Preaching is an Art Form – by Tony Campolo

June 19, 2018

Preaching is an art form. When a beautifully constructed sermon is imbued with the Holy Spirit the results are transformative.

In nurturing the students in the Campolo Scholars program here at Eastern University, we strive to mentor them into being Spirit filled communicators of what Jesus would have them say.  We want them to be able to do so in ways that will impact their listeners.

I tell the students that, first and foremost, a decision must be made as to what they want their listeners to do upon hearing their message.  If they aim at nothing, I tell them, they will hit it every time.  Once knowing the purpose of a sermon, preachers should keep that purpose in mind as they construct each and every part of their sermons.  Every point that is to be developed and every story used to illustrate each of these points should press towards the established goal.

Every point to be made in the sermon should be supported with a story.  I remind them that the scriptures tell us that everything that Jesus taught, he taught with parables.  As is recorded in Mark 4:34, “In his public ministry, he never taught without using parables.”  Our students should imitate Jesus in this respect.

In so far as it is possible, and it is not always possible, their sermons should have three points.  Those who have studied such things tell us that people have difficulty remembering more than three points in any speech or homily.  Furthermore, the last point of the sermon should be one that stirs the emotions.  Truth, articulated with emotion, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, is truth that leads to action.

Finally, every sermon must call for specific decisions to be made.  The raising of hands or a response is a good thing and, when a leading of the Spirit is felt, there could be an altar call.  Some symbolic action of this kind will stand out in the listener’s memory, reminding them of the decisions that were made.

All of this artful preparation will not lead to actualizing God’s will for a sermon unless the preacher is bathed in prayer.  Such prayer ought not to be directives to God but, instead, should be a surrendering in quietude to being filled with the living presence of Jesus.

There is much more to how we mentor our candidates for ministry, and we will share these points in the future.  This is just a little glimpse of what your giving to the Campolo Center for Ministry makes possible as together we prepare leaders for the Church of the future. Please continue to support them through your gifts and prayers!


Tony Campolo
Philippians 3:10-14