Preparing a Sermon
Faithful preaching exposes the meaning of the text and points the listener to Jesus in a way that is clear and easy to follow. In order to determine the meaning and deliver it in a meaningful way, it helps to have a repeatable process for preparing a sermon. Here are six steps that help with sermon development, and a worksheet that will assist you in walking through the entire process from text to teaching.
Step #1: Study the Text
Start large and work your way down. Look for patterns of thought in the progression of the book’s paragraphs. Don’t overcomplicate this step with a bunch of additional steps. Read the text multiple times, notice details, and ask good questions. Pay careful attention to key words, especially verbs, connecting words, theological words, repeated words, words with Old Testament roots, and geographical references.
Step #2: Structure the Text
Logically diagram the flow of thought. Place clauses that modify terms (or other clauses) under the word or words they modify. In narrative, the text can normally be divided into individual scenes or follows basic plot structure. This diagram often results in a solid outline.
Step #3: Summarize the Text
Find the big idea of your passage. Ask two questions of each paragraph and answer them: (1) What does the writer say in this paragraph? And (2) How does this contribute to the larger point? Condense each paragraph to a simple statement. Write the summary in past tense, historical language so you don’t miss the point by jumping too quickly to your own time and context.
Step #4: Craft the Big Idea
Based upon your summary of the text, write the big idea of the sermon in contemporary language. This demonstrates the relevance of the text to your listener. Work hard to make it short, simple, and memorable.
Step #5: Construct the Outline
Develop supporting points that reinforce the big idea of the sermon. These should reflect the work you did in structuring the text. Supporting points function like street signs, letting your listeners know where you’re going and keeping them from getting lost.
Step #6: Compose the Lesson
Refine your big idea to reflect both the meaning of the passage and what you want to impress upon your hearers. Determine what needs to be explained, illustrated, and applied, then create an introduction and conclusion. Finally, don’t forget to make sure the sermon points to Jesus!