I would like us to examine more closely the preparation of a textual type of sermon. I have previously defined this method as an analysis and exposition of a brief portion of Scripture, usually a single verse or text.
A. ADVANTAGES OF HAVING A TEXT
1. Captures Interest
The announcement of an interesting text immediately captures the interest of your audience, thus giving you an attentive congregation. They are intrigued to see how you will deal with it. They want to know what thoughts and implications you will bring forth out of your text. The minds of your listeners are stimulated and alert, affording you an interested congregation.
- Prevents Wandering
A specific text helps to prevent the preacher from wandering from his subject. It is difficult for an audience to retain active interest in a speaker who wanders in his presentation.
Having a particular text – and a context from which you have taken your subject – helps to avoid such wanderings, and to retain the active interest of your hearers.
- Keeps Sermon Biblical
Centering your talk on a specific portion of Scripture helps to keep you (the preacher) biblical. Having presented text directly from the Bible, your message is obviously biblically-based. The tendency is then to substantiate your theme from other relevant parts of the Bible.
Conversely, if your announced topic is other than a biblical one – whether it be psychological, social, cultural, etc. -then the substantiation for your theme will generally be obtained from a similar source. That is not good. We are commanded to “Preach the Word!” (2 Tim 4:2).
- Increases Boldness
Preaching directly from the Bible increases the boldness and authority of the proclamation. When you specifically preach the Word of God, there is a special anointing of the Spirit upon it. God anoints His Word.
Statements taken directly from the Bible can be presented with great feeling and conviction. This is because you are not presenting your own ideas; you are telling the people what God has to say on the matter. It carries enormous weight and authority when you declare, “The Bible says!” and then read or share the verse and give the meaning.
It was when the disciples went forth “preaching the Word” that God worked with them, confirming the Word with signs following. The Lord “worked with the word” (Mark 16:20).
- Aids Recall Of Message
A good text helps to fix the message in the minds of your listeners. They will remember it long afterwards. When they recall your message, it will frequently be the Scripture on which you based your talk which will be remembered most vividly.
B. CHOOSING A TEXT
1. Read The Bible Regularly
If you wish to become a capable and effective preacher, you must read your Bible regularly. Determine to develop good habits in respect to Bible reading. Have a special time each day to read the Bible. Carry a small Bible with you so that, if you have spare moments, you can spend them profitably in reading the Scriptures.
- Study The Bible
Do not merely read it superficially. Dig beneath the surface. Meditate diligently on the things you read. Toss them around in your mind. Look at them from every point of view. Practice analyzing what you study. Take it apart in your mind and put it together again.
Learn to “ruminate,” which means to “chew the cud.” When a cow feeds, it chews the grass, swallows it, and then brings it back from the stomach to the mouth to chew on again.
So when you ruminate in your mind, you keep bringing the thoughts back to think about them again. Meditate on them. Ponder over them. Keep bringing them back to mind for further and deeper consideration.
The more your mind is filled with the Word of God and biblical meditations, the more you will have to draw upon when you stand to minister. “The Holy Spirit will bring all things to your remembrance” (John 14:26), but you must have them in your mind for Him to do so.
- Always Have A Notebook With You
Whenever you read your Bible, get into the habit of having pen and paper with you. Form the good habit of making brief notes of every bit of inspiration you receive. Try to avoid doing this on loose pieces of paper, as you will tend to lose these.
If you use a notebook, it will become like a spiritual diary. Months afterwards, you will be able to go back over your notes and draw fresh inspiration from them. The more you meditate on them, the more revelation you will receive. This will also create a file of thoughts on numerous subjects, from which you will be able to prepare many fine sermons at the appropriate time.
- Maintain A Prayerful Attitude
This does not mean that you must be on your knees all the time. It is the attitude of heart to which I refer, not the posture of your body.
Ideally, prayer is a spiritual conversation with God. It is a two-way conversation. You speak to God, but He will also speak to you. As you learn to discern His voice, you will discover a continuous flow of inspiration.
God longs to reveal His truth. He waits for hungry, attentive hearts who can recognize and discern His voice. He wants to share His secrets with you.
- Seek The Holy Spirit’s Illumination
Place a high value and priority on the illumination the Spirit can bring upon the Word of God. The Holy Spirit is a Sensitive Person Who can be grieved and driven away.
You must cultivate the quiet, humble, sensitive spirit with which He loves to associate. As your fellowship with the Holy Spirit develops, He will introduce you to many wonderful new truths which will enrich your life and ministry.
- Your Text Should Be:
a. Biblically Authoritative.
It should harmonize with what the consensus of the Bible teaches. It is possible to take a verse out of its context, and teach from it some thing which the Bible does not substantiate. It has been said that “a text without a context is merely a pretext.”
