Aaron Earls – I think we can all agree that Jesus is the greatest preacher to ever walk the face of the Earth. If there is anyone you should emulate in your preaching, it’s Jesus. So how did Jesus teach? Here are six of Jesus’ preaching methods we can all learn from:
• Jesus told stories. Jesus told countless parables (Mark 4:34). He pulled spiritual truth from everyday life. Not only did these stories make Jesus’ preaching more memorable, they also connected in a much more profound way.
Think about the parable of the Prodigal Son. Jesus could have proclaimed, “God loves you so much that He will welcome you back to Him no matter how far you have wandered away.” That is definitely true. However, Jesus instead chose to tell the story of a boy who disowned his family, partied away his inheritance, came home to beg for mercy, but was surprisingly welcomed with open arms by his father who waited daily for his return. Which is more powerful? If you want to preach like Jesus, tell stories. Lots of them. Use examples from everyday life to teach spiritual truth.
• Jesus shocked people. Jesus often used hyperbole. He taught using outrageous examples, exaggerations or shocking statements that got people’s attention. These statements were not all meant to be taken literally, but they definitely got the point across.
For example, Jesus didn’t really mean we have to rip out our eyes and amputate our hands for causing us to sin (Matt. 5:29-30), or else all Christians would be blind amputees. He also didn’t mean that the people He spoke to literally had logs in their eyes (Matt. 7:3-5). Jesus was simply making a very clear point. Jesus said things that shocked people and exaggerated the truth to emphasize His point.
If you want to preach like Jesus, shock people. Exaggerate a little with your questions. Say outrageous things that aren’t meant to be literal, but grab attention and communicate the point clearly.
• Jesus crafted memorable sayings. Jesus spoke poetically. He often used catchy sayings and plays on words. This isn’t always apparent in English translations. However, in the original language, Jesus made it much easier for His listeners to remember what He said.
For example, Jesus memorably said, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you.” (Luke 6:37-38 ESV). Another great example is the Golden Rule (Luke 6:31).
If you want to preach like Jesus, craft memorable statements. Make the main point easy to remember. If your people remember the message, they will be able to take it with them wherever they go.
• Jesus asked questions. Rather than tell everyone the answer right away, Jesus used the Socratic Method. He led His audience to conclusions by asking a lot of questions. For examples check out Matt. 16:26 or 22:20-21. You can also find more about the questions Jesus in the Zondervan produced resource, “173 Questions Jesus Asked.”
Questions are a powerful teaching method, especially when teaching a hostile crowd (like unbelievers). Questions stimulate critical thinking. Asking good questions makes the audience hungry to find the answers.
If you want to preach like Jesus, ask a lot of questions. Do not reveal the answer immediately. Help your audience use their own brains.
• Jesus used object lessons. Jesus often used object lessons to communicate to His audience. He washed the feet of the disciples to teach servant leadership (John 13:3–17). He called a little child to Him to discuss childlike faith (Matt. 18:1–4). He described unselfish giving after watching a widow drop two small coins into the temple offering (Mark 12:41–44).
When He told the parable of the sower, there is a good chance He was standing near a field. A truth that is communicated verbally as well as visually can be far more powerful than a truth that is merely stated. If you want to preach like Jesus, use objects lessons. Block out time in your sermon preparation to be creative. Think of ways to communicate your message visually.
• Jesus used repetition. Jesus helped His audience learn His lessons by frequently repeating Himself. He taught the same major themes again and again. For example, Jesus spoke of His death and resurrection over and over again (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33–34), and the disciples still didn’t get it.
Sometimes people need to hear something many times over before it fully sinks in. In addition, teachings that get repeated get remembered. If you want to preach like Jesus, repeat. Find the main point of your message and say it again and again, and don’t be afraid to preach on important subjects more than once a year.
If you want to be a better preacher, look no further than Jesus. Tell stories, be shocking, craft memorable statements, use object lessons and repeat.
— Aaron Earls is online editor for LifewayResearch.com. The article was originally published at research.lifeway.com/2014/03/10/6-preaching-methods-jesus-used-that-you-should-too.