While preaching can’t be formulaic, there are ingredients that make a sermon a sermon. As I've dove back into the wells of my favorite preachers of the past, here are some common elements I've identified:
1. Incarnational - The sermon is personable. It’s not behind notes, a pulpit, a voice, a persona. It is invitational, it includes the congregation.
2. Theological - I have become less of a fan of expositional sermons over the past few years. Few people do it well, and the few who do are exceptionally gifted. I favor theological preaching, preaching that sets us not only in the grist and grind of the text, but the intertextuality of the text, the entire thread of scripture leading to and from that point. This is easier for most of us, and I believe, more beneficial.
3. Missional - The sermon is an invitation to onlookers. Sometimes local congregants ask why non-Christians attend my ministry. I tell them it’s because I talk to them. It’s not hard, but it takes intentionality.
4. Applicational - A sermon should instruct. As we journey through the text, we should dance between its particulars and its universals, always landing back on our shores.
5. Christological - For this to be an act of worship, it must have an object of worship. That object is Christ, not a higher vision of our life together.