The world may not recognize the value of the preacher and his preaching, yet Godís Word says in Romans 10:15, "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!" What a privilege and honor it is to preach the glad tidings of good things, regardless of the notion of some.
The man that has that heavenly, holy, and high calling would almost rather preach than eat. Yet the desire, the joy, and the call alone is not enough; there must be the prepared heart! Having some neatly prepared homiletic gem does not in itself constitute the vehicle for true preaching power. The preacher may have the ability to sermonize, putting his thoughts down neatly on paper; yet he may not be able to forcefully and powerfully deliver them to the listenerís heart. The whole man must preach under the anointing of the Holy Spirit for the sermon to live.
When a sermon really lives, the listening audience will crave for more of the same. The answer to many of the problems concerning empty church buildings could be conquered in the pulpit, even before the preacher enters it to preach. For this to happen, the preacher must take preaching seriously. He should be serious enough to be willing to prepare himself.
I have offered several steps that have been helpful to me in sermon preparation through the years. Certainly, a more experienced and wiser preacher will find many additions that could be made to this very brief presentation (and much that could possibly be left out). Borrow from it if you can; add to it if you need; but let it be a help to you as you "Preach the Word!"
Building a sermon requires as much preparation as building a literal structure. It would be foolish to begin building a large office complex without first having carefully laid plans. Yet many times a sermon is put together without any forethought or preparation. Often this is attributed to laziness. Laziness is not synonymous with being "instant in season." This study will provide a simple homiletic sequence for sermon preparation. The preacher will find this study to be more practical than technical.
Each sermon should originate in the fertile heart of the preacher. If the preacherís heart is empty, his sermons will be empty; if the preacherís heart is full, his sermons will be full. Therefore, the preacher should keep his heart pure, and he should be filled with Godís Word (Romans 12:1-2). The Word clearly declares that "out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh."
Before the sermon is prepared, the preacher must be prepared, the preacher should first be prepared in his soul. One could not honestly preach if he were not saved. He would have no message from God. Occasionally one hears of the conversion of a preacher who has preached for many years. This is, indeed, difficult to comprehend.
In addition to the preacher being prepared in his soul, he must be prepared in his mind. God uses all kinds of men to preach to all kinds of people. Yet God never places a premium on ignorance. Regardless of his intellect, the preacher should have a craving for knowledge. He should have a desire to know, coupled with a careful discernment for truth. In addition to spending much time in the Scriptures, the preacher needs to have a system for developing his general knowledge.
A preacher also needs to be prepared in his body. Care should be taken that the preacher does not abuse or neglect his body. It is not smart to say, "Iíd rather burn out than rust out." Why do either? Jesus demonstrated the importance of taking care of the body when He told the disciples to come aside and rest awhile. The body should not be pampered, but it should be cared for. Just as one would prepare himself mentally and spiritually, he should also prepare himself physically for the rigors of study and preaching. The story was told of one preacher who would never think of preparing a sermon without wearing his plow shoes. He wanted to always be mindful of the hard work of sermon preparation. May we, as preachers, be truly prepared.
One meaning of the word assimilation is to make similar or to take in and to appropriate. When preparing a sermon, the preacher must have an objective, a goal, a theme, a burden, etc. This part of the sermon comes as a result of the ministerís pastoral contact with his people and his walk with the Lord Jesus Christ. He then chooses his topic and proceeds to bring in all the related Scriptures that might be profitable. In the case of expository preaching, the Lord will often impress upon the preacherís heart a particular theme after many hours of study.
In both cases, once the scripture has been chosen, the process of assimilating the reference material begins. The minister should have access to a good personal library or to a convenient source for good study materials. There are those who object to commentaries or information available from sources other than the Bible. It was Spurgeon who appropriately said, "Me thinks it rather strange that one thinks so much of what he has to say and so little of what someone else has to say."
With a discerning mind, one can gain much insight from the studies of other men. We can be eternally grateful to God for the study aids that have been made available throughout the years. This does not mean that one is to readily accept everything he reads without Scriptural proof. All material must be in agreement with Biblical truth.
There are enormous storehouses of information available that may be assimilated into the mind during sermon preparation. Information concerning the historical background, the particular culture, the specific customs, the geographical data, etc., should be considered when bringing study materials together. Knowing how the people lived that you preach about will make the sermons live.
Once the sermonizer has assimilated the materials that he wishes to use in his sermon preparation, he may then proceed to saturate his mind with those materials. The first and the foremost piece of material that should be used in the saturation process is the Bible. The student needs to diligently consume and digest as much of the Scripture relevant to his sermon as he can. Once he has done this, he may then carefully study commentaries and any other resource material available.
The saturation process involves reading and storing as much material as possible without taking very many notes. The Holy Spirit will then recall from memory the information that will be helpful in the preparation of the outline and also in the actual delivery of the sermon.
After the preacher has saturated his mind with the Word of God and other resource materials, he should then prepare to arrive at a proper interpretation. However, before the student settles upon a proper interpretation, he must give his mind time to meditate. The next step is called meditation.
As already indicated, in order to arrive at a proper interpretation, the preacher must give his mind time to meditate or ruminate. The rumination or meditation process is perhaps one of the most valuable steps in the sermon preparation. This is a period of time during which the mind is able to incorporate the previously gained information into an interpretation of the text. Theologically, a great deal hangs upon meditating over material. To obtain a proper exposition of the text, one must have the mind of-God. Only then can he speak as the mouth-of-God. This may be achieved through prayerful meditation.
Many times, after periods of detachment from his study books and even from his Bible, the preacher will have the truth that the Lord would have him to preach pounded into his heart. Sometimes the interpretational truth comes while walking, riding, dreaming, or even upon awakening from a good nightís sleep. The Lord so graciously rewards the meditation process in so many special ways that He indicates this truth in Psalm 1:2.
