Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sermon Preparation - Part 1

Last week, Bret Capranica taught that pastors ought to bring young men into their studies to show them how to prepare a sermon. This prompted me to explain how I prepare my weekly sermons so that as I train the next generation of pastors I have the reading material already developed. 

In this post, I list and then explain the first five steps of my sermon preparation. Next week, I will post the last five.

Please note that these steps overlap with each other. One step does not need to be completely fulfilled in order to move on to the next one. For example, I will still be reading the text (Step 2) while I search for helpful illustrations (Step 9). However, I still follow the sequential order of this list because it is vitally important. For example, it would be unwise to consult commentaries (Step 6) before actually reading the Scripture passage (Step 2).

1) Pray without Ceasing
Apart from this no amount of sermon preparation will prove beneficial to our congregation. All of our efforts in our study and pulpit are in vain if God does not work in our hearers. I try to pray as if everything depended on God, because it does.  

2) Read & Reread the Text
I have found that the best sermon preparation is to read the biblical text repeatedly and meditate on it. It is amazing what one can discover by rereading the passage as well as the surrounding context. I also read multiple translations, noting the differences. In this step, I am trying to discover the author’s original point without any outside help.

3) Write Down Initial Observations
As I am praying and reading the text I begin writing down anything I think is profound. It may be a common theme through the passage or a word that continually reappears. Sometimes it’s a question about the text I can’t answer. Throughout the week I always try to keep a pen and paper handy. I never know when I will uncover a golden “truth” nugget while thinking about the text.

4) Look at the Original Language
Even though I am not a linguistic scholar, I spend some time in the original language to try to understand and unlock the text. I use BibleWorks to help me navigate the Greek and Hebrew.

5) Develop an Outline
A good sermon needs a good structure. This helps me as well as my audience better understand the text and remember what is being taught. It also captures the flow of thought and organizes it in a beneficial way.

I always try to make the main points of my outline complete sentences that state a theological principle. For example, “The gospel resurrects spiritually dead sinners.” is more beneficial than merely “Spiritually Resurrected” because it expresses a complete biblical thought.

In the next post I will list the last steps of my sermon preparation. 

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