Before You Preach

The first step to any worthwhile sermon is to pray. Assuming that you can preach on your own is like trying to go sailing without wind. The only reason your sermon will have any impact is not because of your clever words or eloquent oratory skills but because the Spirit of Christ fills your words with power and uses them to penetrate the hearts of people. Why would you even attempt to put pen to paper before you have paused to ask God for help?

Let’s be honest though, of the items on the list you know this one means the most, but you are probably also paralyzed by the study and therefore if you are like most preachers today, you are most frequently skipping this most crucial step and jumping right to the task of creating. And yet creating should be one of the final steps! Make prayer a priority throughout your preparation.

After you have sought the Lord in prayer, simply read. Read the text you are going to be explaining. Remember expository preaching is meant to expose the listeners to the meaning of the text. As you read, enjoy it. Cherish the reality that the Creator of the universe has written a book designed for you to read in order that you might know more of Him and how He interacts with His people.

Your third step is to study. (Even though I am skipping to step 3 it is probably best to pause and pray again asking God to help you understand what you have been reading.) As I start to study, I always try to understand what the main meaning of this text is. I most often find the main meaning as I outline the text as a whole. Before I open a commentary or read the notes in a study Bible, I attempt to outline the text. This allows me to make sure that what I am saying is not from someone else’s pen. The truth is there are excellent preachers who have gone before me and I want to be careful to learn from them but preach my own sermon. Outlining the text first allows me to make sure that I am doing just that.

Next, begin crafting your message. Yes, you have an outline, and yes, you have knowledge of the text. But how will you communicate it in a manner to keep the listener engaged? This is when you consider analogies, illustrations, the conclusion, the introduction, and your transitions.

Don’t allow this to be the last step. Bring your sermon preparation full circle by praying once again. Ask God to do what only God can do. Ask Him to make the mystery of the gospel evident (Colossians 4:2). Scripture is clear that God intends to use preachers to make the gospel known (Romans 10) but there is no question that our power only comes from the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). Plead with God to powerfully move through your sermon that people might be encouraged, challenged, and changed for the glory of God.

With all of this mind stand before the people ready to do as Paul admonished Timothy, preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2).

Author:  Chad Hunsberger is the Lead Pastor at Colonial Heights Baptist Church.