12 Steps of Sermon Preperation
12 STEPS OF SERMON PREPARATION
Each step should be done prayerfully, fully dependent upon the Holy Spirit.
1.) Text Overview
Print out the passage in large font w/ wide margins & much spacing. Write it out as well. Physically interact with the text. Circle words, draw connecting lines, put in question marks, bookend words & phrases, highlight stand-out words, write out obvious, hard, & ridiculous questions, look for overall themes & mini-topics that should be addressed. Use many colors of pens & highlighters. Be bold & observant. Do it again & again.
2.) Exegetical Word Study
Original Language (Greek or Hebrew) dissection of the text, word by word considering morphology & context. In depth study for each important word. Study using several syntaxes, showing a breakdown of the word formation, text, & clauses. Look for odd & important words & phrases. Use outline resources to see further text structure. Seek to find the main point as well as the secondary & supporting points. Compare text with other similar accounts & other translations for interpretation & a broader understanding.
3.) Literary Themes & Theology
Consider the genre, mood, tenses, & literary theme(s) of the passage, both overall & specifically. Highlight interesting topics, words, grammar, & figures of speech. Look for any theology or doctrine that is taught or supported in this passage. Look for apologetics that could be drawn from this passage as well. Allow the theme, original author, audience, & circumstances to set the tone for my understanding of this text.
4.) Exhaustive Cross-Referencing
One of the more time consuming parts of studying a passage for sermon preparation. Looking up dozens, if not hundreds of passages of Scripture that possibly deal with any words, themes, or theology found in the focus text. Allow a lot of room for “rabbit trails”, especially for cross-references that have direct relation to the theme of the text. Notate any & all that are deemed helpful or further my understanding of the text or teaching.
5.) Scholarly & Critical Commentary
Another big time consumer. Reading through anywhere between 12 to 100 commentaries on the text. Allow for “out of the box” ideas to be considered, with a critical eye & be concerned with an “abundance of counselors” and not being tossed to & fro by any one lofty idea. Allow the text to be boss, and commentaries to bow, while still being open to wise counsel from godly men of varying perspectives. I am writing out my own commentary, thoughts & notes along the way. This should take hours & hours with taking of a lot of notes, more questions arising, & much prayer.
6.) Quotes for Passage & Topic
Similar to step 5, however this time I am searching for sermons & articles written by respected preachers & teachers on either the text, or the now found subject at hand. I am making sure to write down any interesting or helpful quote that brings things to a greater light of understanding. Not all that are written will be used in the sermon, and some are simply to allow me to grasp the concept better & word-smith my teaching. Always give credit to quotes used & encourage others to grow through reading.
7.) Illustrations & Applications
Writing down any & all illustrations & applications I have considered along the way, as well as a broad search through my resources for these. I am looking for any illustration that does not distract from the main theme, and will add to our understanding without stealing the show from the text itself. Applications should be kept in check, making sure they are serving the theme of the text, and not allowing any detours from the main point(s). Scripture is boss here, as people are very susceptible to being led astray in this area. A good illustration/application can lead off the sermon & provide a great wrap-up & conclusion, so long as it fits the idea & direction of passage at hand.
8.) Structure & Formation
This is one of the more difficult times for me. Taking all of these compiled thoughts, ideas, & points… and somehow placing them in a linear direction so it is not a confusing mess. This is crucial to future sermon delivery & my understanding of the text & my own message. If I don’t understand it clearly enough to communicate it clearly, then I don’t fully grasp the text or message as much as I thought I did. So I allow myself to continue to be teaching through this tedious process. Keep the main thing, the main thing, & repeat it often to make sure I am continuing with 1 main theme.
9.) Write It Out
From there, I take the now linear compiling of my own notes & as well as others thoughts and write out the sermon. I use large font, big spaces & headlines on each page for a new theme, or additional points of a theme. As I do this, I realize what does not fit, will be a can of worms too big for the sermon, or I simply won’t have time to unpack the idea in this setting. I carefully delete out anything that does not add to the sermon theme which is derived from the text. Some deleted material goes into our “Life Group Study Guide” or may even become an article or blog post. Writing out the sermon is very helpful along the journey of my comprehension & ability to communicate the teaching. As I write it, some things get deleted, and some statements get created. This is a great time of thought process coming further along.
10.) Practice It
Either alone or with Caryn, I proclaim the sermon out loud as I have it so far. This is to make sure that I have it structured correctly, a good build up to the conclusion, & that it is not a jumbled mess of ideas & opinions. I frequently pause to re-edit the sermon notes or to add a new way of saying something. Restating a phrase or main theme in different ways can be very helpful to the listener’s comprehension. This is where most the mistakes get worked out in how to communicate the sermon. Practicing sermon delivery should never be skipped. All the study & prep in the world is lost without the finely practiced & well-skilled delivery of the sermon.
11.) Creating the Keynote
This is what the congregation will see on the big screen during the sermon delivery. A main slide for the beginning & end of the sermon is crucial. On this main slide is the major theme or illustration graphic, along with the title of the sermon & the focus text reference. All slides in-between the title opener & conclusion will contain the cross-referencing texts & also main points that I want visible on the screen. If I have any sermon notes that I want them to write down, or have any fill-in-the-blanks, they must be communicated visibly as well as audibly. The focus text is almost never put on screen, as I want people to have their Bibles open & kept to this text. Cross-references are put on screen for the lost & new believers who cannot turn their Bibles as fast. My sermon shall be audible as well as visible as much as possible to allow for greater comprehension & less distraction.
12.) Review & Highlight
Sunday morning I do one last review my sermon notes along with the keynote presentation that is to go along with it. In my sermon notes, I make sure to highlight & circle main points of sentences or items I want to make sure I don’t miss or need to emphasize. I use different markers to color code Scripture cross-references apart from quotations from others, as well as my main themes & emphasis notes. During my review, I only have a few hours to go before preaching. This is not to be done in a rush, but rather with much time, driving me to prayer often & for extended periods of time prior to delivering the sermon. I am getting very nervous at this point, and continually asking God to remind me to rely on Him, asking Him to speak through me to His people. My aim is to expose God’s people to God’s message found in His word, hoping they will glorify Him through the working of His Spirit. I am reminded once more that I am here to proclaim His word with much reverence to His people, so as to properly build them up to love & follow Christ more for His glory & their greater joy.