalt the Person and work of Jesus Christ?
- Will it meet the needs of people?...
I wish every sermon I'd preached passed the test of this inventory.
The entire book is less than 12,000 words, and can be read in half an hour or so. And it should be. Even though I've been preaching for a quarter of a century now, and have taught preaching, I still need to be reminded of the basics outlined in this book.