Hallmarks of Good Preaching

We assume that many of you already know a considerable amount about preaching. It may be intuitive knowledge, things you have sensed and felt but not yet named to yourself. Through the years you have heard sermons—good, bad, and mediocre—whether in local churches or synagogues, on street corners, via television, in movies, or on the Internet. Even if you are fairly new to a faith tradition, our guess is that you have heard enough sermons to begin forming opinions about what makes them effective or not.

We have designed the exercise in this chapter to tease out some of what you already know and think about preaching. Through it, you will begin to identify some of the hallmarks of good preaching, as well as some of the things that contribute to poor or ineffectual proclamation.

Our goals are threefold: understanding the essential nature of preaching, developing criteria for evaluating sermons, and reassuring novice preachers that they have knowledge about the art and craft of sermons that can help them in their own efforts to proclaim the word of God.

First, when we talk about what makes a sermon “good” or “bad,” we begin to understand the essence of preaching itself. For example, if we call a sermon “good” because it stays close to the biblical texts that are read aloud in worship, our judgment reveals that we believe preaching is supposed to be rooted in the word of God as revealed in the Scriptures. The faithful use of the Bible is a part of the essence of preaching. Or, alternatively, if we define “bad” preaching as preaching in which the preacher talks about only himself or herself, rather than focusing on the congregation and its needs and concerns, then we see that another essential hallmark of preaching is attentiveness to the listeners. The exercise in this chapter provides a way for you to carry on the process of these last few sentences about “good” and “bad” sermons, to name your own assumptions about what preaching should be and do.

Second, engaging in this exercise—especially in a group—allows for the development of criteria that can be used in the critique and evaluation of the sermons preached by ourselves, our peers, and our colleagues. When we teach our introductory homiletics course at Yale, we use this exercise to compile a list of attributes that students can then use throughout the term as they critique one another’s sermons. Rather than our arbitrarily providing a list of things we are looking for, this process allows the students themselves to provide a list of criteria for evaluating the sermons they preach and hear.

Finally, engaging in this exercise reminds even the most inexperienced of preachers that they actually know far more about preaching than they might have initially thought. None of us approaches the task of learning to preach as a blank slate. Rather, we come to this endeavor with some very helpful knowledge that we have gleaned from our own experiences of preaching—knowledge that can be invaluable to us as we undertake this important task. Read more on the sample pdf below

excerpt from: A Sermon Workbook: Exercises in the Art and Craft of Preaching by Thomas H. Troeger and Leonora Tubbs Tisdale Copyright©2013 by Abingdon Press. Used with permission.

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