Preaching Patterns

The next chapter in the preaching improvement book I’m moving slowly through is on the importance of remembering the fundamentals of sermon preparation. It’s very easy in the hustle and bustle of other weekly activities to short cut these fundamentals. To rely on someone else’s work rather than your own. He outlines five fundamentals:

  • Study the Text – the grunt work of the sermon-writing process and the most easily short-cut because it isn’t necessarily obvious to your hearers how well you’ve done this (or whether you’ve done it at all). This step might include reading the text in the original languages for hints and clues translations might lose, consulting commentaries and other writers on the text, and other forms of help in understanding what the text is trying to tell us first, before determining what we want to say about the text.
  • Define the Thesis – clearly identify the main point you want to convey in a sermon. You can’t preach all the nuances of a text in a good sermon, so figure out what you want to hone in on. Identify that early to keep your sermon clear and understandable
  • Choose the Sermon Form – I don’t do this. For me, the sermon shapes itself in relation to the first two steps. Sometimes it’s built around a single exchange, an event or character study. Sometimes it’s more of a teaching sermon. Sometimes it’s highly emotional in nature. They tried to teach us sermon structures in seminary but I struggle here because I have been writing since I’ve been old enough to hold a pencil, and those instincts replace the structural definition step of sermon writing for me.
  • Develop Illustrations and Applications – find out ways to make the text and the message accessible and relevant to your hearers. Teach by all means, but show how the teaching applies, how it connects with the hearers. It’s too easy to simply toss out doctrines and explain a text contextually and historically and culturally without ever connecting it to Jesus and then connecting Jesus to the hearers.
  • Prepare Introduction and Conclusion – Say what you’re going to say, say it, then say what you said. The basics of writing an essay in school are helpful in sermon writing as well.

Definitely good reminders. Preaching should require work and effort. Unfortunately it often doesn’t receive it. I feel I have a good grasp on the basics, though my former homiletics profs might disagree!

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