Archive

For the Sermon Preparation category

How to Prepare a Sermon: Part 1, Praying about Your Sermon

No Comments
This entry is part 2 of 11 in the series How to Prepare a Sermon in Ten Steps

Do you pray for your sermon?praying hands

If so, about what do you pray?  Do you ask God to give you wisdom on topic selection? Do you ask Him to use your sermon in the lives of your listeners? Do you pray that you won’t mess up?  Where does prayer for the sermon fit in your weekly sermon preparation?

The fact is that if we are engaged in a spiritual enterprise, then we need spiritual power. So the process of writing your sermon should have focused prayer built right into it, just as much as other factors in sermon preparation, like researching the text, or writing the introduction.  So where and how does prayer fit in our sermon preparation plans?  ”Oh, I pray all the time.”  Do you? But how, specifically is that prayer directly focused upon your sermon for the week.

I would love to hear your answers as to how you pray for, about, and in prep for your sermon. Leave a comment if you please.

Here are my thoughts on this topic:

  • Pray for wisdom on sermon text & topic selection, before you begin (whether that is Monday morning, or sooner if you plan ahead, or use a great sermon planning tool like SermonBase Message Planning Software.
  • Pray through the text as you read and prepare that God would speak to YOU in the text. That will lend lots of power and focus to your message.
  • Pray for the audience you will be speaking to, that their hearts will be receptive to God’s Word.
  • Pray for yourself in terms of your presentation that you will not detract from the message which God has for the audience.

So there are four areas of prayer for your sermon prep week. Hope that helps. God’s best to you this week as you step into the pulpit!

Yours for Great Preaching!

Dr. Bill Miller

SermonBase.com

HighPowerResources.com

How To Prepare A Sermon: Part 8, Write the Conclusion

No Comments
This entry is part 9 of 11 in the series How to Prepare a Sermon in Ten Steps

Hey Up-and-Coming Preachers!

We are working on our ten-part series on How to Prepare a Sermon.  We’ve already given you all ten steps of sermon preparation, and Part 1, Praying about your Sermon; Part 2, Textual vs. Topical; Part 3,Study the Passage; Part 4, Read the Commentaries; Part 5, Arrive at the Proposition; Part 6, Develop the Mains; Part 7, Provide Supporting Material, and today, Part 8, “Write the Conclusion”.

WRITE THE CONCLUSIONbullseye

This is where you want to take it home. The conclusion must be powerful, personal, and memorable. This is where you touch the heart.

Now, please note that writing the Conclusion, actually comes before writing the Introduction. (We cover writing the Introduction in Part 9.) Why does the Conclusion get written before the Introduction? Because it is at the Conclusion that you bring the full force of the intent of your sermon into play. You have written your sermon, and worked on the goals (especially if you have SermonBase Message Planning Software), and now as you come to the Conclusion you want to provide the final application to people’s lives.  You need to know what that application is before you begin writing the Introduction to your sermon. If so, then you will be able to find an interesting story for your Intro which highlights the application you intend to bring in the Conclusion. So the Conclusion must come first.

The Conclusion to your message must be Powerful, Personal, and Memorable.  Let’s look at each of these:

POWERFUL

The Conclusion must touch the heart. It needs to punch through the final last gasping breaths of resistance which any heart still might be holding out against the demands of God’s Holy Word. The Conclusion is your chance to grab their heart and to have them bow in submission to the Lord Jesus Christ in their life. It is in the Conclusion that you seek to help “every knee to bow and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord”. So it must be Powerful. This power can be communicated through many means. It could be the volume of your voice; it could be the passionate intensity of your demeanor; it could be the unique vocabulary reserved for the Conclusion; it could be a heart-touching illustration, or an example from your own life. There are many different means to power up your message at this point, and it should vary from week to week. But you need to use the Conclusion to express to every listener just how important this message is to their lives. The Conclusion must be powerful.