Meditation should be deliberate, but it should also be casual. The mind should be disciplined so that it can be called upon to thoughtfully digest the material with which it has been saturated and yet allow the sub-conscious mind an opportunity to do its work. The man of God should prayerfully ask God to increase this special ability of the mind so that he can truly be "redeeming the time." The meditating preacher will find it a wonderful joy to walk his sermon, to talk his sermon, to go to bed and dream his sermon ó a message from God!
The purpose of meditating is to give the mind and the heart an opportunity to settle on a proper interpretation. There are numerous hermeneutic devices that should be applied when seeking a proper interpretation. Before using these principles, the student must have a genuine confidence in the Word of God. A student who lacks confidence in the Word of God is not qualified for the most holy office of Pastor-Teacher. In recent days great criticism has been launched against the King James Version. By adhering to the Version unapologetically in the study, as well as in the pulpit, the man of God is certain to find it a completely trustworthy standard for study, for preaching, and for genuine belief. By the use of Bible dictionaries, concordances, Bible atlases, etc. and sound hermeneutic principles one should be able to overcome any disadvantage that might be imagined in studying from the King James Version.
A few of the hermeneutic principles that are most applicable in reaching a proper interpretation are (1) the typical principle, (2) the first-mention principle, (3) the progressive-mention principle, (4) the full-mention principle, (5) the context principle, (6) the agreement principle, (7) the direct-statement principle, (8) the Christ-centered principle, and (9) the numerical principle. A great book that defines these principles and gives example is PRINCIPLES OF BIBLICAL HERMENEUTICS by J. Edwin Hartill, D.D. This book is a bargain, regardless of cost.
One certainly needs to strive to master the science of Bible interpretation. Any means that the preacher can employ to "sharpen his ax" should be used in reaching the proper interpretation. The preacher would be wise to use journalistic questions, such as:
who, what, when, where, how. The preacher may need to examine the geography of the place being studied before making an honest interpretation of the passage of Scripture. It may also be necessary to determine the marital customs, the living habits, or the clothing trends of that day, before making a proper interpretation.
Preaching is the applying of interpreted truth to the lives of the hearer. Preaching has not really taken place until the application has been made. The application should never come before the interpretation. As the preacher labors in his study óassimilating, saturating, meditating, and interpreting his material ó he is forging toward a clear, precise, and pointed application. All energies should be directed to strike the target of the hearer. If he has very carefully put his sermon together with "ultraprecisional" homiletic style but missed the mark of application, he has failed! The application of truth is paramount. A sermon remains detached until it is attached by application. The application should be the motivating impact, the it-speaks-to-me part of the sermon. When the preacher has gained a proper interpretation and application, he is then ready to begin the presentation.
There are many diverse methods that may be employed by the preacher in making his presentation or delivery. Sometimes the preacher will write a manuscript of his sermon and read it verbatim to his congregation. This method has, perhaps, more disadvantages than advantages. The biggest disadvantage would be the unnatural effect associated with an oral reading. Some preachers have the ability to write out their sermons, memorize what they have written, and then use this method to obtain a consistently good effect. Another common method of support used by some preachers is the use of notes. This method has its merit if the preacher does not become a slave to his notes and if the notes have a structural format that allows the preacher to travel a clearly defined trail which will ultimately reach his destination.
Outlining is a method that is commonly preferred because it allows the preacher to incorporate into his outline notes, illustrations, and other information helpful in preaching. The outline can be a tremendous tool to prepare the preacher for delivery. The outline can deter the preacher from "chasing rabbits." The following is an outline that may serve as an example of this method.
The concept of progressive evolution is not Biblical. Through the ages manís wickedness has led him on a downward path. In these last days the proliferation of manís wickedness and defiance against God will demand that the Godly be strong in the truth.
B. It will be a time of rejection of the truth. (vs.5-9)
B. The godless will be increased. (vs. 13)
B. Prepare by receiving truth for good works. (vs. 16-17)
In Godís Word we have the only perfect manual for the direction of our lives. We can be prepared in these last days as we face persecution by recognizing the pattern that exists. May we be challenged to live a life "thoroughly furnished unto all good works" in these perilous times.
The outline needs to be grammatically parallel and correct in style to insure a logical, concise presentation of the material. By learning to identify and to categorize his research material in outline form, the sermonizer is better able to present his message.
The sample outline uses alliteration (the rhyming of sounds). The alliteration serves as a tool for memorization, helpful to both the preacher and the people. Never sacrifice accuracy for the sake of alliteration.
Though the preacher uses outlines to aid him in preaching, he should not be a slave to them. He should attempt to memorize his outline and then be flexible enough that he can discard his outline if God should so lead. The preacher needs to be prepared, and he needs to keep on preparing himself so that his sermons come forth naturally and forcefully. A good outline can certainly help him to achieve this.
When he stands to preach, he must have each word bathed in prayer. "Pray without ceasing!" If the preacher stands to preach with the fervency of God upon him ó he will know it, the people will know it, and God will certainly know it.
When the preacher has reached the time to enter the pulpit to preach, he should enter it with great confidence in God, greater dependency upon God. He stands as the elder. The title "elder" defines the dignity of the office. As he stands with total dependency upon God, his very fiber, his very being should radiate God. He should be disciplined in his dress, his mannerisms, his sincerity, his compassion, and his call. He has a message from God!
Preach, preacher, preach! What a wonderful heritage, responsibility, and privilege has been placed upon you. You have been anointed to "preach Godís Word as it is, to men as they are." What a joy!
If you have properly prepared yourself and your message, your sermons will come forth as from the very heart of God. Whether it be a message of comfort, exhortation, rebuke, or instruction ó it will ring true. The message will prepare the hearts of the people for the invitation.