A few years ago I had the pleasure of experiencing TD Jakes preaching the house down.
TD Jakes is the Bishop of The Potter’s House.
He is recognised as one of the stand out leaders of the church in America. His megachurch in Dallas attracts thousands and his ministry impacts people around the globe.
It was an amazing experience to sit under this most remarkable preacher.
7 Things I Learnt
I love learning how to preach better. Church growth is impacted by preaching and helps turn believers into disciples of Jesus.
1. Immerse Yourself into the Bible Story
One memorable night was when I heard TD Jakes preaching the story of Mephibosheth. He told the story in such graphic terms that I cried.
I never cry in sermons. Never. However, when I listened to TD Jakes preaching I was moved to tears by his poetic and emotive language.
You can’t achieve that unless you master the story.
How Do You Master Story Telling?
Eugene Petersen gives us the main key when he writes about being “at home” in the story.
Being “at home” indicates familiarity, comfort, recognition, knowledge and ease.
In other words, before you tell the story, you immerse yourself in the story by imagining the scenes, hearing the dialogue, feeling the emotions and allowing the story to unfold.
Act Out The Story
Even acting out the story can add another dimension to enlivening the story as you consider the interactions between the key characters and hear, rather than read, their dialogue.
In fact, the dialogue in Bible stories gives us significant clues as to what the original narrator is trying to tell us through the story.
Also, updating the story into a twenty-first century setting in your locale can help connect your congregation to the story, making it more relevant to them in a whatever world.
Never Tell a Story From Notes
When delivering the story, always do it from memory.
While key points can be listed in your notes don’t rely on them, and only use them when you know you have lost your way.
Only read a story to your listeners when you are reading a Bible story.
I generally prefer to utilize a read/tell/read/tell style when unpacking a Bible story.
Never, ever read out one of your own stories or someone else’s story. Instead, tell them the “movie” you have playing in your mind.
TD Jakes didn’t read any story from notes. It flowed from his soul.
Boost your preaching with 5 templates for expositional, topical and first person narratives
2. The Scriptures Changes Lives
I believe the Bible is the living, breathing, incomparable word of God.
It has changed my life in various ways and at different times. It has sustained me in tough times and helped me decide not to quit the ministry.
As preachers we should never rely on our own ability or just our own words.
Let the Scriptures be strong in our heart and hold centre stage in our messages.
While our words will pass away one day, the Word of God is eternal and has an ability to convince when we are impotent.
It’s vital to not only read the Bible but to study it extensively if you are going to communicate its timeless truths.
Invest In Study Tools
Over the years I have invested heavily in study tools and as I am a computer oriented studier, I have invested in digital books. If you are just commencing in ministry I suggest that you take a similar approach.
The significant advantage of computer programs is that searching these books is easy and quick. I have given away most of my print books and focused exclusively on building a digital library.
If you are more tactile in your approach and must have ‘real’ books then I recommend you start with a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, the Lion Bible Handbook, a one-volume commentary such as New Bible Commentary and a one-volume dictionary such as New Bible Dictionary.
Invest in Excellent Commentaries
Commentaries give you new ideas, access to contemporary scholarship and prevent you from preaching concepts that are not accurate. I recommend the Commentary and Reference Survey by John Glynn. It is an excellent resource to guide you in your search for appropriate commentaries.
I love Ben Witherington’s socio-rhetoric commentaries, NT Wright’s Everyone Bible Guides and anything by Jack Hayford. These men have sound theology and are articulate in their expression.
Theology is Important
Theology books are another important part of your toolkit. The IVP Theology Series is an excellent set of one-volume reference books.
Another essential element is Bible dictionaries. Again, IVP publishes an excellent series of dictionaries as does Zondervan.
Every church should give its pastor an annual book allowance to allow him or her to build a substantial library over the course of time.
3. Use Emotions to Connect
God created emotions so never be scared to engage emotionally with your listeners
We are emotional beings created by Christ to feel.
Preaching is meant to affect the whole person at the very centre of lifeD. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
Engage with the emotions of your audience and allow them to feel the story and truth you preach.
People remember how you make them feel and this is especially important for your church visitors who want to not only feel welcomed but also ministered to by your preaching.
If you want to discover heart moving messages you should listen to TD Jakes sermons through his online platform.
4. Get a BIG IDEA
Haddon Robinson is known for coining the phrase, “Big Idea preaching.”
His concept centres around the truism, aim at nothing and you’ll hit it.
Every time I heard TD Jakes preaching I had a sense of where he wanted to take us. It felt like we were on a journey with him as he painted the pictures of the stories of Scripture.
Every message should have a big idea, a pithy summation of what you are trying to say and ultimately achieve. In fact you should be able to state your Big Idea in a short sentence.
Sometimes I also like to build a specific outcome into my Big Idea.
Big Ideas Emerge in Different Ways
What is also interesting is that your Big Idea can emerge and morph during the study process which illustrates the dynamic nature of sermon preparation. More than once I have commenced my study time with a hazy idea of what I was trying to say only to find it emerging clearly as I progressed in the development of my message.
At other times I have had a very clear idea of my Big Idea and the outcome I wanted to produce. Then the message has unfolded in line with this original concept.
