What Churchgoers Expect to Hear in Sermons

Updated on August 22, 2019
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Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.

The Bible should be the focus of every sermon. If not, it is merely a speech and not a sermon.
The Bible should be the focus of every sermon. If not, it is merely a speech and not a sermon. | Source

The Bible

The Bible should always be the main source for sermons. If someone attempts to preach without using the Bible at all or without talking about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, he is merely giving a speech and not preaching a sermon.

While all sermons should involve scriptures, a well-constructed sermon and effective preaching involve much more than the Bible.


Most professors advise seminarians to have the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. That simply means preachers should know what is going on in the world as well as what went on during biblical times and make a relationship between the two. If this is not done, then the sermon won't be effective and provoke Christian living.

A preacher should know about current news. More than likely, people in the congregation know what's going on in the world. However, the preacher should go one step further and help listeners sort out what they have read in the newspaper or heard on the news. If the preacher mentions current events, he should relate them to biblical examples to give listeners a ray of hope. If the preacher doesn't provide a biblical teaching to what's going on in the world, the people leave more despondent as if they had not gone to church that day.

More people end up in churches after national tragedies than at other times. After 9/11, people looked to pastors of local churches to provide some answers. However, if the preacher didn't know enough details about the tragedy, then he couldn't talk intelligently about it. If he preached about quantum physics the Sunday after 9/11, he failed miserably.

Seminary professors say ministers should have the Bible in one hand and a Newspaper in the other hand.
Seminary professors say ministers should have the Bible in one hand and a Newspaper in the other hand. | Source

Pop Culture

No one says preachers should like everything that goes on in pop culture, but at least they should know about what's happening in the world of popular culture. If a preacher doesn't know how to reach people, how can he know how to teach people?

It is sad to say, but lay people often know more about what is going on around them than most preachers who believe they should preach only what's in the Bible and ignore what's going on in the world or even in their own communities.

Preachers will never go wrong for doing these two things.

  1. Preachers should use current events and relate biblical examples to them.
  2. Preachers should use biblical stories and compare current events to them.


Humor has a place in sermons and can be quite effective if it is used correctly. A preacher should never use someone in the congregation to make fun of. When a joke embarrasses a congregant, it is not funny. To be on the safe side, use fictitious people.

Humor is best used in the following ways:

  • Use humor to illustrate a point.
  • Use humor to introduce an important point.
  • Use humor to engage the congregation.

Sharing Personal Testimonies

Personal testimonies are acceptable but with caution. A preacher is known to give his personal testimony about having been a drug addict in almost every sermon. He tells it so often that it makes his listeners think he wishes he was still doing drugs. Besides, young people begin to take note and could end up doing what the preacher did because he makes it seems so glamorous.

A rule of caution to preachers about sharing testimonies: Don't keep giving the same testimony over and over again. It loses its freshness after a while.

Another preacher talked through tears during his entire sermon. He said he had just returned from being out of town attending his aunt's funeral. At times, he sobbed uncontrollably which made the congregation uncomfortable. At a time like that, the preacher should have let someone else preach in his place instead of letting his entire delivery be about his aunt's funeral. If he had been strong enough, he could have mentioned his aunt's death and related it to biblical passages. Unfortunately, he didn't. Instead, he missed a great opportunity to use his own personal experience as a teachable moment to edify others.


There are theologies themes in movies. Even if the movie is not categorized as a Christian movie, there might be moral values or something in the movie that can be used as an illustration in a sermon.

People sit up and take notice when a preacher mentions a movie or play that they know about. They remember what they had seen or heard and can relate to it. On the other hand, after preachers mention something about a movie that congregants have not seen, they are tempted to go to the movie the next day to find out what the preacher was talking about.

"These are the times that try men's souls." -- Thomas Paine


When is the last time you heard a preacher allude to something from the plays of William Shakespeare? Have you ever heard your pastor reference a line from the poems of Robert Browning or her wife, Elizabeth Barrett Browning?

There is so much richness in poetry that people and especially preachers should allude to it every chance they get.

Classic Books
Classic Books | Source

Biblical Allusions

A biblical allusion is simply using everyday people, places, and things and making a connection to a biblical person, place, and thing. There are biblical allusions all around us.

In case you are wondering what a biblical allusion is, it is simply something in everyday life that has a biblical reference. Here are some examples:

Do you have family members or friends named Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, Reuben, or Benjamin? They are people in the Bible. Do you live on St. John Street or Goshen Street? They are names with biblical references. Do you belong to St. Paul Church or Ebenezer Church? They are also biblical names.

Biblical allusions are often seen on church signs and billboards.

Church billboard advertising the service.
Church billboard advertising the service.

Ilustrations and Object Lessons

There is nothing wrong with preachers using object lessons within their sermons. After all, Jesus often used object lessons to communicate to His audience. He washed the feet of the disciples to teach servant leadership, according to John 13:3–17. Jesus described giving after watching a widow drop two small coins into the temple offering, according to Mark 12:41–44.

If you want to preach like Jesus, use objects lessons. The object lesson should be short and to the point. For instance, to communicate the message visually about the widow's two coins, the preacher could hold up two small coins that are in his hands. Doing that would not take up too much time, and people will remember the story because of the objects.

One pastor preached about practicing hospitality based on Romans 12:13. He displayed a welcome mat and gave out about half a dozen to members in the congregation.

Object lessons and the messages they convey are limitless. Children and adults learn from and remember object lessons.

Welcome mat as an object lesson
Welcome mat as an object lesson

Proverbs and Familiar Quotes

People love to hear proverbs and familiar quotes. They also like to hear preachers give their explanation of the quote. Actually, any worldly quote has a theological meaning.

A stitch in time says nine.
Don't judge a book by its cover.
Strike while the iron is hot.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
A rolling stone gathers no moss.
Two many cooks spoil the broth.
Where there's a will, there's a way.
Don't put all your eggs in one basket.
Eggs in one basket
Eggs in one basket

Children Stories

A preacher doesn't have to limit talking about children stories to only the youth on days designated as Youth Sundays. The stories work just as well in sermons preached to adults. That's because it takes adults back to the time when they were young and innocent. It might remind them of happier times. Also, it gives parents and their children something to discuss around the dinner table later that day.


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