Thinking Through Preaching

I confess that I am a novice in the privilege of preaching, but these are some  thoughts on the aspects of sermon preparation, or suggested lenses through which we view the text and the task.  These are in no particular order:

1. Having done all, seek to recognize and simplify doctrine and theology.

2. Take aim at the heart, for it is the fountain of life.

3. More than anything else, see and proclaim Christ in the matter of the text.

4. Seek to speak with pastoral sensitivities — cultivate in your own soul a genuine care and love for the souls and conditions of the congregation.  Let there be a text appropriate sweetness to your disposition and voice.

5. Ask the text, “How do you indict me?  How does what you are saying to me pin me up against the proverbial wall such that I am fully brought to the grace of God in the gospel?”

6. Fear nothing in speaking what is biblical, even though it may ruffle feathers.

7. Always, always, always internalize it — be specific — how is “it” “me”?  This distinguishes the warm preacher from the iceberg, the passionately convicted from the one who preaches at a distance from the text and the people, the personally transformed from the hypocrite, etc.

8. Ask, “What is the most simple reading of the text?  What is the main thing here?”  Say “This is the main thing!”

9. Think deeply — oh, please God help us all — to think deeply, so to live deeply.

10. Consider in the text, “What is said?” then “What is not said?” and “Why?”  Consider, “How is it said?” also.

11. Seek to build up that double love — aim at personal and corporate love for God and neighbor, Christ and His Church.

12. With stories ask, “What details are here that are meant to be vivid?  How can I bring these to life for the congregation?  How can I make the waters of the Jordan really roar in their ears?”

13. Pray, pray, pray!  That is, pray as you begin, pray throughout, pray until you have preached it — and then pray still more.  This is indispensable for internalization.

14. Confess, confess, confess! That is, confess, “I am powerless to understand and preach so as to convert and sanctify and effect; indeed, the text alone is also impotent.  Holy Spirit come and breath upon Your Word, and supernaturally help my words!!!!”  Do this once, twice, always!

15. Lastly, for now, remember — we do not think, write, teach, or preach, or live so that our name might be remembered!  God has saved us for the sake of His name — proclaim His name for the sake of His name!

Time spent in the task under these weak suggestions will, with God’s help, produce, I believe, first, a holy man, and, secondly, a helpful and God-glorifying sermon.


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