PERSONAL

While most of the sermon may be about Biblical history, characters, theology, truth, principles, etc., the Conclusion is eminently personal. In the Conclusion, you should be using the word “you” a lot. You should be talking to each person individually and personally. They must feel that you are addressing them individually as though no one else were in the room. They need to hear the voice of God through your voice during the Conclusion. It is here that you express to them your loving care and concern for them; that they would make the right choice; that they would get their life together; that they would experience the joy of obedience or walking with the Lord. The Conclusion must be personal.

MEMORABLE

If there is anything you want them to take home with them when this sermon is over, then include it in the Conclusion. You want the listeners to remember what you have said. Most Conclusions, then, will include a summary of your Main Points. It will also often include a restatement of your Proposition. You may have a memorable story to include in the Conclusion, if it brings the main idea home, and doesn’t distract. You as the preacher need to remember that when you say your final “Amen” for that service, that people will switch over to their next activity for Sunday, or start planning their week, or whatever. Your sermon needs to be Memorable so that it can break through that clutter throughout the week, with the powerful Word of God. Just as a side note, this is why I do not have our weekly announcements after the sermon. Some churches move the announcements to the end of the service, but in my mind, that absolutely destroys the entire intention of the sermon. Why would I work all week to bring a memorable word from God, and then immediately after having delivered it, to distract them with some other announcements about this or that church event?

The Conclusion is an important part of your message, and it should be planned out carefully. It must summarize and concentrate the entire content of your sermon in one final, powerful, personal, memorable punch. Note please, that the Conclusion is not the place to introduce any new material. Do not distract from the main proposition and mains of your sermon at this point. Be sure to focus and apply what you have already said, not to introduce an entirely new concept or idea. Anything you share in your Conclusion, should already be either directly or indirectly referenced in the rest of your sermon.

Once your Conclusion is written, you can then get to work on the Introduction, which will be the focus of our next part.

Yours for Great Preaching!

Dr. Bill Miller

SermonBase.com

HighPowerResources.com

The Big Idea

No Comments

HI All,lightbulb

The Big Idea of the sermon is technically called “the Proposition”.  It is a summary of your entire sermon in one sentence.  Some call it “the sermon in a sentence.”

Getting accurate on the Proposition is the most important step you can do as you begin work on your sermon.  Accurately capturing all you have to say in a single sentence will propel you forward to a successful sermon.  Arriving at the Proposition can be some of the hardest work you do in your sermon preparation.  It may take a couple of days to really nail it; you may have to precede it first with exegetical study of the passage, and an understanding of the culture into which the passage speaks.

But once you have the Big Idea, the Proposition, the Sermon in a Sentence, you are almost half-way there!

A finely crafted Proposition can deliver a powerful punch.

Sermon Example:  Ezekiel 18:1 – 30

This is a very long passage and argument from the Lord God to the people of Israel.  It is difficult enough to explain to adults, but what about mid-schoolers?  How would you explain this passage to teens, ages 12-14??  Nathan Miller of Brooklyn Park EFC taught this passage to just such an age group by really nailing the sermon in a sentence.  Here’s his Proposition, Big Idea, or Sermon in a Sentence for Ezekiel 18:

“Your soul is your responsibility.”

That captures it really well.

Once you have the Proposition, you are on your way to putting together a good sermon. Work hard at it, and you – but especially your people – will be rewarded.

For great preaching,

Dr. Bill

SermonBase.com

HighPowerResources.com

The Importance of Transitions

No Comments

It’s all about Flow

The difference between a sermon with “flow” and a sermon that feels chunky and disjointed is the word “transitions”. The ‘transitional statement’ is the statement which alerts your listeners that you are now moving the logic of the sermon forward in some way. It may be words like “so then”, or “therefore”, or “because of this we can see”. It could even be “in summary”. The main thing is that you give your listeners a verbal clue that something new is happening. You are letting them know that they should listen closely because something new is about to be entered into the content or logic of the sermon.

When transitions are executed effectively the sermon just feels like it is moving along nicely, with a good flow. People are moved gradually from point to point until you bring them inexorably to the conclusion and application which you have in mind for them. They may not even be aware of the progression towards and ultimate climax but they realize once they are there that they have arrived in a perfectly logical and commonsense manner. The whole sermon just “makes sense” as you have moved them from the content of the text to its ultimate conclusion upon their lives.

