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Sermon Preparation and Preaching Advice

Part 1: Insights from My Journey as a Preacher

Before delving into the intricacies of sermon preparation, I must admit that my journey as a preacher has been one of self-discovery and imitation. I've learned the importance of not merely stealing others' sermons but imitating their approach to crafting messages, understanding the why behind their ideas. Academics refer to this sermon preparation as the art of "homiletics". The expectations placed on preachers are vast, from providing educational content for the modern audience, particularly millennials, to delivering inspirational and theological messages in a simple and engaging manner. The pressure to perform can be overwhelming, leading to a temptation to focus on appearances rather than the needs of the audience.

"Do you ever feel the pressure to perform or meet the various high expectations of your church every time you step into the pulpit?"

It's crucial to remember that preaching is about serving people and caring for their spiritual well-being above all else. I've found that pausing during sermon preparation to reflect on my motives and attitudes towards the audience helps me realign with the purpose of preaching – to love and care for those I'm speaking to.

Moreover, seeking feedback is essential for growth as a preacher. Experience alone doesn't guarantee improvement; it's the evaluated experience that leads to refinement. By actively seeking feedback from trusted individuals, whether fellow ministers, spouses, or members of the church, I've been able to identify areas for improvement and refine my preaching style over time. As I prepare sermons, I'm reminded that God is ultimately interested in preparing messengers rather than just messages. This realization shifts my focus from crafting perfect sermons to allowing the Holy Spirit to work in and through me as I deliver God's word.

Jeremiah 4:22 - “My people are fools; they do not know me. They are senseless [lost] children; they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil; they know not how to do good.”

One passage that resonates deeply with me in moments of frustration during sermon preparation is Jeremiah 4:22, where God expresses grief over his people's lack of understanding. This passage serves as a poignant reminder of the importance of helping people discover God's truth and guiding them towards a deeper relationship with Him. God's heart aches for His lost children. What if it was your child, lost in the audience who didn't know you? The remedy to this condition of God's people, os preachers who can give them a sense of who their God is and what He has to say about life, as was done in Nehemiah 8:8. Finally it is through careful preparation that preachers are able to passionately cry out to God's lost children according to 2nd Timothy 4:2

Nehemiah 8:8 - "They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning [the sense] so that the people understood what was being read."
2nd Timothy 4:2 - "Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction."

Do you teach the Bible to people or do you teach people the Bible? In my sermon preparation, I strive to strike a balance between topical and expository preaching. While both approaches have their strengths, combining elements of both allows me to meet the needs of the audience while remaining faithful to the Biblical text. In getting the sense of a passage I can sometimes be too academic in my preaching [teaching the Bible to people]. I aim to grow in taking listeners on a journey, addressing their felt needs while also making Biblical truths come alive in relevant and relatable ways [teaching people the Bible].

Ultimately, sermon preparation is a dynamic process that requires prayer, reflection, internalizing, and a willingness to engage deeply with the text and the needs of the audience. By embracing these principles, I seek to honor God and serve His people through effective and impactful preaching. Check out the videos below for a helpful deep dive on preaching.

Here are some quick tips for outlining and sermon preparation:

1. Focus on the Audience: Understand the needs and expectations of your audience, particularly millennials who seek educational, inspirational, and theological content presented in a simple and engaging manner.

2. Avoid the Temptation to Perform: Prioritize serving the church over personal performance, remembering that preaching is about caring for the spiritual well-being of the listeners.

3. Seek Feedback: Actively seek feedback from trusted individuals to evaluate and refine your preaching style continuously.

4. Let the Holy Spirit Guide You: Allow the Holy Spirit to work through you during sermon preparation, focusing on preparing messengers rather than just crafting messages. Prayer is preparation.

5. Connect Emotionally: Use emotional hooks and relatable stories to engage the audience and draw them into the sermon's message.

6. Balance Topical and Expository Preaching: Combine elements of both approaches to meet the needs of the audience while remaining faithful to the biblical text.

7. Craft a Clear and Memorable Message: Focus on developing one central theme or idea supported by clear and concise supporting points to ensure the sermon's effectiveness and impact.

8. Practice Effective Time Management: Balance sermon preparation time with prayer and personal reflection to ensure a well-rounded and impactful message delivery. "slice the salami" and bite off one part of sermon prep at a time.

9. Stay Flexible: Be open to adjusting your sermon outline and content based on feedback, personal reflection, and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

10. Plan Ahead: Maintain a structured approach to sermon preparation by planning and drafting sermons in advance to alleviate stress and ensure consistency in message delivery.

A relational sermon outline built around one key idea [adapted from Andy Stanley]

ME (Orientation) – Introduce yourself and your topic – find common ground with your audience.

WE (Identification) – Build an emotional common ground with your audience – build as many bridges emotionally as possible.

GOD (Illumination) – God has a solution for us today – engage your audience with the text – Don’t just read it. Don’t explain it to death. Make it fascinating!

YOU (Application) – Find one point of application everyone can embrace. Don’t ask them to make a life-altering decision. Give them a measurable or reachable goal. Encourage them to try something for a week, a day, or even a month.

WE (Inspiration) – cast a vision – prompt a decision by briefly describing what would happen if this group of people would follow what has been taught. Tell them to imagine what WE could do together.

Part 2: Connecting in Preaching Delivery

Are you looking to enhance your sermon delivery and make a greater impact on your audience for real transformation? In our recent video discussion with our local preaching team, I had the privilege of delving into the art of sermon delivery, sharing insights I've gathered over years of presenting. Reflecting on the crucial role of connecting with the audience and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide our delivery, I emphasized the significance of thorough preparation, relatability, and effective communication in delivering impactful sermons. You can have the best prepared sermon in the world, but without proper delivery it will fail.

I often liken sermon delivery to the process of charging a smartphone. Just as a fully charged phone is essential for optimal performance - vulnerability, narrative, and emotions are crucial for effective sermon delivery. Not connecting with your audience is like your phone not getting plugged into the charger overnight; it dies. Sermon preparation when planned out or done in a series is likened to extended fly paper, where ideas stick and develop over time, resulting in a comprehensive and enriching message. Make sure to always be noting down and adding on those shower thoughts and incites from times of prayer! By revisiting and internalizing sermon outlines regularly, we can enhance the clarity and depth of our message, ensuring it resonates with the audience long after delivery.

One of the most transformative aspects of sermon delivery is the power of relatability and emotional connection. Crafting our outlines with a focus on relational and emotional engagement, sharing personal anecdotes, and addressing pertinent questions can captivate listeners. I emphasized the need to rely on the Holy Spirit's guidance for impactful delivery, drawing inspiration from biblical examples of effective communication:

Acts 14:1 “At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There they spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed.”
1 Peter 4:11 “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.”
Ephesians 6:19-20 “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.”

In closing, I emphasized the importance of clarity, conviction, and directness in sermon delivery. By embracing relatability, harnessing the power of preparation, and relying on the Holy Spirit's guidance, speakers can deliver sermons that inspire, challenge, and transform lives. As speakers strive to connect with their audience, may we continue to refine our delivery, bringing the timeless truths of scripture to life with clarity and conviction.

Check out the youtube videos for more specific tips on leveraging your messages to be transformative!

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