At the Midwest Baptist Conference Annual Meetings a couple weeks ago,
Jerry Sheveland, the president of the
Baptist General Conference gave a
seminar on preaching. In it, he shared his personal 10 Commandments of
Preaching to be Heard
Only two things are eternal beside God: PEOPLE AND GOD’S WORD
18, we read how Jesus told a story about a servant who wouldn’t
forgive his fellow servant. The punch line has so much power that you
know people heard what Jesus was saying. How do we preach so that people
Jerry Sheveland’s 10 Commandments for Contemporary
- Thou shalt understand how generational and gender differences affect
the way people hear and respond.
Each of us will naturally want to address topics that are affecting
ourselves and to teach in ways that connect with us. But to communicate
to all, we need to understand the others.
One suggestion is to have a creative team working together to prepare
- Thou shalt reject a “preachy” style for a personal and natural one.
We need to have a normal, natural conversation style when we preach, but
that also includes the passion we might employ when debating a
controversial topic with a friend or talking about the most recent
- Thou shalt begin where your listeners are-not where you think they
ought to be!
Jerry admits that in his preaching, he tends toward the “ought to”
language, so he has to consciously adjust how he approaches things to
help people see the path not a burden. We need to give people a pathway
to move where they need to go, and to consider the roadblocks that
prevent them from hearing what we are saying.
- Thou shalt know and address your listener’s hurts, needs, and
Ask, “Where’s the heart-connect point that within two minutes of the
beginning of the message, they can stop messing with the 3-year old next
to them and realize that there’s something important for them in it?”
- Thou shalt be real and communicate with transparency.
How transparent is too much? Jerry’s test, “Will my transparency in this
way distract people from receiving this truth or will it help them?”
- Thou shalt be positive and constructive, especially when rebuking and
Especially be careful with your own emotional condition when addressing
rough issues in preaching.
- Thou shalt tell good stories and use drama, wit, and humor freely.
People need “comic relief” so that they can really be able to really deal
with the truth at hand.
You need to be able to really picture the story and get into it before
you share it with others.
- Thou shalt speak simply, avoiding religious cliches and ambiguous
Pastors today are getting pretty good at avoiding the cliches, but we are
still not very good at avoiding the ambiguous “God-talk” babble. (eg. Let
go and let God.)
- Thou shalt tell them how and why, not just what.
- Thou shalt not speak down to your listeners but identify with their
struggles, doubts, and questions.
Jerry used a powerful illustration of a time when he was teaching and
spoke on the topic, “Am I just a number?” It was a powerful story of how
important people are.
“Are you just a number? You’re lucky someone gave you a number!
There are 40,000 students on this campus. There are 6 campuses like this
in this city alone. There are 700 cities like this in the United States.
There are hundreds of countries on this planet, and this planet is just
one tiny ball in the midst of billions of stars and planets and galaxies.
You are a speck on a speck on a speck. Are you just a number? You are
lucky someone cared enough to give you a number!
“So why do we scream about our significance? Why do we take offense at
being treated like a number? Why do we long to be significant? Maybe we
were made for God and by God.”
It was a powerful illustration, and I think I might steal it someday.