Always study your text in the light of its context. Never try to make your text say anything which is not confirmed by the verses which precede and follow it. Always endeavor to interpret your text in the light of what the whole Bible teaches on the subject.
Your text should always form a complete statement of truth. Some preachers merely take a phrase from a verse and use it, regardless of context. This is dishonest! It is called “handling the word of God deceitfully” (2 Cor 4:2). This must be avoided at all costs. It will lead to a dishonest and unbiblical treatment of your subject. In consequence, you will be misled and will mislead your hearers.
c. Reasonably Brief.
A textual sermon should be founded on a reasonable, brief statement of Scripture.
Although brief, your text should also be comprehensive. It should be a brief but adequate summary of what you wish to share.
When you read your text to the congregation, they should then gain a reasonable idea of the area of truth you are going to present. You should then seek to remain within the boundaries of what your text announces.
C. YOUR APPROACH TO THE TEXT
1. Thoroughly Digest Its Words
Read the text over many times. Ponder it in your heart. Meditate on it. Memorize it. Speak it out to yourself. Become thoroughly familiar with it.
2. Determine Its Language
Is it to be taken literally, or is it intended to be figurative? Does the writer mean what he says in a literal sense, or are his words to be taken as a figure of speech?
- Analyze Its Message
It will help you greatly to dissect the verse. Separate it into three or four main parts. Discover exactly how much this verse contains and what it has to teach.
- Investigate The Words
Try to discover what the words were originally meant to convey.
If you are fortunate enough to have a Greek or Hebrew lexicon, look up the word in the original language of Hebrew or Greek. Is there some special significance attached to it? Did the writer have a special reason for using THAT word? This study will help you understand any special application the writer may have wished to convey.
- Discover Its Development
What line of truth was the writer seeking to develop? What was he ultimately trying to convey? How does he accomplish this?
Try to follow his lead and develop it in a similar fashion.
- Consider Its Context
a. Biblical Context. What do the preceding and following verses say? Consider the verse in relation to the whole chapter from which it comes. Consider it in the light of the whole Gospel or Epistle in which you find it.
Make sure your understanding of it is faithful to the overall truth conveyed in the book. To do this, you must study the basic theme and premise of the book.
b. Cultural Context. Did the culture of that time influence what was written? Would the people to whom the words were originally written gain a different view of what was said than we would in our situation? If so, what would be the equivalent significance now?
c. Historic Context. When was this statement written? Did what was transpiring at that time influence what was written? Do events at the time of writing have specific bearing on what was said?
d. Geographic Context. Where was the writer when he w rote these words? Where were the people to whom he wrote? Does their geographical location have any bearing on what was said?
e. Total Biblical Context. “All Scripture is given by the inspiration of God” (2Tim 3:16). Each part must be faithfully interpreted to agree with the whole.
No Scripture should be removed from its context; it must be interpreted by what the whole revelation of the entire Scripture teaches. Scripture must interpret Scripture, and our exposition of one text should always agree with what the Bible as a whole teaches.
D. ARRANGING YOUR MATERIAL
The orderly arrangement of material is a distinct advantage, both to the preacher and to those who will hear him. For the preacher, it affords the clearest grasp of his subject. His thoughts are not muddled or confused. It also helps him to ensure the most adequate treatment of the subject.
As for his audience, it will obviously assist them greatly in their grasp and comprehension of the sermon.
- What An Outline Does For You
A good outline is the best and simplest way to organize your material.
- It makes you carefully analyze your subject and the material you have gathered. In doing this, you ultimately select only the best of your material.
- It reveals any weak areas in your treatment of the subject and the development of your presentation.
- It enables you to get the most out of your material, because you reduce it to its most relevant and essential substance.
- It makes it easier for you to remember all you want to say, and to present it in a progressive and orderly fashion, with the least obvious dependence on your written notes.
- It makes it easier for your listeners to follow the development of your presentation, because it is communicated in the most orderly and logical fashion.
2. Concerning Your Notes
- Keep Them Brief. Train yourself to use the “skeleton-type” notes which you can take in at a glance.
- Make Them Orderly. You need to be able to follow them easily at all times.
- Let Them Be Comprehensive. Endeavor to cover every aspect on which you intend to speak.
- Concentrate On Ideas. Condense your thoughts into brief sentences. Learn to crystallize your thoughts and express them in terse sentences. Practice reducing and expressing a concept in one sentence.
- Make Condensed Notes. Remember that the notes are there to prod your memory. Even one significant word can remind you of some instance you wish to recall and share with your audience.
- Make Them Easy To Read. If you possess a typewriter, you may find typed notes easy to read. If not, then print your notes as clearly and legibly as possible. Never scribble out your notes so that you need to ponder over them in the pulpit in order to decipher what you have written.