Write Your Big Idea Below Your Title
One thing I like to do is write my Big Idea just below my sermon title so that it keeps me on track as I prepare my sermon. The key thing is that you have your Big Idea clearly in mind by the time you are standing at the pulpit.
So what does a Big Idea look like? Here are some of mine:
What’s on your mind will be in your life
God intervenes in our world to help us grow
Second mile love reflects Christ and causes us to stand out from the crowd
Sexual purity enhances and protects your life
Is it possible for one person to change history?
Let’s expose and eradicate legalism
At Christmas the outsiders become insiders
How to cultivate your confidence
Don’t just stand there – pray something!
5. Learn From Great Preachers But Don’t Copy Them
I remember talking to quite a few of my pastor friends after we had heard TD Jakes preaching the house down in Sydney.
We joked together about giving up on our preaching because it seemed so feeble after listening to a master preacher.
And we were joking.
I’m old enough to realise that the comparison game is a frivolous game that does no one any good in the long run.
6. Know Your Audience
Listening to TD Jakes preaching made me realise he is a smart man.
I knew when he came to Australia he would have familiarized himself with our nation and leaned into our context.
As you prepare your next sermon ask yourself, “Who will be listening to me?”
This Habit Helps Me
I’ve developed a little habit that reminds me who is actually out there in the congregation. I make a list of various members of my church.
On this list will be people in diverse scenarios such as business kowners, tradesmen, professionals, salespeople, corporate managers, clerks, labourers, engineers, scientists, students and so on.
I consider the marital status of those listening to me.
Are they married, widowed, divorced or singles who have never been married? I also take into account their stage of life. Are they teenagers, older singles, young marrieds, blended families, empty nesters, retirees and so on?
I ask, are they healthy or battling terminal illness?
If I am preaching on finances I ask myself, are they financially secure or fretful about money?
What about our members who have just started serving? Will my sermon encourage them and strengthen our volunteer onboarding process?
What about members who aren’t serving? Will my preaching help recruit new people into serving in our church?
“Instead of asking, ‘What shall I preach on this Sunday?’ you should ask, ‘To whom will I be preaching?'”Rick Warren
Know Your Audience to Maximise Your Impact
I examine my audience because knowing my audience helps me maximize my impact and avoid unnecessary offense. It prevents me from being insensitive especially as I apply truth.
For instance, if I am looking to change people’s devotional habits it’s really important that I consider the time constraints upon a young or single mom as compared to a retired person.
Likewise, if I’m seeking to shift someone’s attitude toward money then it helps to think of the different backgrounds that inform people’s values about finance.
Examine your audience, consider the noise in their world and you will be far more effective in being heard in a “whatever” world.
7. Develop Sermon Templates
As I listened to TD Jakes preaching I realised he used utilised a specific style of expositional delivery which focused on storytelling and appropriate application as the story unfolded.
He used a classic template of reading the text, expound it, apply it then hit repeat as many times as you need.
A simple template is outlined in this infographic.
I Use Templates
For many years I’ve built my sermons around templates. I’ve found this helps me in both the preparation phase and delivery time.
During preparation it makes me focus on the essential elements of the message and draws me back from deep black holes of endless study.
When it comes to delivery time a basic structure makes it far easier to deliver from memory and frees me from constant reference to my notes.
Story – Scripture – Call to action
This basic, easy to remember three-point structure can be utilized in short messages for communion or offering talks or multiple times within an entire message.
Start with one story and then earth it in one Scripture.
Then a simple call-to-action moves people to apply the truth. This simple structure will work every time whenever you are put on the spot to deliver an offering talk or short testimony.
TD Jakes preaching style utilises this flow.
This starts with discovering your big idea and answering 3 questions,
- what do I want people to know?
- what do I want people to feel?
- what do I want people to do?
Launch strong with an attention-grabbing story or authoritative reading of scripture.
All movies and TV shows adopt this tactic today. They grab you in the first few minutes and then unfold the story as the time moves along.
Next you build your content with text, story, truth, application and so on.
Finally, you finish strong with a call to action and response.
Boost your preaching with 5 templates for expositional, topical and first person narratives
Andy Stanley Style
In Communicating for a Change, Andy Stanley outlines his general message structure.
His style is built on initially connecting with the audience through a self-revealing story (Me) then accelerating tension by focusing on how the listener wrestles with the same issue (We).
He then turns to scripture to get God’s view on the issue (God), following up with application as the spotlight goes back on the individual (You).
Finally, he finishes with an inspirational look at what the world would look like if we all acted upon this truth (Me).
First Person Narrative
First person narrative preaching is a demanding style of preaching.
You make one person in a Bible story the primary person and tell the story from their perspective.
This requires preparation, rehearsal and an ability to deliver from memory.
Listen to this first person narrative sermon I preached on the four lepers in Samaria who uttered the famous saying “Why sit we here til we die?”
TD Jakes preaching has inspired me to be a better preacher and thus influence more people for Christ and His glory. Google TD Jakes sermons online or TD Jakes sermons YouTube and check him out.
Great preaching will help you grow a healthy church.