Many young men are asked to prepare and deliver a sermon, but few are given any help or guidelines. This short tract is designed to give some advice they might find helpful.
The man who is asked to give a message must make sure he does his homework. There is no point in trying to give a message if you are not willing to take the time to learn the Word. You must take time to learn the Word before you are asked to preach. We remember the words of our Lord when He said, “For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” ( Luke 6:45) If you are storing up the Word in your heart, reading it and studying it in your day to day life, you will always have something to share with the believers. George Muller once stated, “The Lord always helps me when I preach, provided I have earnestly sought Him in private.”
How long will it take you to prepare your message? Of course, this will vary with the preachers experience. In his book “Biblical Sermons”, Haddon Robinson interviews 12 preachers. On average these experienced preachers spend over 16 hours preparing for each sermon. This does not include time they spend in their own personal reading. If you agree to preach a sermon, you are committing yourself to doing a significant amount of studying and preparation. Studying the Bible should follow a three step process; read the Bible, interpret the Bible, and apply the Bible.
You should read the Bible in a number of responsible translations. Do not develop a sermon based on the way a single translation expresses a verse. Read slowly and read repetitively. Try to understand what the passage is actually saying.
The second step is to interpret the Bible. This is the process of understanding what the passage actually means. The most drastic errors of application come from people who ignore the step of interpretation. Consider the context of a passage and compare Scripture with Scripture. Make use of a good set of cross references. Compare and contrast with other passages.
Finally, apply the Scriptures. This is the process of helping the believer to decide what he or she should do in response to the Scripture. Do not attempt to apply the Scripture until you have interpreted it.
Many preachers like to start their sermon with an illustration or joke. Illustrations and humour can be used to drive home a point and hold people’s attention. Just remember that you are there to preach the Word of God and not to entertain.
Each sermon should have a clearly defined introduction, body and conclusion. The introduction should be designed to grab and hold the listeners attention. The body of the sermon can have one or more points. Many preachers like to give a 3 point sermon. While I would hesitate to suggest that a 3 point sermon is the format that every preacher should follow, I think that some preachers would benefit from preparing 3 point sermons because their messages lack cohesive structure.
In each sermon, the preacher should have one point that he seeks to drive home to his audience. State this point, repeat it and demonstrate how everything you say relates to this point. One sermon I heard was on the necessity of personal witnessing. The body of the sermon had many points, but the speaker brought every point home to the fact that each of us should be witnessing. It was one of the finest sermons I have ever heard.
Each sermon should have a definite end. For the audience, there is nothing worse than thinking that a message is coming to an end and then having it continue.
If you find that you do not have time to preach all the material you have prepared, cut some material out and go to your conclusion. Regrettably, many preachers start to run out of time, fly through the last half of their sermon and then end without any real conclusion. A preacher can avoid this problem if he practices his message and knows exactly how long it is. The preacher should stick to the time which he is given. Young men should make a special effort to finish on time.
The preacher must receive his sermon from the Bible, and not read his sermon into the Bible. The preacher exists to explain a text or topic. He should not decide what he wants to preach on and then go looking for a text to support his opinions. The text is not a springboard for whatever topic you wish to preach on.
There are a number of different types of sermons. An expository message takes a passage of Scripture and seeks to explain it. The topical sermon traces a topic through the Scriptures. A biographical sermon follows the life of someone found in the Scripture and seeks to learn what lessons we can from their life. An evangelistic message seeks to explain to the audience what they must know to be saved. A type of evangelistic message is the testimony. An exhortatory message will seek to move the believers to a deeper obedience of the Scriptures. The young preacher should experiment with a variety of styles.
Each believer has a spiritual gift (1 Cor 12:7). A young man with a gift of teaching, exhortation or evangelism may be called upon to preach a sermon. The content of the sermon will likely depend on a man’s spiritual gift.
How does one choose a topic to preach on? Sometimes a topic will be assigned by the Elders. If you have the freedom to choose your own topic, spend a great deal of time in prayer. At the same time, make sure that you are reading and studying the Bible. Often, your own readings will lead you a topic you should preach on. Ask yourself what the audience needs to hear.
When preparing for a message, study the word for yourself. This will take considerable time. Take time to meditate over the Word. Don’t start by digging through commentaries and listening to audio tapes of messages other people have given on the same topic. Do not plagiarize. Do not present another man’s message. We have all learned from good teachers of the word. What we learn may excite us and we may want to pass it along to others, but avoid the habit of preaching other people’s messages. If you must present another man’s materials, acknowledge to your audience the source of your material.
Some preachers will prepare their sermon by writing the whole sermon out long-hand. They then proceed to read it directly or memorize it and deliver it. Others will set out their sermon in point form. Some will merely write out their Scripture references in case they forget one of them. The young preacher should not attempt to give a sermon off the top of his head unless he is asked to preach at the last moment.
The young preacher would be well served to read several books on the topic of preaching. One of the best is “The Preacher and His Preaching” by Alfred P. Gibbs (Walterick Publishers). Warren and David Wiersbe have published a short book called “The Elements of Preaching” (Tyndale House). Another short booklet entitled “If Any Man Speak” was written by James Gunn and is available from Everyday Publications. Another excellent idea is to tape or videotape some of your messages and critique them at a later date. The young preacher should also listen to a number of good preachers to see what he can learn from their style and delivery. Of course the young preacher will eventually develop his own technique.