- Choose words that are understandable. Great preachers are understandable (1 Cor. 14:9-13). Words are vehicles of ideas but if they can’t understand the vehicle then they will miss the idea. The late G.C. Brewer was a well-educated man, but if he used a word he deemed might be unclear he would then clarify and then explain it.
- Have a preference for short words. The average word in the KJV is 5 letters long. Seldom do you find multi-syllable words except for proper names. 79% of the words in the Sermon on the Mount were one syllable, 17% were two syllables, and 4% were three syllables or more. Consider some of the Bible’s most important words: love, hope, faith, grace, home, work, life, death, church (cf. Prov. 10:19).
- Eliminate useless words. Don’t repeat what you have just said. Avoid pulpit cliches (i.e., “at first glance,” “outside the box,” “at the end of the day,” “in a nutshell,” etc.).
- Use words that are grammatically correct.
- Use words that are correctly pronounced. Don’t run your words together. This is something each of us must continually monitor in our speaking.
- Use words which are expressive. One example brother Winkler gave was of saying “spider web of steel” to picture a bridge. Creativity and expressiveness in painting word pictures fires the imagination of your listener.
- Use, at times, eloquent words but with discretion.
- Use words clearly spoken. Don’t muddle, slur, large, or cut your words. Don’t shorten, mumble, or lengthen your syllables. Watch word endings. Especially if, like most of us, you come from a region of the country where you have an accent (drawl), you should pay attention to this.
- Use words that are familiar.
- Avoid words that are inappropriate. This is subjective and involves good judgment, but this would include words like “I don’t care,” “guts,” “crazy,” “stinks,” “stupid,” or any undignified word.
- Avoid explicit words. Be a gentleman at all times. Remember that you are an ambassador for Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 5:20). Represent him appropriately. When dealing with sexual matters or immodest apparel, as examples, do not use descriptive words that makes your listener think and dwell on the very thing you are trying to condemn.
- Use exact words.
- Avoid “preaching in Greek.”
- Use words that will say what you mean and mean what you say!
- Use proper speed in pronouncing words.
- Avoid repeating words excessively. As brother Winkler put it, “Makes bales and not haystacks out of your sermons.”
Brother Winkler gave us several cautions for the preacher, regarding word choice in the sermon. He said, “If preaching is part of God’s plan and if words limit or extend that purpose then words deserve attention.” He went on to make the following observations, which I’d like to share with you to consider when crafting a sermon.
If you speak at a rate of one word per second and preach 30 minutes, you will have spoken 1800 words by the time you sit down. That is a relatively small number. Make them count! Use them well. God can use the words you choose to save souls from hell and draw souls to heaven. As all of us can improve in our preaching, all of us can improve in our word usage. May we take the task of preaching seriously enough to do that work.