I frequently teach new pastors and lay people how to preach. Part of this training includes explaining the six different types of serons and how each of them can be used effectively. It occurs to me that perhaps the listeners need to know this information as much as the speakers.
1. Expository Sermons – this is a style of preaching that takes the time to preach by an complete book of the Bible one verse (or passage) at a time. The preacher may teach several verses in a particular week, but he will deal with each verse one at a time. The following week the preacher would then go on to the next section. It may take the preacher several months to get by a book of the Bible. Each sermon is really part of a long series of sermons that gives in thoroughness understanding of that section of scripture.
2. Textual Sermons – this is the style of preaching that focuses on a particular verse, or set of verses. The preacher may give the same kind of explanation as one might hear in an expository sermon, but the next week the preacher does not go to the next section of verses. The preacher might go to an thoroughly different part of the Bible. Each sermon looks at that particular passage in thoroughness but each sermon is a “stand alone” sermon and does not necessarily connect to other passages studied on past or following weeks.
3. Biographical Sermons – this is the style of preaching that focuses on a particular Bible character. The preacher explains the successes and failures of that biblical character and what we can learn from his or her life. (Example: Lessons from the Life of David.)
4. Historical Incident Sermons – this style of preaching is similar to a biographical sermon except that this kind of sermon focuses on a particular incident in the Bible instead of a person in the Bible. (Example: Lessons from the Fall of Jericho.)
5. Topical Sermons – this style of sermon uses many scriptures from different parts of the Bible to give a more complete teaching about a particular topic. (Example: What Does the Bible Says about Debt.)
6. Personal Testimony – this is when the preacher chiefly tells the story of his life, or some portion of his life. The preacher uses scriptures to illustrate various moments in life when he learned some specific spiritual truth. Though it is a testimony, it nevertheless uses scripture to illustrate the points made. It is very tempting to leave scripture out of a testimonial kind sermon. Leaving scripture out is strongly discouraged because already though a person’s story may be very inspiring, there is spiritual strength in the information of God. consequently, the use of scripture in a testimonial kind of sermon is basic to transforming it from an inspiring story into a powerful sermon.
Each kind of sermon has its own strengths and weaknesses. Each can be used effectively and each can be abused. Though most preachers will have a particular style that they feel most comfortable using, the effective preacher will learn to use all the types above at the right time and in the right place. The meaningful to creating a powerful sermon is to start with scripture and then build the sermon around that scripture instead of starting with human opinion and then trying to prove that opinion with scripture. Starting with scripture, instead of human opinion, keeps preachers from inserting too much of themselves into the sermon. Most people who come to church are more interested in hearing what the Bible says about a particular subject than what the preacher thinks about that subject. So start with scripture, then build a great sermon around it, in spite of of what style of sermon it is. Everyone will enjoy such a sermon and be inspired by it.