From Text To Sermon A Guide To Sermon Preparation Part 2 of 6. Presentation 02. Introduction.
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A Guide To Sermon Preparation
Part 2 of 6
As a young Christian I was asked to preach for the first time at a local church. And in the arrogance of youth I thought that I would preach on spiritual warfare from Ephesians 6. The sermon was a bit of a disaster. In the congregation was an elder from my home church and that evening to took the opportunity to speak with me - what would you have said? He very tactfully reminded me that before David took on Goliath he honed his skill by taking out lions and bears! I had preached on something I had little experimental knowledge or understanding of and it showed!
Study 1: Introduction: Approach To Scripture
Approach To Culture
Approach To The Hearer
Study 2: Selecting The Passage
Understanding The Passage
Study 3: Determining The Thrust Of The Passage
Formulating The Preaching Idea
Study 4: Determining The Sermon’s Purpose
How To Accomplish That Purpose
Study 5: Outlining And Fleshing Out The Sermon
Study 6: Application, Conclusion And Introduction
1. What passage do I choose?
Where regular preaching opportunities occur, the expositor may choose to work his way systematically through a Bible book, or part of a Bible book. Hours can
be wasted thinking, ‘What passage will I preach on?’
Where preaching is irregular or where you are
part of a preaching team it is helpful to
work out a preaching plan which each
member will follow.
In some situations you may be given
a text or subject to preach upon.
1. What passage to choose?
b. “All scripture is useful for teaching” 2Tim. 3.16, but not all scripture is profitable for a particular congregation at a particular time. The composition of the congregation will play a major role in the selection of one’s text. Are they mature believers, new converts, unbelievers etc.? It is helpful to know their needs, and pressures. Not that our preaching should be driven by the ‘felt needs’ of individuals at the expense of the richness of the Gospel and the doctrines of grace. Our preaching must be God-magnifying and people-oriented. Jesus approach to the woman at the well in Jn.4. provides a useful pattern when determining how to use felt needs.
1. What passage to choose.
c. If you are preaching a series of sermons on a particular book then it is helpful to remember that people need breadth and variety in their spiritual diet. A different approach is called for if preaching through a gospel or a major prophet.
I love mince and potatoes but if my wife served me that daily year after year I might just wish to find something else on my plate.
I attended a minister’s conference some years ago where a colleague told me he had been peaching through the Song of Songs for the previous three years. But he could not understand why his people were becoming so restless.
2. When to choose the passage.
The sooner the better. If preaching through a series of sermons, plan them out well in advance. Even if preaching a one-off sermon, give your mind plenty of time to absorb the text. C. H. Spurgeon, the famous Victorian preacher, used to say that he liked his “mind to soak in the text just as his body might soak in a bath” and he entered his bath at the beginning of the week.
I have spoken to colleagues who
begin their preparation the evening
before they are due to preach!
3. Length of passage.
Choose natural blocks of text and not forced divisions. Ask how the passage relates to the author’s thought.
It will, to some extent be determined by the literary
genre; narrative, poetry, etc.
Influenced by the time available for
4. What about Topical Exposition?
In topical exposition the preacher starts with a topic that is; seasonal [e.g. Christmas, Easter etc.], or theological [justification, sanctification, adoption, reconciliation etc.], or one which covers personal concerns [guilt, grief, loneliness, jealousy]
and then he looks for a passage or
passages that deal with that topic.
The distinctive of ‘topical
exposition’, in contrast with a
‘topical sermon’, is that Scripture
must shape all that is said in
defining and developing the topic.
5. I Don’t Know What To Chose
A minister was about to throw in the towel and turn his back on the ministry for he had run out of preaching ideas. He wrote of his intention to Alexander Whyte a famous C19th Edinburgh minister. Whyte replied:
“You scarcely know how or what to preach. Look into your own sinful heart and back into your own sinful life and around on the world full of sin and misery and open your N.T. and make application of Christ to yourself and to your people: and like Goodwin you will preach freshly and more powerfully every day”.
It is important to be familiar both with the
passage and broader context of the biblical book
from which it has been taken. E.g. 1 Cor. 13 can
only be adequately understood against the
background of chaps 12 and 14.
