There are many book s on the many ways of preparing sermons, and section D-13 of The Shepherd’s Staff gives a complete and detailed study of sermon preparation.
Let me simply show you the lessons I have learned, not from books or Bible School, but from twenty years of preparing and preaching sermons. I have watched the faces (sometimes sleeping faces!) of the people I preached to and listened to their comments and complaints about my sermons.
I learned that they did not want long, complicated and often confusing sermons. But they did want clear and easy-to-understand sermons that answered their questions, met their spiritual needs, and applied to their daily lives.
Preacher = Student
We cannot communicate to others what we ourselves do not understand; we cannot clearly teach what we have not thoroughly studied.
Therefore, Scripture exhorts us to be master craftsmen as students of the Word in order to be master craftsman as preachers of the Word (2 Tim 2:15).
The best example we can find of such a master craftsman is the Master Himself -the Lord Jesus.
Here then are practiced principles we can learn by studying just some of what Jesus said and how He said it.
- Jesus spoke only what God gave Him to speak.
“For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave me a command … what I should speak …therefore whatever I speak, just as the Father has told me, so I speak ” (John 2:-19-50; see also John 7:17-18;8:26, 28, 38; 17:10;14:10; 17:8).
Our sermons should say what God wants us to say to His people. God knows better than we do what is in each of our listeners’ hearts. He knows exactly what will minister to, admonish, correct, encourage and bless those we serve.
God does have a word for His people; so before you stand before them to preach, kneel humbly before Him to receive that word.
Spend much of your preparation time in prayer. Ask God to illuminate the Scriptures to you by the power of His Spirit. Ask Him which Bible passages apply to the people you will speak to.
Ask God to place within your heart the desires of His heart for the people. All that God does is because of His great heart of love for mankind.
- Jesus confronted pain and sin in people’s lives with grace, love and acceptance-without compromising the truth.
In the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-12), Jesus reveals more of God’s heart than the Law ever could by itself.
He did not condemn her, yet he clearly told her to “go, and …sin no more” (v. 11). And while He rejected the sexual sin in her heart- He revealed the arrogance and self-righteous religious legalism in her accusers’ hearts.
He did all this in an uncondemning way, in word that were easily understood.
- Jesus told stories (parables) to teach important truths about man, sin, salvation and God.
Our Lord used the simple parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 11:32) to reveal many important truth about repentance, forgiveness, and the deadly deception of self righteousness.
He also revealed a vivid picture of the loving, longsuffering Father heart of God through the response of the young man’s father.
This is an important lesson to us about teaching the truths of Scripture. Simple stories are often the most effective.
- Jesus told stories people could relate to in their daily lives.
Jesus’ listeners were housewives, farmers, merchants, fishermen and shepherds. So He taught them deep truths about the Kingdom of God by telling simple stories about people who did those very same things. (See Matthew 13 and Luke 15:4-7.)
- Jesus’ preaching supplied spiritual tools that work.
A tool is meant to be used. But if it is so complicated that no one knows how to use it, or what it is meant to be used for -it will not be properly used.
A biblical principle in a spiritual tool it too is meant to be used– applied – in real life. But if a sermon is so complicated that no one knows how to apply the truth to their life, it will not be used. It will not be applied. It will not be put into practice.
Jesus, the Master Craftsman, knew that spiritual truths must work. His sermons are easily understood “instruction manuals” that show us how to use the truths in daily life.
- Jesus kept His preaching simple.
Jesus did not use complicated theological terms when He preached. He used simple, everyday words that all could understand.
This made the principles Jesus taught easy to understand and therefore easy to remember.
Biblical truths that are easy to understand and remember are then easy to apply to daily life. They become like tools to repair the spiritual brokenness in people’s lives, and to help them live as effective believers in Jesus Christ.
- Jesus kept His preaching focused.
Each parable Jesus told is a clear illustration -a perfectly focused “photograph” -of ONE spiritual principle.
Each sermon you preach should keep ONE spiritual principle (such as “evangelism”) in clear focus.
A good guideline for effective sermons is to teach those you serve:
- ONE FACT they should KNOW about the subject (such as, “Jesus commands us to go and preach the gospel”);
- ONE WAY they should FEEL about the subject (such as, ”broken-hearted compassion for those lost and unsaved”); and
- Most importantly -ONE THING they can DO about the subject ( such as, “tell someone about Jesus Christ”, or “help us in a city-wide outreach”, etc.).
The goal of all sermons presented to those you serve should be to instruct their minds to know and understand God; inspire their hearts to live godly and effective lives for Christ’s sake; and to stir them up to be zealous for good works – so that they will not be hearers of the Word only …but DOERS!