An Example of a Transitional Statement

If transitional statements are not well executed then the listeners will find themselves listening to a certain point, and asking, “How did we get here?” For example, you may have a three-point sermon with the proposition, “God has shown His love for you.” Then your mains would be: 1. He created you; 2. He cares for you; 3. He called you to Himself. If you just jump from point to point, when you are done with point number one, you would just say, “2. He cares for you” without any introduction. After going through all your supporting material in point #1, the listener is jerked back to the Mains without any warning.

On the other hand, a helpful transitional statement would be added to the mid-point at the end of your first Main, and just before your second Main Point:  “Not only has God shown His love for you by creating you, but He also shows His love to you, secondly, by caring for you. So my second point is that God Cares for You.” Or, just before the third Main Point, you would say something like, “Not only has God shown His love for you by creating you, and by caring for you. But third, He Called You.” See how that feels much smoother? You are taking them on a quick trackback through the Mains of the sermon, before you move onto the next Main Point.

The Power of Flow

Do not underestimate the power of a good transition to keep your sermon flowing, and to give the listener verbal warnings of “sudden turns” or new topics ahead. Transitions can help you to be a more polished presenter of the Word of God.

Yours for great preaching!

Dr. Bill Miller

www.SermonBase.com

www.HighPowerResources.com

How To Prepare A Sermon: Part 7, Provide Supporting Material

No Comments
This entry is part 8 of 11 in the series How to Prepare a Sermon in Ten Steps

We are working on our ten-part series on How to Prepare a Sermon.  We’ve already given you all ten steps of sermon preparation, and Part 1, Praying about your Sermon; Part 2, Textual vs. Topical; Part 3,Study the Passage; Part 4, Read the Commentaries; Part 5, Arrive at the Proposition; Part 6, Develop the Mains.  Today is Part 7, “Provide Supporting Material”.

PROVIDE SUPPORTING MATERIALGreek building with columns

This is the main content of your message which supports each of your Mains. It is here that you are teaching the Scriptures, explaining, illustrating, applying, comparing, contrasting, etc., all to make a point. If you do a good job of studying and researching in preparation for your sermon, then you will have some very quality content to provide to your listeners.

So once you have established your Proposition, and your Main Points, what really constitutes the bulk of the supporting material? Some of this would be:

  • Explanations — For example, explaining the meaning of difficult Biblical phrases; original language nuances; aspects of OT semitic culture; socio-political realities of the Roman era; historical background;  – all with the express purpose of a better understanding of the Biblical passage at hand.
  • Illustrations – stories from one’s own life, or the life of others; testimonies; anecdotes; quotations; contemporary parallels; examples from literature, movies, or songs, etc. – all with the express purpose of a better understanding of the Biblical passage at hand.
  • Comparisons — locating other Biblical passages that explain the passage at hand; parallels; related passages, ideas or themes; – all with the express purpose of a better understanding of the Biblical passage at hand.
  • Contrasts – sometimes the best way to explain a Biblical passage is by telling the listeners what it does NOT mean. If a passage of Scripture sounds like it is telling you to do something that seems to contradict something else in Scripture, you have to lay the two passages side-by-side, and contrast them with each other, so that a true understanding can be reached.  The goal, after all, is better understanding of the Biblical passage at hand.
  • Applications – then, of course, the point of most passages is so that we can obey God, so application will necessarily have to come into play at some point. Some people feel that one should provide application after each main point, while others feel that it should be delayed until the Conclusion. It really depends on the passage itself, but I tend to make application an inherent point of the entire message. That is, I will often entitle a message something about “How to…”, and then include a verbal command in each Main Point. But it is really up to you as you feel led by God.

Why is application important? Because Jesus said in the Great Commission that we should be about “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). Jesus wants us to teach them to “obey”, not just to “know”. We are not in the business of just tickling ears with fanciful ideas which people love to hear. Jesus wants us to help people to obey Him as a result of what they have learned.

