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.
Sermon Preparation in Ten Steps:
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