I read a story about a bank employee who was fixing an ATM machine. The door accidentally shut while he was inside its tiny maintenance room. When someone approached the machine to receive some money, they instead received a note that said, “Please help. I’m stuck in here and don’t have my phone. Please call my boss.”
As peculiar of a story as this may be, I’m sure there are plenty of preachers who have fallen into a trap of being stuck instead of being unleashed to reach their audience for Christ. One little strange thing happened, and it completely threw you off the base on which you thought you’d stand. I hope this article will help you get unstuck.
What Are the Most Important Elements to Consider When Preparing a Sermon?
As rudimentary as this may sound, the most important elements to consider in sermon preparation are exegesis, illustration and application, all interlaced with prayer. After pastoring for more than a decade, I still sit in my study for a prolonged time of prayer, then I dive into the text.
As you begin the sermon preparation process, go before the Lord with a heart of repentance and humility. Ask Him to give you wisdom as you prepare. Ask Him to use the sermon to reach lost people and see saved people discipled. Ask the Lord to use you as a vessel to communicate the Bible to people. Ask Him to begin stirring in the hearts of the hearers of the message.
After you initially pray, your time of going before the Lord is not over. Continue to pray throughout the preparation process. Weave prayers throughout the entire time of reading and writing.
As you exegete a text, there are a few key things to remember: The flesh of the text, the structure of it, and its central proposition. Here are some practical ways to do this:
- Read through the text in various versions, including the Greek or Hebrew.
- Write down the main observations of the text.
- Determine the key backgrounds of the text: geography, language, history, cross-references in the Bible, etc.
- Perform word studies (if necessary).
- Peruse commentaries, other pertinent books and files.
- Determine the bottom line and outline the text.
As you illustrate the sermon, shake it up with personal anecdotes, historical stories, current events and mostly via stories found in other parts of the Bible. These different approaches will keep it fresh for the listener.
I find application to be underrated in homiletic discussions, in academic and non-academic circles alike. Tim Keller notes its importance when he says, “Every Christian needs to understand the message of the Bible well enough to explain and apply it to other Christians and to his neighbors in informal and personal settings.”
Manuscript the Sermon
Write out the entirety of what you’re going to preach. If you do this, it forces you to think through the wording of every sentence. It moves your preaching to another level, whether you take the manuscript to the pulpit with you or not.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones puts it this way: “If therefore you do not write your sermon in full do not fall into any [of these] traps. Prepare as thoroughly as you can so that you will know in your mind what you want to say from beginning to end. I cannot emphasize this too strongly.”
As I previously mentioned, prayer is of utmost importance in the sermon preparation process. “Without prayer, our sermons may look good on paper—they may even sound good in the pulpit—but you can bet that they will never leave the church parking lot.” May each of our sermons move beyond the lot, and into the hearts and lives of the hearers.
This article originally appeared here.