If you want to really “teach” the Word, and not just “exhort” the Word, then you will need substantive supporting material which really helps to explain the passage to your people in a more understandable way. This will take research and study. Get as much learning as you can about the Word, so that you can be a workman who correctly interprets and applies the Word of Truth.

Blessings on you as you open and teach God’s Word! In Part 8 of this study we will look at writing the Conclusion, which is a really important part of the message preparation process. (It actually comes before the Introduction.)

Yours for great preaching!

Dr. Bill Miller

SermonBase.com

HighPowerResources.com

How To Prepare A Sermon: Part 5, Arrive at the Proposition

No Comments
This entry is part 6 of 11 in the series How to Prepare a Sermon in Ten Steps

Hi All, especially up-and-coming preachers!light shining down

We are working on our ten-part series on How to Prepare a Sermon.  We’ve already given you all ten steps of sermon preparation, and part 1, Praying about your Sermon; Part 2, Textual vs. Topical; Part 3,Study the Passage; Part 4, Read the Commentaries.  Now, we need to talk about the Proposition.

This is key. The better you do here, the easier the rest of the sermon will fall into place. What is the Proposition? The Proposition is the entire message squeezed into one sentence. It is the ‘sermon in a sentence’; also known as “the Big Idea”. And please note that I said that you “arrive at the proposition”. You don’t create the main idea of the passage; you discover it. You don’t go to it; it comes to you. It IS the message. Then the Mains and supporting material are just unpacking that single idea.

The Proposition is the sermon in a sentence. Sound ridiculous to think you can pack an entire sermon into a sentence? If you cannot say what you intend to say in one sentence, then you do not have a clear idea of what you are talking about. Now, obviously all of the depth of meaning, the expanded content, and the specific application cannot be included in that single sentence; else you would have quite the run-on sentence. But yet, a well-designed proposition captures the essence of the sermon in its grasp.

The Proposition, or Big Idea, or Sermon in a Sentence is something you “arrive at”, you don’t create it. It comes to you as you study God’s Word. God the Holy Spirit reveals it to you, and then you write it out. The Word of God has a message for you and for your congregation. Because the Word is “living and active, and sharper than a two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12), it has a very specific application for your unique church situation. Discover it, and you have discovered the Big Idea for your sermon. How do you know if you have arrived at it? If someone says “give me a quick summary of your sermon”, you can actually give a quick summary, in just a sentence.

Once you have the Proposition, then the Main Points support and explain it more fully. Main points will not add anything new to the big idea of your sermon; they will merely expand upon concepts or themes which are inherent in your Proposition.

Once you have the Proposition, you have a significant part of your sermon already done. Now please note that we are at point 5 in your sermon preparation, and you have just arrived at the Proposition. So you have done quite a bit of research and study already. But once you get the Proposition down, the rest of the sermon will come together relatively quickly, because you already know everything you need to say. You just have to unpack it.

So that is the Proposition. You can read more about the Big Idea here if you like. We are half-way through the process of writing a sermon. Stick around for the rest of the series.

Exercise: Select a passage of Scripture, anywhere from four to ten verses; read it through several times; study it; then try to express its meaning in one sentence.

God’s best to you as you prepare to teach God’s Word!

Dr. Bill Miller

SermonBase.com

HighPowerResources.com

How to Prepare a Sermon in Ten Easy Steps

No Comments
This entry is part 1 of 11 in the series How to Prepare a Sermon in Ten Steps

Hey Preachers, and Future Preachers!

In this post, I’ll just summarize for you the main elements of sermon preparation. Then if you want to look at any of these elements in a greater way, take a look at the “Sermon Tips” category of this website.hands

Sermon Preparation in Ten Steps:

1. Pray

If you want to be engaged in a spiritual exercise like preaching, you will need spiritual power.

2. Select your Text & Topic

I believe in pursuing a more textual approach to preaching, rather than topically-based.  See the post “Sermon Preparation: Textual vs. Topical”.  The text will determine the topic; but if you choose topic first, then you need to make certain that you are addressing a significant portion of Scripture so that the text of God’s Word directs your message.