E. THE STRUCTURE OF A TEXTUAL SERMON
The outline of your sermon will usually contain three major elements:
- The Introduction;
- The Main Statement Of Truth;
- The Conclusion And Application.
Let us examine these in greater detail.
Your introduction may well be the most important part of your message, for if you do not win your listeners’ attention in this initial period, they ma y pay little attention to the remainder of your sermon.
The introduction often takes the form of a condensed version of your subject. You tell your listeners briefly what you plan to speak about and the area you intend to cover.
You may also explain just how you plan to treat this subject. In this manner, you endeavor to whet their appetites and make them keen to hear more.
a. What Your Introduction Should Accomplish:
- Capture Interest. It should immediately capture the interest and imagination of your hearers.
- Establish Rapport. It should establish a rapport between you and your audience.
- Afford Acceptance. It should afford you an acceptance from them. You need to win their interest, confidence and esteem.
- It should inform them of what your subject is and how you intend to deal with it.
- Convince. It should convince them of the importance of your topic, and win their careful attention for the remainder of your talk. Never open your introduction with an apology. Never say: “Unfortunately, I have not had sufficient time to prepare my sermon, and I am afraid that it will not be a very good one!” If that is the case, the unfortunate people will find out soon enough. They will not need to be told! Such an apology will only lessen your own confidence in your abilities, and it will certainly not increase the people’s confidence in you.
b. Characteristics Of A Good Introduction:
- It Does Not Promise More Than You Can Deliver! Sometimes a preacher may make a most dramatic introduction to his sermon. He excites the audience for what is to come. He promises them a wonderful and enlightening exposition. If his message does not then reach the level he promised, it will be an anti-climax. His audience will be disappointed. They will also lose confidence in him.
- It Should Not Be Too Sensational. Do not set a pace which is impossible for you to maintain. Rather, let your introduction be modest, and then your audience will be pleasantly surprised when they discover the sermon to be much more interesting than they anticipated.
- It Should Not Be Too Long. Remember, this is only your introduction, not the sermon.
- It Should Bear Obvious Relationship To Your Theme. The introduction should lead into your theme, so it must always be vitally related to your subject. It may be a condensed version of the subject matter you intend to share. It may be a story which illustrates the truth of what you plan to say.
- It Should Be Carefully Prepared. Since your introduction is vitally important in winning the attention of your hearers, it surely deserves careful thought and preparation.
Try to put yourself in the place of you r audience. Ask yourself: What would successfully gain my attention? Of all that I propose to say, which particular aspect would really capture my interest? By using your imagination in this manner, you can determine the best style your introduction should take.
- It Should Provide A Natural Transition Into Your Theme. When properly presented, it should be obvious to your listeners just where the introduction concludes and the sermon begins.
This is applicable to all your message. It should be in several distinct sections or points. All points should relate to the central theme or text.
- The Main Body Of Your Message
I would suggest that you divide the main part of your subject matter into three major sections. These sections need not all be the same length. There should be a natural, logical and smooth progression from one point to the next.
These divisions do not have to be obvious when you present them. Sometimes it is helpful to say, “Now, my third point is….” Perhaps the sections might take a form like this:
a. STATE THE TRUTH.
- Declare It.
- Explain It.
- Clarify It.
b. AMPLIFY THE TRUTH.
- Develop It.
- Substantiate It.
- Prove It.
- Present Your Conclusion.
- What May We Learn From This?
- How May We Practically Apply It?
Appeal to the mind. Summarize your talk. Restate it briefly. Appeal to the will. Seek to persuade. Appeal to the emotions. Try to motivate.
F. HOW TO PREPARE YOUR SERMON
1. Prepare A Rough Plan First
An outline affords the most effective means of properly organizing your material. Once you master the art of producing a good outline, you will find it much easier and more convenient to organize your talk.
As you begin to examine and evaluate your subject material, write down every thought on a large piece of paper. Don’t worry at this stage about getting things into their correct sequence. Simply write down every valid thought which occurs to you as you consider the subject.
- Select Your Main Thoughts
It is generally easier to find three main thoughts.
- What are the three most important statements you have written on that large sheet of paper? Get them into a natural sequence.
- Which statement should come first?
- What is the foundation statement that needs to be laid? Make it your number-one heading. WRITE IT OUT IN CAPITAL LETTERS AND UNDERLINE IT!
Now ask yourself: “Which statement naturally follows on from the first?” Make that main heading number two. Now you are left with one more main thought which should be a conclusion of the matter. This will now be main heading number three.
