Kirk Byron Jones, in his book Jazz of Preaching writes: “Slow down and listen in life, in sermons preparation, and in the pulpit.”

The quote reminds me of my introduction to homiletics professor, Brad Braxton, who had his students to get up and walk around Vanderbilt’s campus. We would come back in 20-30 minutes. When we all came back, Dr. Braxton simply asked us what did we see? He then talked about the spiritual implications or uses of what we saw and how they could feed into a sermon.

An Example

Someone saw a path, Braxton immediately remembered the need to travel at the straight gate. Someone else saw a door, and a student immediately remembered that Jesus was at the door knocking for entrance into our hearts. Another remembered that a door was opened in heaven that no one could shut. Someone saw the birds and immediately one spoke of the fact that if God could take care of the birds then God would take care of us. Then Dr. Braxton told us all, “Don’t let me hear that any of you claim that you don’t have anything to preach about!”

What Dr. Braxton was seeking to help us do is pay attention. In other words he was echoing Dr. Jones’ statement to, “slow down and listen.” There are two parts to this statement. We are to slow down AND we are to listen. Slowing down is very difficult in and of itself. We are always running to the next thing. All of us are busy. Some of this is self inflicted business, and some of it is pushed on us by a society that prizes the need to always be doing something. However, great preaching requires that you have to cut down on the overstimulation. It requires that you sit down for a moment.

Looking Beneath the Surface

And then we must “listen.” We must seek to look beneath the surface of that which we are contemplating. In this “google-search” based world, we often want surface answers. We want to type in a subject, hit enter, and get ten one page articles that answer the question. However, the real world is more complex than that. And your people live in the real world where surface answers and shallow critique do not suffice. They live in a world where the popular sentiment of “your breakthrough cometh” is either wrong or needs to be nuanced to be understood. They live in a world where bad things happen to good people and bad people prosper. They live in a world where the nuclear threat might be even more of a threat than when the Soviet Union was in the Cold war with us. They live in a world of sons in jail and husband’s wanting divorces. If we are going to present God’s truth to that world, we must look at the real world. Contemplate it, and understand it.

God’s Word and the Answer

And finally, if we are to preach to the real world, we must sit down and listen to what God has to say in God’s word. If we are to be effective preachers we must sit down and listen. And then after listening, we are ready to confront real issues with real solutions by God’s grace. And then our sermons won’t be the opiate that hides peoples problems behind a shout, but a mechanism for healing and hope in a world of hopelessness.

1 thought on “Slow Down and Listen to Preach Effective Sermons

  1. Rev. Gerald R. Zollar says:

    Reading the article “Slow Down and Listen to Preach Effective Sermons” I was gifted by the Spirit with the below idea. Will I finish it, will it be preached? As I do not pastor a church I do not always get to deliver the sermons I write. In the AME in SoCal there are so many preachers filling pulpits it is hard to arrange preaching dates so I write more than I speak.

    I am pleased by all I have read since I came to this site. I must say because I am who I am I get a lot out of the abridged versions without the whole book, though sometimes you leave me wanting more. I like the ‘Readers Digest’ versions, there is much to read and little time and too much verbiage tends to obscure and not illuminate, I like to get to the point with only needed explanation.

    I came into the ministry under the Rev. Dr. Cecil Murray at First AME L.A. and most of what you talk about in sermon development he gave to me in his office, I can to this site to explore info about whooping, but I am never at a lack for sermon ideas or material. I would like to see more on incorporating the news and situations of today into the sermon story.

    Thank You for what you are doing and will do.
    Bless you.

    Slow Down and Listen

    Act 4:5 And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem;
    Act 4:6 and Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest.
    Act 4:7 And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, By what power, or in what name, have ye done this?
    Act 4:8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders,
    Act 4:9 if we this day are examined concerning a good deed done to an impotent man, by what means this man is made whole;
    Act 4:10 be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even in him doth this man stand here before you whole.
    Act 4:11 He is the stone which was set at nought of you the builders, which was made the head of the corner.
    Act 4:12 And in none other is there salvation: for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved.
    Act 4:13 Now when they beheld the boldness of Peter and John, and had perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.
    Act 4:14 And seeing the man that was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.

    They live in a world of sons in jail and husband’s wanting divorces
    And we ask ourselves why?
    Turn to your neighbor and look them in the eye and say Jesus
    Say it again loudly Jesus
    We all know that under heaven there is no other name by which people can be saved.

    So I just asked you this morning to slow down and listen.
    Yes slow down
    Yes listen
    Slow down and listen.

    1) Fast lives in a speedy world.
    2) Hearing is not listening.

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