How I Prepare Sermons

April 9, 2008

The Preaching Course has had a breather over Easter but we anticipate its resumption next week. Whilst prepping for my forthcoming lecture I jotted down a few thoughts regarding the steps I take in sermon preparation. No doubt this is a process which most preachers don’t reflect upon until they are forced to ‘explain what they do.’ In any case, there are four steps which comprise my personal (and hardly infallible!) process:

A. Researching
• Reading the text prayerfully in different translations
• Questioning the text: what does it say? Where is the text located? What is the passage structure? How does the text point to Christ? etc.
• Consulting Commentaries for clarification, interpretation and help in communication.

B. Outlining
• Composing big idea
• Devising main points and subpoints
• Selecting appropriate illustrations
• Meditating on lines of application
• Deciding on introduction
• and possible conclusion

C. Writing
• complete manuscript from start to finish
• working toward a spoken style
• making final decisions on inclusions/omissions
• editing the draft
• internalisation of sermon

D. Preaching


  1. Do you spend any time on the creation of a sermon title?

  2. That’s very helpful, thanks!

  3. Sherman,

    I do spend some time on composing a sermon title, however I don’t do this as a seperate stage; I think about it throughout the process. If I can come up with something that grabs attention or sticks in the mind, great. I also look to see if there’s a key phrase from the text or some way of taking my ‘big idea’ and incorporating it into the title.

    Nonetheless I would rather spend more time working on making the interior exposition interesting to listen to, than taking hours getting a great title! In my circles at least, most people don’t seem terribly bothered what the sermon title is.

    Furthermore because titles ideally attract attention, I sometimes sense the danger of trying to be too clever or outright sensational. When preaching on Jesus ascension from Luke 24 recently, all the titles I thought of seemed rather naff – either overly clever or seeming to trivialise the glorious subject matter. In the end I just went with the plain but accurate: ‘The ascension.’

  4. For me, the most important step is biblical exegesis (translating, parsing, etc). One of the benefits of working with original language is liken to watching a high definition TV instead of black and white. I know it requires a hard work, but I think our churches deserve the best. Thanks for your post.

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