3. Study the Passage

Before you open any commentaries it is important to read, meditate, dwell upon the passage at hand. Study its layout.  Make an outline of the flow of thought.  Identify key themes; important verbs; repeating ideas. That is, thoroughly immerse yourself in the passage so that you know it really, really well. This is one of the most important parts of the sermon preparation process. It is here that you learn the message which God is trying to deliver in the passage. Find God’s message for you here, so that you achieve Focus.

4. Read the Commentaries

Once you have completed step three, then you can read the commentaries to learn the historical, socio, grammatical context of the passage.

5. Arrive at the Proposition

This is key. The better you do here, the easier the rest of the sermon will fall into place. What is the Proposition? The Proposition is the entire message squeezed into one sentence. It is the ‘sermon in a sentence’; also known as “the Big Idea”. And please note that I said that you “arrive at the proposition”. You don’t create the main idea of the passage; you discover it. You don’t go to it; it comes to you. It IS the message. Then the Mains and supporting material are just unpacking that single idea.

6. Develop the Mains

Your sermon can have anywhere from one to five Mains; usually no more. However, I did listen to a message by John Piper which had 17(!) points. But that message was aimed at pastors, so maybe you can break the normal rules in those cases. The Mains explain and unpack all the powerful concepts which are stuffed into your Proposition. The Mains need symmetry to be good Mains.

7. Provide supporting material

This is the main content of your message which supports each of your Mains. It is here that you are teaching the Scriptures, explaining, illustrating, applying, comparing, contrasting, etc., all to make a point.

8. Write the Conclusion

This is where you want to take it home. The conclusion must be powerful, personal, and memorable. This is where you touch the heart.

9. Write the Introduction

Yes, the introduction often comes right at the end. The main goal here is to get their attention and to introduce the topic, thus “introduction”. Once you know the main thrust of the sermon and the main points, it is much easier to write the introduction.

10. Create the Title

Finally, you can choose the title. The only point of the title is to advertise and promote the sermon and let people know in a very brief way what it is about. If you choose your title too early, you may find yourself preaching to the title, rather than the text. Don’t confuse the two.

So, there you have it.  How to prepare a sermon in ten easy steps. Now all you have to do is take a lifetime to master it.

Yours for great preaching,

Dr. Bill Miller

SermonBase.com

HighPowerResources.com

How To Prepare A Sermon: Part 6, Write the Main Points

No Comments
This entry is part 7 of 11 in the series How to Prepare a Sermon in Ten Steps

Hi All, especially up-and-coming preachers!Luther

We are working on our ten-part series on How to Prepare a Sermon.  We’ve already given you all ten steps of sermon preparation, and part 1, Praying about your Sermon; Part 2, Textual vs. Topical; Part 3,Study the Passage; Part 4, Read the Commentaries; part 5, Arrive at the Proposition.  Now, today we are looking at that part of the sermon which will be the most memorable part to your listeners, the Main Points.

What separates great! Mains, from so-so or ho-hum Mains? Here are some guidelines you need to follow to write good mains which will captivate your listeners:

1.  The Mains explain and unpack all the powerful concepts which are stuffed into your Proposition.

Remember that your Proposition, is actually the “sermon in a sentence”. What that means is that the key ideas for your entire message are already inherent in your Proposition. The Mains then, help to explain, unpack, unravel, and reveal all the concepts already hidden in your proposition. If the Proposition is the “sermon in a sentence”, then the Mains are simply the sermon in three, four, or five sentences.

So when you write each of your Main Points, you need to be asking the question, “Does this Main Point unpack my Proposition?” If it helps to make your Proposition more understandable, then it may be a useful Main Point (if it meets the following conditions as well).

2.  The Mains should not introduce a concept or idea which was not inherent in your Proposition.

The reason for this is that it destroys the Focus of your sermon. If your Mains do not contribute to explaining your Proposition, then you have not clearly figured out the main point of your sermon.  The Mains explain your Proposition, they do not confuse or expand into new territory which is not inherent in your Proposition.

