It is so easy to become distracted while you are preaching. What are five ways to help you stay focused during the sermon?
Most of the best sermons I have ever heard were when the preacher did verse by verse preaching. This is similar to the late Dr. J. Vernon McGee (Through the Bible Ministries) where he would go through a book in the Bible and preach verse by verse exegetically. That is what I tend to do because the sermon is based upon the context of the chapter and verses and doesn’t float around from book to book or from verse to verse. This keeps my focus on the Bible and reading it and not on what is happening in the congregation. In this way, I am less distracted by people getting up, babies crying, and once, even a snoring man.
Praying before Sermons
We are fighting a spiritual battle when we are giving out the Word of God. The Enemy hates the Word of God and we sometimes have to struggle in our mind against thoughts that are not coming from God but from the Enemy himself (Eph 6:12). These powers of darkness would love nothing more than to infiltrate our minds while we are trying to preach the message of the gospel. Have you ever been praying when seemingly out of nowhere, a thought comes into your mind that distracts you from what you are praying about? It also seems that sometimes when I pray, the phone rings, someone knocks at the door and the neighbor decides to mow his lawn. We are fighting against wicked spirits in high places when we are preaching the Word of God so pray before each message that you can stay focused on the message and to do it for the glory of God and be aware of the schemes of Satan and his dominions (2 Cor 2:11). The same thing often happens when I am witnessing to someone because the Devil hates the idea of someone hearing how they might be saved.
Make Eye Contact
I think that I have learned to make eye contact with the congregants to let them know that I am speaking to them but I remind them that I am also preaching to myself. If you keep eye contact with the audience then you’ll keep them focused too and when you are focusing on who you are speaking to during the message, you’ll become less distracted by the things that typically happen during the messages. By making eye contact I can see if I am getting through to them or not and I look for some who shake their head in agreement with what’s being said and that makes me feel that I’m getting through to them.
Preaching on the Floor
I hate to preach on the stage and behind the lectern or podium so I get down on the floor and sometimes walk up and down the aisle. This not only keeps the congregants more focused, it keeps me more engaged with the church. It seems that I am so far removed from the congregants on the stage that I am almost elevated above them in importance, which of course I am not. Sometimes I even touch someone on the shoulder when I am speaking about Christians from the Bible and mention people by name when I see that someone I know is living out what I am preaching about. I once was speaking about the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ, taking children to Himself and I had a young child actually come up to me and wanted me to pick her up. I used her as an example of the tenderheartedness of Jesus regarding children and that we too must become as children if we are to see the kingdom. It was perfect timing, it was highly relevant to the message, and since all eyes were on the child and me, it was easier to focus on the message for both them and for me.
Provide a Counter-Distraction
I was speaking once when someone’s cell phone went off. Instead of stopping and waiting for the phone to be turned off, I used it to make a point. I used that distraction to make my point saying “We have an unlimited calling plan to God where we can call Him 24/7 and can call on Him anytime that we need to.” I then asked everyone to turn to a memory verse about that in Luke 18:7 where it says “And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?” I used the distraction to turn their attention to something that the distraction reminded me of. Also, when something happens like someone dropping their Bible on the floor and making a loud noise, redirect their attention by saying something like “open up your Bible and look at verse such and such.” Once when someone dropped something on the floor of the sanctuary, I said it reminded me of Samuel whom it was said of “and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground” (1 Sam 3:19). This was a humorous moment that not only kept the congregants focused, it kept me from being distracted too and allowed me to return to the message and not allow the distraction to disrupt the message.
Pastors, you are fighting a spiritual battle when you are giving your message. Don’t let the Enemy distract you. Keep your eyes of Jesus, on the Word of God, and on glorifying Christ. God loves it when we are speaking about the glory of God because in the end, that’s why we were created; to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Let nothing distract you from that purpose.