Seven Marks of a Good Sermon

Seven Marks of a Good Sermon

By Pastor David Cox

Seven Marks of a Good Sermon deals with using or engaging Scripture, connecting to people’s lives, emphasizing the gospel etc.

Seven Marks of a Good Sermon is my reaction from reading this article from Lutheran Seminary of the same name. It is written by Homiletics Professor Michael Rogness and Assistant Professor David Lose. I greatly dislike the reference to the preacher as a “she” since 1 Timothy 3:2 requires a bishop or pastor to be a man.


This article touches on some issues we have written about before.

1. A good sermon engages the biblical text

I would say this, a good sermon uses Scripture, but Rogness way is much more “pretty”. Engaging the text means that we visit it, and do something with it or it to us, and the imagery is much better in his way of saying it. To engage Scripture is to interact with it, and give it a response, hopefully, a positive response.

Point: A preacher cannot preach a good sermon unless that MAN has internalized the spiritual teaching of the passage. He cannot write it off flippantly, and this is so very true.

Therefore, good preachers strive to engage the biblical passages seriously, in a manner that is interesting, inspiring and relevant.

I wish that this group would take seriously the requirements of being a bishop, pastor, and overseer and exclude women from this ministry.

2. A good sermon proclaims the gospel

I would see this point as the result of faulty understanding within the Lutherans. When we embrace Christ to save us, as our Savior, it is not praying a prayer and be done with it. It is seeing Jesus as our hope against sin. It is just as important for the sinner to embrace Jesus’ perfect morality, the morality of God, as well as Jesus the Savior. If you understand things this way, then sanctification is very much a part of salvation. It is not something that comes on us spiritually against our will, but as much as we decide to be saved, we also decide to be holy.

3. A good sermon connects God’s Word to the lives of God’s people

Right on target with this one. The fundamental principle in speaking to any group of people is to see who and what they are and tailor your words to what they need spiritually. We are so “far down the rabbit hole” with TV, movies, and now telephones (a.k. youtube videos) where people somewhere somehow made the video without knowing anything about the people that will actually be watching their video.

Good, effective speaking always start with the speaker knowing the audience. You cannot teach Calculus to kindergarteners. Even with a pastor that well knows his small church, this is not a given and it is never easy to understand the problems of other people, especially if they don’t open themselves up to you.

God could have put an angel to preach each Sunday in the sky over each nation, but that angel would not have the personal interaction that a local church pastor has.

To put it another way, we might go so far as to say that there is no universal gospel apart from the way it manifests itself in the particular and concrete aspects of our actual lives. To talk about “God’s love” or “forgiveness” or “grace” in general makes very little sense without pointing to specific examples and instances of love, forgiveness and grace in our lives and the world around us.

The idea of relevant preaching is to bring preaching down from “pie in the sky” to be “where we live.” It needs to understand OUR problems, and needs to address them as individually as is possible. This one is a good point.

4. A good sermon is well organized and easy to understand

Well, finally, somebody in a preaching construction context says that sermons need to be well organized! I hear a lot of sermons and the preacher jumps around all over the place. One of my pet peeves is when the preacher doesn’t repeat the reference at least 2-3 times. But right after that is a sermon that has no clear theme. The theme needs to be very clear and repeated many times throughout the sermon.

I hear some sermons and being a preacher that has preached similar sermons, I know what he is getting at, but from what is said, the rest of the congregation is going to be clueless. (Another pet peeve is when I get a fellowship newsletter Saturday and Sunday I hear the preacher preach a sermon in it exactly and never give credence or reference to where he got the sermon as if he worked all week to work it up. I well know he just got it Saturday morning in the mail like me, and well, I cannot get over that to get anything out of “his” sermon!)

5. A good sermon engages the imaginations of the hearers

I am totally lost on this guy’s point here. People who talk to me about religious or spiritual experiences usually are off base in my opinion, and they tend to put more authority on what they feel than on what they know from God’s Word, and so they are all washed up on this one. I quote all of what is in the original article below. See if you can make any sense out of it.

One of the most significant insights of mainline preachers over the last two generations has been that the gospel is more than a head-trip. That is, the gospel is more than thinking a certain way. It is not just cognitive, but experiential, deals not only with our rational side but with our whole selves–feelings, desires, needs, heart, soul and so forth. Preaching, we have come to realize, speaks to the whole person, and to do that we need to engage the imaginations of our hearers.

6. A good sermon is delivered well

If he would have just stated the point and stopped, he would have 100% of my support on this one. But to Rogness a well-delivered sermon is one “with the appropriate affect” (sic). Again we get into emotionalism. One thing is passion, but it is a totally different thing when we get into touchy-feely emotions. Sincerity should also be passionate.

b) The preacher must deliver the sermon with passion and integrity. People should know that you believe what you say, that you have something at stake in this message, that it is true for you, and that it matters. Insincerity is easily detected by most listeners and greatly undermines preaching.

Okay, those statements I think are well placed.

7. A good sermon orients hearers to life in God’s world

I would pretty much agree completely with this, but I would think that this is an obvious point that perhaps doesn’t even need to be stated.

More Posts on Improving Preaching Issues

Pastor David Cox is a missionary. See my ministry updates here.