The Surprise Keeps Preaching Fresh

The Surprise Keeps Preaching Fresh

We are considering how to keep preaching fresh.  The first post in this series is here.  We looked at the fact that you need to prioritize preaching in your schedule if you are going to remain fresh as a preacher.  We saw, too, that using aphorisms (short pithy summary statements) gives your listeners a place to grab onto your message.  In this post we examine how a surprise keeps preaching fresh for your hearers.

Why Keep Your Preaching Fresh

When I was in seminary, I thought I was a good preacher.  I thought that my job was to explain the Bible to my audience, and I figured that I could do that well enough.  One of the requirements for my training was to spend a summer with an experienced preacher/pastor, to learn from them the ins and outs of ministry.  I remember my first Monday after the pastor of that small church plant in Tucson heard me preach.

We had a meeting in the morning for the purpose of reflecting on my preaching of the previous day.  His report was kindly delivered, but devastating to me.  He said,  “Everything you said was right, true to the Bible.  But after five minutes no one was listening anymore.”  I thought it was a good sermon, so his evaluation was surprising and deflating.  However, he took me back to the sermon and said, “Let’s look at the sermon again, this time with the audience in mind.  What is going to hold their attention?”  And that’s what we did for those three months.  That preacher is now in heaven, but I still owe him a huge debt.  It was his guidance more than all the training I got in seminary that set me on the adventure of keeping preaching fresh.

Ask the Question

Maybe this is where you are, and don’t know it.  One pastor I know came to realize that his preaching was not as well received as he thought.  There was a congregational questionnaire that explored the members’ attitudes toward various ministries.  The news came back that people didn’t look forward to his Sunday messages.  That realization was humbling, to say the least.

What about you?  Maybe you should ask some people about your preaching.  Get a reading on how well it is received.  Then come back to this series of posts to learn how to keep your preaching fresh.

What Kind of Surprise Keeps Preaching Fresh

There are a variety of kinds of surprise that will keep the attention of your audience.  Let’s list some of them:

  • A special guest introduced for an interview about the subject of the message.
  • Introducing an attention-getting object for a lesson will be a surprise that keeps your preaching fresh.
  • Using a personal illustration has the power to catch your audience with surprise.
  • Breaking into song can be one way that the surprise keeps preaching fresh for your hearers.
  • Getting out among the people can be a surprise.
  • A well-placed movie or tv clip can do that as well.
  • Using humor can be a great surprise

Let’s look at some of these.

The Special Guest

I was preaching on the subject of tithing.  You’ll have to agree that it’s a tough topic.  My sermon went through the Bible’s teaching in the Old Testament on tithing from Malachi, along with the promise that God would open the windows of heaven to pour down blessing on those who brought the full tithe into the warehouse.

I suspected that people would tune out quite quickly on the subject, because surveys have shown that only about 10% of Christians in the US tithe.  So, I decided to throw in a surprise that would force them to consider this in their own lives.  I invited one of the oldest members of my congregation up to share a testimony.

This elderly woman toddled up to the stage with her walker.  I asked her how she came to be a tither.  She shared how at one point she and her husband were facing financial challenges over and over again.  After discussing tithing in a Bible study, a discussion was held between them.  They made the commitment to set aside 10% each week and give it.  She shared that the financial problems began to lessen.  But more importantly, they found joy in giving as they were now participating in reaching their community and the world through the ministries and people they support.

Needless to say, it was her words and testimony that made several people in the church begin tithing.  My teaching helped, but the change in attention and living example provided freshness to the message and made it real.


We are going to consider the other surprises in the next post.  For now, realize that the surprise keeps preaching fresh for your hearers.  Think, as you prepare your next message, how you can surprise your hearers.

Here are some more ideas on this subject from Ministry Matters: