Posted in Preparing to Preach

The Most Important Part of a Great Sermon

“But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:4 If it is true that great sermons are in the eyes and ears of those sitting in the pews; and if that implies the preacher is completely dependent on the Spirit to do the work; then THAT means the preacher’s most important task is to pray for his people. When the disciples chose the first deacons in Acts 6, Luke tells us they did so in order to give themselves first to prayer and then the ministry of the word. Recently, I had an opportunity to lead a group of preachers...

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Pack – Unpack – Pack

“The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” (Psalm 119:130) Last week, I wrote about the reality that great sermons are great due to what is going on in the heart, mind, and soul of the person in the pew. Preachers of the Word have an obligation to prepare and set the table for the Spirit to work. However. At the end of the day, we have zero control over the spiritual work that must go on in the life of the hearer. We can prepare a really good sermon. But it is only great...

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Don’t Be a Preparation Sluggard!

Proverbs 26:16 – “A sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven people who answer discreetly.”  Preacher, I read this recently and thought about sermon preparation. I believe wholeheartedly in using the God-given imagination you have. I believe fully in allowing the Spirit to speak to your soul as you deal with the truths of the Scripture you are preparing to preach and how it needs to be applied to the people you lead. I believe that much of sermon preparation is listening to the Spirit – individually – and crafting the sermon according to what He is leading you toward. Yes,...

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Flood the Passage with Questions

Recently, when preparing a sermon from John 21:9-14, a young preacher working on the same text, asked me my approach and how I planned to arrange the sermon. I really wanted to send him an outline and/or the entire manuscript. But he seriously desires to learn and grow in the craft, so I sent him the following. I wanted him to wrestle with the text. It is a list of questions that came to my mind before, during, and even after I typed out a manuscript. What emotional state would have the disciples been in at this point? Think about what you know...

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Preacher, It’s Easter. And You’re Not Alone

Preacher, let these words from a legend encourage you… From Eugene Peterson in his book As Kingfishers Catch Fire: “You may find this hard to believe, but the hardest sermon in the year for me to prepare is this Easter sermon. It has always been that way for me. I keep thinking I will get the hang of it and it will get easier, but it doesn’t. Why isn’t it easier? More people come to worship on this day than any other; the music is exuberant, with the choir in full voice and the hymns triumphant; the budding trees and...

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The Easter Sermon

I have an ugly confession to make. I don’t like preparing the Easter sermon. There. I said it. I wish it weren’t true. But it is. It’s not that I don’t have things I want to say. I do. It’s not that I’m not excited that a lot of people will be coming. I am. It’s not that I don’t want to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. I really do. It’s just that I feel the need to say something that everyone is already expecting me to say, and I need to say it simply, in a compelling way, and in...

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Putting it All Together: Introduction

The introduction is critical. It is the take off. If you have a smooth take off, the congregation will trust you and go with you to the landing. If the take off is choppy, it will be hard for them to “enjoy the ride.” So I will say it again: The introduction is critical. Take the time and do the hard work to think through how you will begin the message itself. If you work hard here you will not have to work hard during the message itself. Let me recommend 2 approaches. First, use the introduction to illustrate and/or...

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Putting It All Together: What’s the Purpose?

You’ve determined the broad and specific meaning of the text. You’ve thought through how it needs to be communicated. (also here and here and here  here). You’ve ensured it is a Christian sermon. You’ve got all of these parts and pieces and thoughts and ideas floating around. How do you put together a sermon in a concise, simple, easy-to-follow, compelling way? You are taking people on a journey. You better know where you are going so you can know when you have arrived. Start by asking yourself, “What’s the purpose?” In other words, considering all you have arranged and put together, you...

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Determining HOW to Preach the Text: Preach So They Can Teach

Though I mentioned this in a recent post, I want to expand this idea. Much of my preaching ministry has not even given this a second thought. My aim has been to communicate biblical truths to people in the room, hope for a response, hope that some jotted down notes to refer to later, and move on to next week’s sermon. And, to be very honest, I still struggle with implementing this. However, Jesus said we are to be about making disciples (Matthew 28:19); and Paul said pastors were to equip the saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12)....

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Determining HOW to Preach the Text: 4 Ways to “Go With It”

I do my best to start the sermon off with something that will help me gauge the temperature of the audience. I like to get a feel early on whether or not I am dealing with a rowdy bunch or a sleepy bunch; a hungry crowd or a “have to be there” crowd; a happy people or a grumpy people. Though I have my preferences as to which kind of crowd they are, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. When preaching a text of Scripture, I have to go with it. And to preach it most effectively,...

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