Most weeks, pastors have to preach a sermon. In addition to worship planning, it’s the most predictable part of our work. Whatever happens, you know you have to get up there and say something. Some weeks it’s a challenge.
Here are three basic questions to ask when you are preparing to preach. For most of you, these will be nothing new. However, it may be a good reminder as you go about the task of preaching. It’s easy to forget when you are pressed for time. However, they can help you most during a busy week.
(For those of you who were on my group coaching call last week, the questions below may sound familiar…)
If you regularly ask these questions, your preaching will be more focused and more relevant.
Why? What is the purpose of this sermon?
Where do you want people to be by at the end of the sermon? Of course, you can’t control how they respond to the message, but you can craft the sermon to make it more likely some at least will get there. What is going on in church life right now? Where are you in the church year, and the overall ministry plan of the church?
What? What is the central message of the text as you are living with it through the week?
What is God saying to you as you live with it, and what do you want to say to your people? Find one clear sentence that expresses what you want to offer to them.
How? What are the ways you will communicate that message to YOUR congregation?
You know that stories are one of the best ways to communicate – which ones will you use: Biblical stories? Your own stories (Yes, talk about yourself, but not too much). Theirs (with permission)? Stand with them allowing the text to address you along with them, as Walter Brueggemann recommended. How long will the message be? (I once saw James Forbes give a 16-point sermon on Nehemiah. It worked. I’m not that skilled, and you probably aren’t, either).
I know you can’t always thoughtfully craft a sermon. Some weeks just don’t go that way. Do your best. When I was preaching weekly, I found that thinking through some of these questions the week before the week I wrote the sermon helped me a lot. Something goes on in the back of your mind over time, even when you aren’t working on it.
What do you find helps you to think through the sermon?
Here’s another post on how to preach like a leader.