3.  The Mains need symmetry to be most helpful to your listeners.

The Mains need to have a sense of flow and direction.  Mains can help your sermon to be understandable, memorable, and even beautiful.

4.  The Mains are most powerful when they are phrased as actions to be taken.

There are a number of different approaches which you can take when designing your sermons.  Some sermons are inspirational, some are informational, some are action-oriented. All three are needed.  I personally have a bias for action-oriented sermons. Many people need to know how to live the Christian life in a God-honoring way that helps them to truly follow God.  I believe a preacher’s job is to help them do that. So sermons which are addressed specifically to people to take certain actions will often have verbs in them. For example, your Mains may be something like this:  ”Trust God during tough times,” “Follow God during rough times”, “Obey God during all times”. This is just a quick example, but it shows the key idea of placing an action step for each main. This pulls people into it, because you are talking to them directly.

5.  The number of Main Points should usually be from one to five points.

Finally, there is debate about just how many points a sermon should have. Andy Stanley makes a great case for just one main point. I think it is found in his book “Communicating for Life Change”. But some people prefer to take a more traditional approach to the Mains. In those cases, you need to have enough points to explain your Proposition, but not so many as to overwhelm the listener. Usually, from one (a la Andy Stanley) to five points is normal.

So there you have it. How you put your Mains together will make a big impact on your listeners. The Mains carry your content forward in an understandable fashion. Good Mains make for a good sermon.

Yours for better preaching!

Dr. Bill Miller

HighPowerResources.com

SermonBase.com

How to Prepare a Sermon: Part 4, “Read the Commentaries”

No Comments
This entry is part 5 of 11 in the series How to Prepare a Sermon in Ten Steps

Hi All,books

We are working on our ten-part series on How to Prepare a Sermon.  We’ve already given you all ten steps of sermon preparation, and part 1, Praying about your Sermon; Part 2, Textual vs. Topical; Part 3, Study the Passage. Today, we will talk about using commentaries and other references well.

In part 3, Study the Passage, I warned all budding preachers not to run to the commentaries first. You must study the passage on your own, and let God speak to you first. I outlined a number of different exercises which you can do to study the passage. Now, once you have completed those studies on your own, you may certainly feel free to open up the commentaries and learn from those who have gone before.

What can Biblical commentaries give you that you can’t get on your own?

  • Historical Information – to see where this passage fits in the flow of Biblical and world history
  • Cultural Background – to understand the passage more thoroughly
  • Original Language Insights – even if you already know Hebrew and Greek, the insights of a language scholar can be very helpful
  • Linguistic & Grammatical Nuances – you may know the Hebrew or Greek word, but a good scholar can help you understand the unique nuances of the usage of said words in this particular passage
  • Related Texts – where else in Scripture this passage or theme is addressed

How can you use this information in your sermon?

The big mistake is to turn an inspirational sermon into a college lecture. That is not the purpose of the information you gain from the commentary. This “hard data” which you learn in commentaries is likened to the bones of a body. Bones give a body structure; no bones, and you have a jelly fish. Yet bones are often covered in soft flesh. So too, the information you gain from commentaries is there to give structure, strength, and content to your message. It is there to support your Big Idea or Proposition, and your Main Points. It is supporting material to the message which God has already given you as you executed Part Three of Sermon Preparation: Study the Passage.

What else can be used to study the Bible?

There are lots of great tools out there besides Biblical commentaries. Here’s a few:

  • International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
  • Greek & Hebrew Interlinears – provides English translation above the Greek and Hebrew words for each passage
  • Dictionary of NT Theology
  • The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim

Check out the reference section of a Christian bookstore for lots more.

So get a few commentaries and references and make good use of them; not as a crutch, but as a supplement to your own work and and study.

If you would like to keep your sermons organized, be sure to check out our “SermonBase Message Planning Software“.

God’s best to you as your preach God’s Word!

Dr. Bill Miller

SermonBase.com

HighPowerResources.com

Blue Taste Theme created by Jabox