For the last quarter of a century, God has blessed me with the privilege of speaking to hundreds of thousands of people across the nation, primarily through Dare 2 Share events. In addition, I’ve spoken at tons of conferences, festivals and churches to students and adults alike.
Over the years I’ve developed a list of 10 actions steps I take when I prepare for and give a talk. These help me craft and deliver messages that go for maximum spiritual impact every time. I hope they encourage you as you prepare and deliver talks that glorify God, equip the believers and reach the lost.
1. Ask God for the right passage to preach to hit the needs of your audience.
Before you exegete a text, you must exegete the needs of the audience and ask God, through his Holy Spirit, to reveal the right passage(s) to preach on. Since the Holy Spirit is the ultimate Teacher, it only makes sense to consult with Him first before you pick a passage and preach. He will reveal your audience’s felt need, real need and the passage(s) which will transform them.
2. Pray, read, study…pray, read, study…repeat until you find the “wow!”
As my good buddy Derwin Gray always says when he prepares and preaches a sermon, “Marinate on this!” When we marinate on the Scriptures (pray, read, study, repeat) God teaches us more and more through the limitless truths in his Holy Text! These truths will produce an “amen!” in our hearts and a “wow!” in our mouths and will convict and convince our audience in ways mere human persuasion never could.
3. Ask this question: “What one thing is the whole thing saying?”
Every passage has a subject, a verb and a driving main point. Find that point and make it the foundation of everything else you are teaching. Nobody can make a point like God, so build your sermon around His main point not yours. This is called expository preaching (unpacking the one main point of a primary passage) versus topical preaching (unpacking several key passages to make one or several points).
Topical preaching is like a shotgun. Expository preaching is like a rifle. Both will get the job done, but one’s a little messier.
I prefer expository preaching to topical preaching because expository preaching can fully unleash the power punch of a singular text like a Bruce Lee’s fist to the chest.
4. Work on your outline until it is solidly biblical, immensely practical and easily memorable.
This is when you make your outline pretty. Making the outline flow takes a little work but is well worth the extra effort it if it helps your audience remember. But, regardless of the “prettiness” of the prose and fabulousness of the flow, make sure the points are biblical, practical and as memorable as possible.
5. Add to the skeletal structure muscle, tendons and skin.
If you think of your outline as a skeleton, you’ll need to fill in the gaps with solid biblical insights (muscle), powerful transitions (tendons) and great illustrations to cover it all from top to bottom (skin).
People who downplay the importance of illustrations, specifically storytelling, must have a hard time reading the Gospels because Jesus’ teaching tool of choice was short stories. When we follow His example and communicate illustrations effectively, our audience suddenly becomes little children sitting on our laps, ready to hear a story…ready to be transformed by God’s truth.