Basics of Sermon Preparation

What Are the Essentials?

Sermon preparation can be a tedious task. We want our communication to engage our listeners, but we also want to be true to the text. In the process of a weekly routine, what can pastors do to remain obedient to their call and faithful in preaching rightly the Word of God? Pastors Mike Bullmore, Bryan Chapell, and Alistair Begg consider their extensive experience to share some methods they have found helpful, all the while underscoring the unchanging building blocks of effective sermon preparation.

Mike Bullmore is Senior Pastor of CrossWay Community Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Bryan Chapell is the Senior Pastor of Grace Presbyterian Church in Peoria, Illinois and former Chancellor of Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. Alistair Begg is the Senior Pastor of Parkside Church near Cleveland, Ohio

What do you consider the basics of sermon preparation? What are some of the essentials you include each week? In light of this discussion, do you see any changes you need to make? If so, what are they?
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Each of the pastors mentioned prayer as their starting place. How have you included the discipline of prayer in your preparation? How do you set aside time to be with God in this way? How does it affect your approach?
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Alistair said he likes to consider the original languages in his preparation. While this requires a certain faculty with Greek and Hebrew, there are numerous opportunities available for learning. How comfortable are you with the languages? Do you know how to use the tools? If not, is there someone you could reach out to in order to consider learning how to utilize this area of study?
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Sermon preparation must begin with prayerful exegesis, but commentaries can serve as resources that check and inform our initial conclusions about the text. How do you incorporate commentaries into your preparation? In what ways do they enhance it? Can you see any ways they could inhibit the process? If so, how?
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Alistair shared a simple "menu" that he follows when studying to preach a text. He asks three questions:
  1. What?—Identify the main idea of the passage.
  2. So what?—Explain the purpose of the passage.
  3. Now what?—Apply the passage to your specific context.
These help guide the process while providing a contextual bridge between the biblical text and a modern congregation.

What measures do you take to ensure you are not, as Bryan said, preaching "a dead- or distant-man's sermon"? In other words, as you prepare to preach a passage, how do you work to apply it specifically to your context? Do you know other pastors who are more skilled in their ability to apply a text than you? What steps could you take towards connecting with them for help in this area in the coming weeks?
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The purpose of preaching is to point others to Christ, not to draw attention to ourselves as effective communicators. Nonetheless, in today's age of soundbites and celebrities, the temptation for performance is very real. Resist the impulse to cut corners by jumping to commentaries and recycling material other pastors have delivered. Instead, create space to dwell richly in God's Word and allow Him to minister to your heart that you might deliver conviction and truth to those God has placed in your midst.

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