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The Four E's of Preaching

Thomas Champness

Thomas Champness was a Methodist. He founded the movement which eventually brought into being "Cliff College", the famous Evangelists' Training Centre. His grandfather, John, was a strong Calvinist and a friend of that great strict Baptist Divine, Mr. Kershaw. Writing in his last book to be published, Thomas Champness says: "We can give our descendants something better than gold. There was a certain Anne Champness who was burned at the stake. I should like to believe that her blood flows in my veins. Perhaps it does, and so I hate the word 'priest' as I do the plague!" Champness met his students each week in what was called "The Grindstone", a class for the sharpening of the preachers' tools. The following is from one of those classes.

The Four E's of Preaching

Today I want to talk about the four E's which are requisite to a preacher's success. I shall be glad if in every church you preach in, you can see one of these E's in each corner.

The first 'E', which I submit is binding upon all Gospel preachers, is:

1. Evangelical

Every service should have the evangelical element. Will you tell me what you mean by an evangelical sermon? What is the difference between an evangelical sermon and an evangelistic one? Briefly defined, an evangelistic sermon is one in which the truths of the Gospel are set forth in such a manner as to urge immediate repentance; whereas an evangelical sermon is one in which, though the main truths of the Gospel are set forth, there is no definite effort to bring the congregation to public decision.

Let us find out some qualifications for an evangelical sermon, which will make it likely to be useful. An evangelical sermon may be made evangelistic, but not on all subjects. For instance, a sermon on 'The Proprieties of Worship' could scarcely be made evangelistic.

     In every evangelical sermon there's this thought:

     the Gospel teaches God’s abhorrence of sin.

Nowhere is this taught as it is at Calvary and Gethsemane. The fact of Christ suffering in place of the guilty, shows, as nothing else does, how God abhors sin. One of the things which people need to be taught is that God still hates sin, however much He loves the sinner. I don't know anything better calculated to produce a sense of guiltiness, than that men should learn how God feels towards sin, and that rather than pass by sin, and leave it unpunished, He bruised His well-beloved Son. So it comes to be true that Jesus Christ bore our sins in His own body on the tree.

Then, to help your sermon to be evangelical, you can show:-

How sinners may indulge in the hope of salvation, and yet have proper views of sin.

Many people have false hopes, and say, 'God won't punish me: He won't put me into hell.'

The Gospel which is preached denouncing sin, and telling of God's love in punishing Jesus instead of the sinner, may bring comfort to him:

It will show him what he has escaped from.

Those words of St. Paul's show that he may be comforted: "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (Rom. v. 10). So that the man who is already a Christian may be comforted by an evangelical sermon.

The second 'E' is:

II. Effective

What do I mean by effective? Accomplishing its object. You wouldn't call a man an effective angler because he had fine tackle: a bamboo rod, beautiful jointed, gut lines, and the best flies, if he whipped the water all day and caught nothing, and brought back an empty basket. At the same time, there might be a little lad fishing, with a bit of a stick, thread, and a bent pin, and pulling the fish out fast!

It's not your tackle, not going into the pulpit in a faultless suit of black, with a clerical 'Choker', and altogether got up to look A1 like a parson! The Devil won't care how you're dressed. It's not the clerical dress that does it. Spurgeon was one of the most unclerical of preachers; he looked as much like a pilot as anything, and yet he was a great soul-winner.

Effectiveness

There are two things needed in a sermon to give it our second 'E', Effectiveness, and one is point - something which will lay hold of the people. I remember once being out fishing with two friends of mine. One of them had been pulling the fish out well; he then felt another bite, and was playing the fish, and suddenly exclaimed, "Ah! I've lost him!" He pulled his line in, and found that the barb at the point was gone! If any of you have ever had a fish-hook run into your finger, you'll know that at the point there is a barb, which once in, is very difficult to get out; and that had gone from the hook. Now, see that the point is on the hook when you preach.

