Preacher, you stand before the congregation to preach. Now, what is it that you intend to do? You quickly respond. Preach! So, what does that mean? There are some biblical objectives that must be considered if you are going to preach. Shooting an arrow at a target provides a helpful illustration of the biblical objectives for preaching. What is the goal? The goal is to hit the target with the arrow in the most precise and powerful manner. There are three components needed for the archer to accomplish this goal. The archer must have a bow, an arrow, and a target. If any of these elements are absent, then the task becomes impossible.
The bow illustrates the first objective. This objective for preaching is that it be biblically founded. The power of God’s Word is the power that thrusts the arrow toward the target. The fundamental nature of this objective is observed in the work of the reformers and one of the five Solae, Sola Scriptura. Additionally, John Broadus states, “If the preacher is to speak for God, he must of necessity go to the place where God has spoken most clearly.”John A. Broadus, On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, 4th ed., rev. Vernon L. Stanfield (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1979), 18. If the Bible is not the source for the substance, structure, and spirit of preaching, then the preaching is not biblical. The writer of Hebrews gives insight into this in Hebrews 4:12. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (KJV) The time you spend in God’s Word determines the strength of the shot. Pull your bow back with all that you have. Don’t let the arrow fall short of the target by neglecting the power of the Word. The first objective for biblical preaching is to ensure that whatever is spoken during the preaching act be founded on God’s Word.
The arrow illustrates the second objective. A second biblical objective for preaching is the verbal proclamation of a message that exalts Christ. Paul provides insight concerning this objective in 1 Corinthians 2:2 where he writes, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (ESV) Every sermon must include Jesus. The arrow of biblical preaching is Jesus. A message about Jesus is empowered by the Bible. When the verbal proclamation of Jesus empowered by the Word of God goes forth, the potential for preaching to be effective is very powerful. Refine your message so that it will fly straight and true. Spend time working on your message to remove anything that might cause the message to get off-course. Remove any interferences that detract from the message of Jesus and in turn might cause the message to become less exact in its delivery. Don’t let your arrow fly off course because you have not removed any excess and unnecessary material that might inhibit its flight. The arrow only need have attached that which will improve its flight. The second biblical objective for preaching is that Christ is the central theme of the message proclaimed.
The target illustrates the third objective. The third biblical objective for preaching is to deliver the message to the listener. The message has a purpose. Nehemiah 8:8 tells us that “They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.” (ESV) Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (ESV) To shoot an arrow with no target is to be aimless in the shooting of the arrow. The target must be studied to determine the ideal point of impact. The same is true of the message preached. A study of the target must be done to effectively deliver the message of Jesus to the exact place where it will be most impactful. Know your target. Study all the things that are around the target that you may need to consider. Is there any wind blowing? The audience is surrounded by the winds of the world. Are there any objects that may deflect the message? The audience is surrounded by a variety of ideas regarding the truth claims of the Bible. Don’t let your arrow fly aimlessly toward the target. Take dead aim and hit the heart of the target. The third biblical objective for preaching is that the message is delivered to an identified and well-studied audience.
As preachers, it is our goal to bring glory to God in the preaching act. How do we realize this duty? We must use the power of the Word of God to proclaim the gospel message of Jesus to a listening audience to bring about life transformation which brings glory to God. Preacher, make sure you are reaching your goal for preaching. Draw your bow back, get your arrow linked to the power of the bow, study the target, take dead aim, and release the arrow. Don’t you dare stand in the pulpit with your bow not fully drawn, no arrow connected to the bow, and no distinct target in sight!
Keep in mind that there are other aspects surrounding the preaching act that are working in conjunction with these objectives. The work of the Holy Spirit must not and cannot be neglected. Also, do not neglect the relationship of prayer to the effective achievement of these objectives. Preacher, hit the target with power and precision.
Kevin Ulmer is the Pastor of Maplewood Baptist Fellowship in Richland Hills, Texas. He is also a PhD student in Preaching and the Assistant to the Associate Vice President for Institutional Research and Assessment at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.
|↑1||John A. Broadus, On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, 4th ed., rev. Vernon L. Stanfield (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1979), 18.|