Why Not Try This? …Apply the “4Q” test to your sermons

I had finally finished writing the outline for my Sabbath sermon. It was ready to be preached. But wait. I needed one more step. I needed to apply the “4Q” (4 Questions) test to my sermon.

1. Is it Christ-centered? Does my sermon clearly point to Jesus as the Creator, Savior, Risen Lord, Heavenly Mediator and/or Soon-coming King? Does the message make it clear that Jesus is my Best Friend? Or is it just religious talk?

“Their discourses and conduct and conversation should be of a nature that will lead men to the conclusion that these ministers are men of thought, of solidity of character, men who fear and love their heavenly Father. They should win the confidence of the people, so that those who listen to the preaching may know that the ministers have not come with some cunningly devised fable, but that their words are words of worth, a testimony that demands thought and attention. Let the people see you exalting Jesus, and hiding self.”Review and Herald, April 26, 1892. {Evangelism p. 170.3}

The second coming of the Son of man is to be the wonderful theme kept before the people. Here is a subject that should not be left out of our discourses. Eternal realities must be kept before the mind’s eye, and the attractions of the world will appear as they are, altogether profitless as vanity…” {Evangelism p. 220}.

2. Is it Bible-based? Does my sermon clearly use the Bible as the foundation for my main points? Does my message allow God’s Word to have the final word? Or did I just get some good idea from a Readers’ Digest article then look for Bible texts to support it?

“You need to carefully select your subject, make your discourses short, and important points of doctrine very plain. Take up one point at a time in a discourse, make it strong and clear and plain, with reasons drawn from the Word of God that all may understand….” {Manuscript Releases vol. 6 p. 180.1}

3. Is it practical? Is my sermon filled with word pictures, illustrations from everyday life, stories of changed lives, etc. that make it useful and practical for the hearers? Do the illustrations really bring home the Biblical truth or am I tempted to use them just for a quick laugh? Bob Logan, a Baptist church planting specialist, says “Tell me what illustrations you’ve use for the last 12 months and I’ll tell you what is going well or poorly at your church.” Jesus spoke to the crowds mainly in stories (Matthew 13:34).

“In Christ’s teaching there is no long, far-fetched, complicated reasoning. He comes right to the point. In His ministry He read every heart as an open book, and from the inexhaustible store of His treasure house He drew things both new and old to illustrate and enforce His teachings. He touched the heart, and awakened the sympathies.” {Evangelism p. 171.2}

4. Does it call for action? When the truth is presented in a Christ-centered, Bible-based, practical way, what specific invitation(s) will I make? What is something I can invite the audience to do now or this coming week that will take them a step closer to the kingdom of heaven? My friend Pastor Harvey Kornegay says, “It’s not right to put all the good food on the table and then never say, ‘Let’s eat’!”

“There are souls in every congregation who are hesitating, almost persuaded to be wholly for God. The decision is being made for time and for eternity; but it is too often the case that the minister has not the spirit and power of the message of truth in his own heart, hence no direct appeals are made to those souls that are trembling in the balance. The result is that impressions are not deepened upon the hearts of the convicted ones; and they leave the meeting feeling less inclined to accept the service of Christ than when they came. They decide to wait for a more favorable opportunity; but it never comes.”–Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 447. (1880) {Evangelism p. 279.3}

As I looked at my sermon and asked the four questions I saw that I needed to make a few adjustments. An insight about Jesus here, a clarified point based on the Bible there, a different illustration to make this point, and a clearer appeal there. It only took about 15 minutes. But the difference on Sabbath morning might have made a difference for eternity!

Blessings to you,

Dan Serns

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