Monday, February 10, 2020

How I Prepare for a Sermon

(I post this at least once a year, with slight editing.)

1.  I print out the text and carry it with me throughout the week.

2.   I meditate on the text. I read it over and over and over. I let it get into me. As I am doing this, God speaks to me. I write down what God says to me.

3.   I ask these questions:
a.   What is the text saying?
b.   What is the text saying to me?
c.   What will this text say to our people?

4.   I study the text.
a.   I use biblical commentaries.
b.   The rule is: not just any commentary will do. Find trusted Jesus-following scholars who have invested their lives in studying the text. I have a list of trusted names. Some of them are:
                                         i.    Craig Keener
                                        ii.    Ben Witherington
                                       iii.    Richard Bauckham
                                      iv.    Craig Evans
                                       v.    R.T. France
                                      vi.    Gordon Fee
                                     vii.    Andreas Kostenberger
                                   viii.    Joel Green
                                      ix.    N.T. Wright
                  x. John Goldingay
                  xi. John Walton
                  xii. Craig Blomberg
                                       xiii.    And so on…
 And people the above scholars recommend.
               Note: some scholars are excellent in certain biblical books because they have invested a lot of their lives in them. For example, Gordon Fee is especially valuable on 1 Corinthians.
                     For more help see
c.   When God speaks to me while I am studying the commentaries, I write it down.
d.   I take notes on the commentaries. These notes appear in my sermon notes. 

5.   As I am doing these two things – meditation on the text, and study of the text – I type out the sermon, word-for-word, that God wants to speak through me.

6.   I take these notes and walk with them…, reading them over and over…  take drives in the car with them… I preach them to myself. It always happens that, while doing this, God preaches to me. This usually gets emotional for me. I feel passion building towards the text and what God has said, what God is saying to me, and what God is going to say and do on Sunday morning.

7.   When I preach on Sunday morning, I want to know that I have given my entire self to preparing for this message. I never step up to preach without having given it my all. Average sermon preparation time for me each week is 10-20 hours. 

8.   I feel a holy responsibility in preaching. I do not want to lead my people in the wrong direction. Therefore, I study long and hard. And, I pray through the text,

9.   I always have the expectation that God is going to show up, and make my mere human words into words from Him, for us all.

10.               With my focus on meditating on the text, and studying the text, and praying the text, my belief is that God, in the sermon, will give me and my people words from Him that are rooted in Scripture but are extrabiblical revelation – viz., “now-words from God.”

11.               As I preach I give God the right to lead me, even into things I have not yet thought of. Usually, God does a fair amount of slicing and dicing my message into His message.

12.               If my people are spoken to by God, rather than being impressed with some “great sermon,” then I know the real thing has happened.

13.               I assume and expect God will do something through the preached Word. I am alert and attuned to this. Sometimes, even while preaching the message, I don’t know what God will do when the message is done. At other times I have a strong sense of what God wants to do, and I lead my people in this. In no way do I think I’m going to end the message with an “Amen” and then say “We’re out of here.” The preached word is going to bear fruit in people’s lives, immediately. The preacher needs to respond to this, and lead their people, allowing them time to respond.