There's a story told of two whale fishermen who had been in a place of worship somewhere, and had heard the sermon. When they came out, one said to the other, "Well, Bill, what did ye think o' that 'ere preacher?" "Oh!" said Bill, "'e wur very nice, but it didn't 'pear to me as if the gent 'ad enough harpoon in it!" - You know when they stick the spear into the whale, it won't come out. When I was laid aside in my last illness, I heard a great many sermons, but I found some preachers were very short of harpoons. See to it, that when you preach there will be something to take hold of your hearers. [5]

Illustration

Then a sermon, to be effective, should have illustration. What do I mean by illustration? Answer: something to illustrate the subject! Ah, that's very like a man I've heard of, who was asked, "What's your name?" "Same name as my father's." "But what is his name?" "Same as mine." "Yes, but what are you both called?" "We're both called the same." And when you tell me that an illustration is something to illustrate, it's like that man and his name. Who can give me a better meaning? Answer - that which lets light on to the subject! Yes, that's better. An illustration should be like a window to a darkened room. There is a very good example in the Bible of a preacher using an illustration in his sermon, the story of Nathan. Remembering that David had been a shepherd, he told him the story of the little ewe lamb. He had him! Nobody could say that there wasn't a harpoon in it!

There is a great power in illustrations, as some people tell them. In 1860, thirty-seven years ago, I heard a sermon by Thomas Collins. I remember that the sermon was a very interesting and powerful one. The subject was, 'The water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life'. I have no remembrance of the detail of the sermon, but just the impression that it was powerful, and the only thing I can recall is an illustration:

He said, "There are some people who have a superficial experience. Their water is 'top water.' When there's a revival, they're full. The fact is, they're like a pool, and full of top water. But when there's a drought, and poor preachers, they're dry, and there's nothing but the mud. They need a deeper work of grace."

Remember these two things: a sermon that is without point is like a milestone between here and Manchester. It has had a coat of white paint, and looks very nice, but they haven't put any black letters on it and so it tells nothing to the passerby.

Go through your sermon, and took at each page and say, "How much Point has that got?" The same with Illustration.

The third 'E' is:

III. Enriching

The sermon out to add to the spiritual wealth of the people. It is useless, unless. There are some preachers that are very eloquent, but their sermons are without an enriching power. I remember a certain popular preacher, who shall be nameless, who drew great crowds of people to hear him. If you asked anybody present, they would say how delighted they had been; what a good time they had had. But ask, "Well, what did he teach you?" People would find it very difficult to tell. They could tell you [6] the text, and how much they had enjoyed the sermon, but they couldn't give you anything like that illustration I have told you of, of Mr. Collins. This great preacher was contemporary with Thomas Collins. He will be remembered for his eloquence, but his ideas have gone!

Some preaching is like some food, and doesn't do anything for you. I am very much struck by the difference in some land. As I ride about this district, I can see which land has had lime on. There is a different kind of herbage. In some places the grass is very tough, and enough to pull the horse's teeth out, and strong enough to make ropes of. Where the land has been limed, however, there are clover and nice things of that sort. I can tell which fields have been limed. I can tell you that, as long as there is grass, the beasts won't go to this rope!

Can we have this enriching in our sermons? As you go through your sermons, put the question, "What is there on this page that will enrich the hearer? What will add to the spiritual wealth of the people?"

The fourth, and last, 'E' is:

IV. Earnest

Let us think of the value of the people. Not how much money does one congregation represent, but what is the value of each soul here? Think that: 

You may change the destiny of some of the people who are present

It's all the difference between Heaven and Hell! Therefore it behooves us to be in earnest. The majority of our hearers are thoughtless and careless, and they must be dealt with in a manner that will make them both think and care. You mustn't mind if they call you fanatical. You had better be fanatical than dull, and without earnestness. They won't accuse you of being too fanatical when the Judgment Day comes. Rowland Hill said once, "People call me a fanatic, because I shout in the pulpit. I once saw some men buried alive in a sand-pit. I shouted so that I was heard nearly a mile away. Nobody said I was fanatical then."

Let me impress upon you the necessity f6r earnestness. Think, while going up the pulpit stairs, "I am about to deal with eternity."

When you have done your sermon, and pronounced the Benediction on the congregation, do not pronounce it on yourself unless you are satisfied with your answer to your own question:

“Have the four E’s been in that sermon?”