I know that a title like the one for this post seems a bit overly simplistic. I mean, do you really need help listening to a sermon? Isn’t all that’s required to listen to the preacher a soft seat, an attentive heart, and an open mind? You might think so. But, from a preacher’s vantage point, I believe your soul could benefit tremendously if you understood the preparation that goes into a sermon.
My Sermon Preparation Deconstructed:
Below is the process that I go through for every sermon that I preach:
- Prayer: Every sermon is born out of prayer. I ask God specifically to lead my heart, mind, and soul for the work of preaching His word. I search my heart for sin and I repent of any and every sin the Holy Spirit brings to my mind. I ask the Holy Spirit to lead me through the entire sermon preparation process. I do not want to work apart from His guidance.
- Text: Every sermon is preached from the Bible. In the fall of every year, I brainstorm potential sermon topics that I believe will be helpful for my Church. From that list of ideas, I select Scripture that best address such topics. Occasionally I’ll preach through a book of the Bible which allows the text to dictate the topic that I preach. In either case the Bible is the foundation and authority for everything that I preach. I’ll spend several hours studying the text in order to fully understand what it says in its proper context before I develop my sermon any further.
- Audience: Every sermon is preached to a specific audience. And the particular audience that will be listening to my sermons are the members and attendees of my Church. There are a variety of people who I can expect to hear my sermons – young families, retired couples, single moms, newlyweds, students in high school and college, long time Christians, new converts, and skeptics of the faith. As I pray about what God wants me to preach, I consider every person who will potentially hear my sermon. I seek to make my sermon clear for everyone who will sit in my audience as I preach.
- Sentence: Every sermon contains a simple bottom line. My goal is to narrow everything that I want to say into a clear, concise, memorable, single sentence. I keep a quote posted on my desk to serve as a reminder on this from a renowned 19th century preacher named J.H. Jowett which says, “No sermon is ready for preaching, not ready for writing out, until we can express its theme in a short, pregnant sentence clear as crystal.”
- Jesus: Every sermon points to Jesus. No matter what the topic or where the text is found, every sermon must present the Gospel of Jesus. My sole responsibility as I preach is to point people to Christ. If I’ve helped make someone’s day better by the words I say, yet failed to make Jesus known, then my sermon has failed. I hold fast to the confession the Apostle Paul made in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…”
- Application: Every sermon offers a clear, action-orientated next step. Before I can call a sermon ready to preach, it must address the question, “What now?” I do not seek to merely inform people of the Word of God. My goal is to present from God’s Word steps that every person needs to take.
Each week Thursday is the self-imposed deadline for all of this study and preparation. If I’ve completed my preparation process by then, I can then let the sermon marinate for two full days before I preach on Sunday. I typically take Friday and Saturday off from work. I’ll rest on Friday and won’t even look at my sermon notes. Saturday evening I’ll review my notes several times before I go to bed.
I’m blown away with how this time “away” from the sermon gives my mind flexibility for the Holy Spirit to disentangle my thoughts for a clearer presentation of the sermon. By the time Sunday morning comes, I’ve given ample opportunity for the sermon to get into me so that when I preach it, I’m fully passionate about the text, its bottom line, and the next steps that I believe everyone should take.
How My Sermon Preparation Helps You Listen to My Sermon:
- Pray: As I have prayed throughout the whole sermon writing process, you should pray as you listen to the sermon. Pray that your heart is receptive to what God is saying in the text. Pray for me to correctly and clearly communicate God’s message.
- Text: Have your Bible open to the text I’m preaching and read it with me. Take your own notes as you listen.
- Audience: Know that you are not the only person listening to the sermon. So if you get the feeling that this particular sermon is not relevant for you, pray for everyone else who is listening.
- Sentence: When I share the bottom line of the sermon, write it down. Think about it. Post it to your Facebook or tweet it out. This is the one line that the whole sermon boils down to. It’s the “if you don’t remember anything else, remember this” sentence. Chances are if you remember this one line, you’ll remember the point of the sermon.
- Jesus: Every time I preach, listen for Jesus. Did I talk about Him? Did I point others to Him? Did you hear the Gospel? Jesus is the reason for our faith. You never outgrow the need to hear the Gospel.
- Application: What are you going to now do as a result of hearing this sermon? If you don’t think differently, change something, or have something new to do as a result of this sermon, either I’ve failed to preach effectively, or you were not listening.
My hope is that now that you know how I prepare my sermons each week, you’ll better hear the message God is trying to communicate through my preaching. (If this has been helpful for you, I’d love to hear from you. Share your thoughts and/or questions in the comment section below.)