Editor’s note: The purpose of this series is to write on “Issues in the Church” that either aren’t talked about, ignored entirely, or that we want to contribute to the discussion on. Our goal with this series is to help our readers think through these issues from a biblical worldview with lots of practical gospel-application.
- Read the rest of the series here.
If you’re a preacher than sermon preparation is part of your life. Whether you write outlines or read your notes verbatim or preach off the cuff it’s a God-given and worthy calling to be developed over time. You should grow and strengthen in this God-given skill for as long as it remains your duty. [bctt tweet=”Every sermon should be treated as an opportunity of a lifetime. ” username=”servantsofgrace”]
For me, the process has developed over the years. Hopefully, I am progressing in these things for the better. I’m learning to trust Christ more and the counsel of many wise preachers of the past and present day whom I look up to.
Here are five considerations that have helped me when preparing a sermon. Perhaps you’ll find them helpful for your ministry.
WHAT IS A SERMON?
It is a body of truth learned from the Scriptures that a preacher/pastor desires to relay to the heart of his listener in order to affect change. In short, it’s delivering Scriptural truth with power.The key words in that previous sentence are truth, Scripture, heart, and power.
HOW DO YOU BEGIN?
Without truth, and I do not mean personal, relative or homegrown truth – without the truth of the Bible as the foundation for a sermon it’s no sermon at all. It’s not worthy of the title. It’s definitely not worth listening to in the context of the local church and the church body’s need for spiritual food.
The Scriptures are the only source of truth and must be (along with prayer) at the very beginning of every preacher’s preparations. It is not sufficient to go to the Bible with an idea of your own and present it to the Bible for approval. That’s backwards. [bctt tweet=”The biblical text itself should be the base and the cause for our sermons. ” username=”servantsofgrace”]
The Bible is “sharper than any two-edged sword”. That’s every text of the Bible. It’s alive and active and perfectly able to penetrate the preacher’s heart too. Go to the Bible and let it prick your soul. Let the Word of God speak to you as a human; a needy, helpless-without-Christ kind of person, and when it speaks to you, then you’ve got something to share.
SOMETHING TO CHEW ON
When a sermon is over and the congregation goes home for the day, they should have something to chew on. What is that thing we as preachers want them chewing on? Think about this.
My wife and I feed our children what we believe they need for healthy growth. We tell them quite literally, “You are what you eat.” If you eat junk all the time then that will be the state of your body. If you eat good and healthy food then you most likely will have a healthy body. But it all comes down to what we give them to chew on. What if we gave them nothing but rawhide and leather? “Here, chew on this.” They would labor in agony and in the end, have nothing more than a sore jaw to show for it. Sure, they were chewing, but they were given something that could do more harm than good.
Preachers have a similar capability and sermons have a similar capacity to leave the children of God with something either worth chewing on or unfit altogether. We need to be mindful that the food we prepare during our preparation time is something for their spiritual health and growth. Not just ideas and moral examples, but biblical truth. The fact is, they are going to chew on whatever you give them but the body may be worse off for it. Don’t let that happen.
CHRIST AT THE CENTER
The Bible is all about Jesus. There are many biblical texts, stories, historical accounts, poems and songs within the pages of the Bible, but what is it all about? According to the Psalmist and the writer to the Hebrews, it was all about Christ. Every page and every stroke of the Spirit-filled writers pen in the Bible was for one primary purpose; to make Christ known. Since this is the main thread holding it all together, if every thought, every sermon of Paul and Peter, every Old Testament victory and every lamb slain was ultimately speaking of Jesus, we must ask ourselves, “How can we struggle so much with biblical interpretation and sermon ideas?”
At the center of it all stands the Messiah. [bctt tweet=”Jesus Christ needs to be the aim of every sermon.” username=”servantsofgrace”]
Take your listeners from the context of the story you are teaching and walk them through the application for those who lived in that day. Even make a few cool points and parallels, but be sure to take them back to the death and resurrection of Christ. If you cannot get there in the forty-five minute to an hour that you stand at the pulpit, then re-write your sermon and be sure to get them there.
AIM AT THE HUMAN HEART
The whole reason of a sermon is not for information only, it’s to affect change in the heart. I’ve heard it said that “If you preach to the hurting you will never lack an audience.” That’s true. That’s everyone. Every person in the congregation and in the world, including preachers, is a real, living and breathing soul.
The hurting is due to the fallen sin nature of man that affects everyone. Do not treat the sermon as an opportunity to show your stuff, to tell them what you learned. Use the sermon to get the right information, the Gospel of Jesus Christ to their sin-affected hearts.
No matter if you preach topically or verse by verse, the goal is not that you reach a particular stopping point or so that you can tell your preaching peers that you covered so many books of the Bible in one year. The purpose is that souls are fed, hearts are changed, and that through the Gospel dead hearts come to life.
Aim at the human heart with every word. In that forty-five minutes to an hour, we have an opportunity to help heal, comfort, shape, rebuke, lift up and even save a soul. When this happens it is not due to oratorical skill or delivery finesse. It will be all glory to Jesus for His Word and the work of His Holy Spirit.
Next time you and I prepare a sermon to do it with a passion for Jesus and His people. I’m learning to see every sermon as an opportunity of a lifetime, an opportunity to bring change where it matters most, change in the heart of people for whom Christ died and now lives.