In a similar way the transfiguration in Mk. 9 can only be understood in the light of Peter’s confession and rejection of cross-bearing in Mk. 8. Understanding where a particular passage fits into the broad sweep of salvation history is also of significant value. E.g. what is happening in 1Samuel can only properly be understood against the backdrop of Judges.
Dawn of Human History
Understanding The Passage
Entry and possession
of promised land
Difficult to determine with any accuracy
Israel & Judah
Call of Abraham
Beginning of Patriarchal period
Exile: Assyrian &
Exodus: End of
Nation of Israel
Return from exile &
Bible Books in Approximate Historical Framework.
1& 2 Chronicles
Song of Songs
1& 2 Kings
Dawn of Human History
The Government of God’s people
School of prophets established by Samuel
School of prophets re-established by Elijah
Establishment of Synagogues & Pharisees
AD 70 Destruction of temple and Jerusalem
If possible, read the text in a number of different translations. These may provide fresh insights into the writers’ thought. By so doing we are then beginning to steep ourselves in the writer’s world view.
Be aware of the difference between translation and transliteration. See next slide
Understanding The Passage
Most importantly, all of this preparation should be done prayerfully and in dependence upon God’s Holy Spirit, who is the Supreme Bridge Builder. It is He who makes God’s Word powerfully relevant helping us to see how to apply the passage to our hearers.
Prayer does not come after preparation, so that having produced a sermon we pray, “Apply my words” but during our preparation, “Give me your word for this people”.
When reading the passage determine not to engage in ‘eisegesis’, which is the opposite of ‘exegesis’ which is what we should in fact be doing! Eisegesis is to read into the text meaning that is not actually there .
Sadly, preachers can be so determined to say something of great worth and theological importance that they contrive to bring out of the text what is not in fact there. Instead of magnifying the truth their approach undermines it, for their hearers begin to ask, “How does he get that from this passage”.
It is recommended that you read with a pencil in your hand so that you are constantly making observations or,
identifying problems in the text that
require some further clarification.
You may want to study the text in greater detail using other tools you may have available to you: Lexicons, Concordance,
Commentaries, Bible dictionaries etc.
Bear in mind some commentaries are
more exegetical while others are more
applicatory. A balance is useful.
When we approach the text of scripture we are doing much more than looking for a key word or idea that we can fasten onto. We need to ask, “How is the passage constructed? What is the writer wanting me to grasp by his choice of words and sentence arrangement? E.g. John is fond of using double entendre - grasping this fills out our understanding of the text. Take the well-known verse Jn.3.16 the words John uses can be translated as “born again” and “born from above”. Both meanings enrich our understanding of John’s thought. Or, think of the “I am” sayings; in Greek sentence construction words of importance placed at the beginning of a sentence can have the effect of underlining it. As a result John’s construction can be read as, “I and only I”, or “I and uniquely I”.
Because expository sermons consist of truths drawn from scripture and related to contemporary life. To preach effectively we need to be able to stand in three different worlds:
First, the one in which God’s revelation was originally given. What did God’s Word say to its first readers and what did it mean to those who originally heard it? – the ‘then and there ’.
Out of the exegesis emerges the context
and circumstances in which the Word of
God was first spoken. We need to try and
imagine ourselves into that context.
We also need to be aware of contemporary culture - the value systems, philosophy and thought and ideas that have in the past, and continue in the present, to shape our own society. Only by so doing will we begin to grasp how God’s word can be applied to a contemporary context - the ‘here and now’.
c. Finally, we are to take on board the ‘postal code’ of our hearers. The great questions of our time assume different shapes in different settings - a congregation made up of city businessmen is quite different from that of
rural farm workers.
Knowing our congregation and their world is fundamentally important in the shape our
sermon will take.
“I pity the preacher who enters the pulpit with no Bible in his hands, or with a Bible which is more rags and tatters than the Word of God. He cannot expound Scripture, because he has no Scripture to expound. He cannot speak, for he has nothing worth saying. But to enter the pulpit with the confidence that God has spoken, that he has caused what he has spoken to be written, and that we have this inspired text in our hands - ah! then our head begins to swim, our heart to beat, our blood to flow, and our eyes to sparkle, with the sheer glory of having God's Word in our hands and on our lips”. JOHN STOTT