What are the qualities of an effective sermon?

The work of the Holy Spirit goes before and behind the act of preaching. The Holy Spirit is involved in the preacher's sermon preparation, as well as the preacher's sermon delivery. A man does not prepare in the flesh and preach in the Spirit. He must prepare in the Spirit in order to preach in the Spirit. The Holy Spirit not only must stand with him when he preaches, but He must sit with him when he studies. The Holy Spirit must impart the truth of the Word of God to the preacher. 

One key to effective sermon preparation is for the preacher to discover through the guidance of the Holy Spirit the message God desires to be preached. 

As I [Adrian Rogers] read and study the text, there seems to arise in my heart a message that will bless and instruct my people. As I meditate on the Word of God and think of my people, the direction I need to go seems to come into my heart and mind. When a preacher examines a text, he should ask three questions:

1. What did the text mean then?

Then he must interpret it as nearly as possible to what the biblical writer meant at the time the Scripture was written. 

It concerns me when I hear people say, "Isn't it wonderful how one verse of Scripture can mean so many things to so many people?" To me, that is absurdity, The text only has one meaning, and that is the meaning that God gave the original authors, nothing more, nothing less. The text needs to be interpreted in that manner. 

Exegesis is designed to discover that meaning, The preacher should interpret poetry as poetry, precept as precept, parable as parable, and prophecy as prophecy. 

I use critical commentaries, devotional commentaries, and word studies to uncover the meaning of the text. I encourage preachers to avoid full-set commentaries, but rather to purchase books written on a particular subject or book of the Bible. Full-set commentaries are generally weak because the writer attempts to cover too much material.

2. What does the text mean now? 

The meaning of the text has not changed, only the application of Scriptural truth. Sermonic application is achieved when the pastor discovers the application of the text, or answers the question of how the truth of the text pertains to modern life.

3. What does the text mean to me personally? 

If you are teaching what it meant then, you may be a preacher. If you preach what it means now, you may be a preacher. But if you preach what it means to you personally, you become a prophet and a powerful preacher. 

When the preacher completes all three steps, he has sharpened his focus, and his preaching becomes dynamic.

*This question and answer were extracted from "Love Worth Finding: The Life of Adrian Rogers and His Philosophy of Preaching.”