Set them out on paper like this:
A. MAIN HEADING NUMBER ONE
B. MAIN HEADING NUMBER TWO
C. MAIN HEADING NUMBER THREE
Now begin to go through the rest of your material on your ROUGH PLAN . Get those thoughts into order under the particular headings you have designated. Let each of these be placed under the appropriate main heading: A, B, C. Each thought then becomes a “minor heading.” Designate them 1, 2, 3, etc.
All your thoughts and material are now coming into an orderly arrangement. This makes it easier for you to study the subject further.
a. Example 1. Allow me to illustrate this method from one of the best-known verses in the Bible, John 3:16: “For God so loved the world , that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
The world has known many people who are said to be great lovers. But I wish to speak about the One Who is, without doubt, THE greatest lover of all. It is God Himself!
He loves the greatest number of people, with the highest quality of love, which prompted Him to make the greatest possible sacrifice.
A. GOD’S GREAT LOVE FOR THE WHOLE WORLD
- He created the world and all mankind.
- He loves every person in the world equally.
- He wants every one of them to live eternally.
B. LOVE CAUSED HIM TO GIVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON
- How precious the Son is to God the Father. No earthly father loves his son so much.
- How great was God’s sacrifice!
- God gave Jesus freely for whosoever (everyone in the world).
- He gave Him to die to pay the penalty for our sin and guilt.
C. WHOEVER RECEIVES CHRIST NEED NOT PERISH
- This wonderful offer is available to all.
- God loves even the worst of men.
- Salvation is a free gift through faith in Jesus.
God now offers you the greatest possible gift…eternal life in Christ! How foolish you would be to reject or neglect so wonderful a gift. Accept Christ now without delay!
b. Example 2. Now, let us consider a simple narrative from the Gospels. In Luke 8:41-48, we find the story of a woman who, after twelve years of chronic suffering, came to Christ and was immediately healed. She went away with a deep peace in her heart and mind.
Our text could be a phrase from verse 48: “GO IN PEACE.” (This could also be the title of your message!)
Surely every person desires to possess inner peace and security. There are many factors in life which may rob us of such peace. One of these is sickness. It is difficult to maintain inner peace when one is plagued by serious illness. The mind is filled with uncertainty and despair. ·
Here is a story of just such a person. She had been sick for twelve years. Though she had visited many doctors, none had been able to help her. In fact, she even became worse.
Then one glorious day, she met Jesus Christ. Through this wonderful encounter, she was instantly healed of her long-standing sickness. She was also blessed with a deep sense of inner peace.
This same Jesus can also bless your life today. Let us look into this story, and discover how she received her healing – and how you too can be healed!
A. THIS WOMAN HAD NO PEACE
- She had been constantly ill for twelve years.
- She had spent all her money. Now she was penniless!
- She was disappointed and frustrated.
- She was tempted to despair. It seemed that none could help her. How typical she is of so many today who are lonely, frustrated and insecure.
B. HOW SHE CAME TO CHRIST
- She heard what He had done for someone else.
- She determined that she, too, would seek His healing.
- She encouraged herself in faith. She said within herself: “If I can but touch the border of his garment, I shall be healed” (Mark 5:28).
- She overcame many obstacles.
- She came to Christ.
- She touched Him by faith.
- His life flowed into her. Immediately she was made whole!
C. HER SALVATION
- The disciples could not help her. They did not even know her need. There are times when no human being can help us. Only God is able to meet our deepest needs.
- Christ required her confession. “Who touched me?” He already knew who had touched Him, but He wanted her public confession. Romans 10:10 says: “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
- Christ called her “daughter.” He accepted her as a member of God’s family.
- He told her to “Go in peace.” From that moment, she knew real peace. Uncertainty and anxiety were banished, and the peace of God filled her heart and mind.
- It was her faith which made her whole (Luke 8:48). God desires everyone to be whole: perfectly sound in spirit, soul and body.
She went away a transformed person. You too can be transformed if you come to Christ in faith!
Practice dissecting and analyzing such incidents from the Bible. Try to discover the three main thoughts or sections of the story.
Once you have determined the three main thoughts, begin to analyze each of them separately and break them down into their component parts.
There may be four or five smaller truths within each main statement. Analyze the various parts. Get them into sequence and order. Then, arrange them progressively.
This is excellent practice for you. It may not come easily at first, but persevere. Determine to master it. After a while, it will become easy for you.
I often liken the construction of a sermon to the building of a house:
- The introduction is like a path leading up to the house. It takes you from the front gate to the door by which you may enter.
- Each main heading is like a room in the house.
- The minor headings are the furnishings in each room.
- Illustrations are windows built into each room to throw light on the furnishings in that room. (Illustrations are simple examples which help us to understand profound truths.)
Keep this analogy in mind when you are preparing your sermons.