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The following is a general outline of the process I follow when preparing sermons:
Sermon Preparation Process
** Prayer throughout **
- Understanding the text:
- Read the text including its broader context.
- Read the passage slowly, meditatively, and prayerfully – Compile notes.
- Exegete and interpret – Look at text in original language; look at various translations; attend to text critical matters, grammar, syntax, word studies, structure, purpose, relevant parallel passages, theological analysis, etc.
- Consider the passage’s relationship to redemptive history, the Gospel, Christ, and mission.
- Anticipate sermon development: formulate passage’s purpose; develop initial conception of sermon structure; consider illustrations and applications.
- Use resources (e.g., commentaries, sermons). Compile notes on key observations.
- Sermon construction:
- Determine main point/purpose.
- Develop sermon structure.
- Fill-in sermon substance: introduction, prayers, explanations, illustrations, and applications, and conclusion.
- Final matters:
- Refine/complete sermon.
- Review sermon.
- Preach the sermon to yourself.
- Pray for sermon delivery and effect.
The following is my personal passage worksheet when preparing a sermon on passage.
Structure: How is this passage organized to communicate its emphasis and make a point (i.e., how do all the parts work together as a whole and fit together to communicate a unified thought or argument)?
Context: How do the context(s) inform or illuminate your understanding of this passage?[*]
(a) Immediate literary context—sections immediately before and after.
(b) Macro-literary context—placement in and contribution to the whole book.
(c) Historical context—known historical circumstances surrounding the contents of the passage.
(d) Intended context—the situation of the original audience into which this was written and would have been received.
(e) Biblical context—allusions or references to other Biblical material.
(f) Redemptive-historical context—location in the storyline of scripture.
Claim: What is the author’s controlling thought in this passage and point of which he intends to persuade his audience?
Aim: How does the author intend this passage to function in the lives of his audience? What is the desired effect this claim is meant to have on them? What is the intended response?
Gospel: How does the claim of this passage direct us to Christ and relate to the gospel event? What part(s) of the gospel are in view here?
Conclusion: What is the claim of this passage as it comes to bear on us through Christ and in light of our place redemptive history?
Response: What does it look like for us to respond to this claim and embody the aim of this passage? What would it look like for today’s audience to grow in and live out (implement; apply) the truths of this passage?
Evangelistic: How might you present the truths of this passage to a non-believer with them aim of showing them their need for salvation and persuading them to trust in Christ?
Mission: How does this passage fit into God’s plan of working redemption and renewal through the local church? In other words, how does this passage equip the church for its mission?
Outline: How might you convey the claim of this passage in a way that reflects its structure and emphasis and captures its tone?
The following is my personal check-list I developed for consultation when preparing sermons:
- True to the passage’s…
- Authorial intent?
- Passage structure or form?
- Context and book?
- Aim (affections, belief, trust, obedience, thoughts, actions, etc.)?
- Biblical theology:
- Redemptive-historical context considered?
- Relationship to Christ?
- Passage interpreted in light of the Gospel?
- Inspiring vision of God set forth?
- Sermon quality:
- Main point—clear and frequently stated?
- Well organized—clear and helpful structure?
- Simple—avoids unnecessary complexity?
Selective—on what will you choose to focus?
- Brief—the “less is more” principle; distinguish what is important vs. what is merely interesting?
Perspective—don’t miss the “forest for the trees” or the “trees for the forest.”
- Concise—high quality to quantity ratio?
- Use of pithy, memorable phrases?
- Helpful illustrations, introduction, and conclusion?
- Practical? Down to earth? Thoughtful, engaging, quality applications
- Audience consideration:
- Sermon oriented specifically to this audience?
- Clear, understandable language?
- Clear explanations of theological issues?
- Answers given to questions the average person may have of the text?
- Audience’s translation(s) considered?
- Conscientious of nonbelievers? Gospel presented?
This post was originally published at Rolfing Unshelved.
On Wednesday, November 11 from 12-1:15 pm at the front of the library, Dr. Scharf and Dr. Luy will be facilitating a discussion on preaching Christ in the Old Testament. We will be examining some of the different perspectives and issues involved in that endeavor. Because of the complexity of this topic and the many subjects it raises to our attention, Dr. Scharf and Dr. Luy will begin the Table Talk by making some brief introductory comments. These initial remarks will serve to focus subsequent discussion. And after discussing these matters in groups, we look forward to a time of interaction with Dr. Luy and Dr. Scharf on further questions and group observations.
I hope that you will bring your lunch and join us!
This blog post seeks to introduce you to the subject at hand–preaching Christ in the Old Testament–and to expose you to some of the issues involved in that conversation.
As Dr. Scharf recently wrote me in an email,
The practice of preaching Christ in the Old Testament raises a host of questions and subjects the preacher to significant perils as well as offering great promise. Navigating these waters requires that the preacher have a defensible theology, a valid hermeneutic, and exegetical expertise (enriched ideally by a grasp of the history of interpretation of the preaching text) as well as a love for his or her listeners, the required spiritual gifting, and prayerful reliance upon the Holy Spirit.
You’ll immediately notice from his statement that the issues involved here are multi-faceted.
One of the areas of study that I find absolutely fascinating is what I call “hermeneutics of application.” Hermeneutics is the science of interpretation; it’s the discipline of study related to the methodology and principles of interpretation. So when I say, “hermeneutics of application” I mean the study of how one properly moves from interpretation of the text to application of the text.
Hence, when I read this quote many years ago, I’ve never been able to forget it:
Every time we derive an interpretation and application from a text that is not consistent with its contextual sense—no matter how biblical the truth itself may be–we rob that text of the meaning and application that God intended when He gave it. In the process, we rob ourselves and others of that text’s truth from God. … Worst of all, we rob God of His voice in that verse. – Layton Talbert, unknown source.
As interpreters, teachers, and preachers of God’s word we desire to be faithful to the Biblical text. We know that this entails interpreting Scripture according to the Biblical authors’ original intent, historical context, and literary context, among other things. We don’t want to be guilty of eisegesis–reading our own thoughts and ideas into the text rather than getting our conclusions from out of the text (exegesis).
But at the same time, we know that Christ said the entirety of Scripture speaks of Him (Luke 24:25-27; cf. 1 Pet 1:10-12; Rom 1:2). And so as Paul, we would love to say that even in our expositional preaching “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2).
But what about the majority of texts where Christ is not mentioned? How do we preach Christ then? Do we preach the authorial intent and then sort of arbitrarily jump to Christ at the end, tack on an altar call or two with some repeated “Just as I am” choruses?
We want to avoid moralism; so we want to preach Christ. We don’t simply want to draw conclusions like, “don’t be like Saul,” “don’t be like the Israelites,” or “be more like David,” as if this alternative is somehow more honest to the authorial intent. But how do we preach Christ-centered in passages that have seemingly little to do with Christ at all?
I think you get my drift.