How to Prepare a Sermon: Seven Steps

How do you prepare sermons? I hear the question fairly often. And, of course, there are whole books written to answer this question, and some very good ones, too. My method is not the only one to use, and, in fact, I rarely follow every step in full detail. The preparation of each sermon is unique, depending on multiple factors, including how well I know the text, whether I've preached on it before, and the amount of time I have to prepare. Nevertheless, there are several deeply etched grids in my mind that help me think through the crafting of a sermon. This is my best attempt to put these grids together into a brief and simple process for preparing a sermon.

Seven Steps to Preparing a Sermon

“The meaning of the passage is the message of the sermon.” (Bryan Chapell)

1. Choose and Read the Text

• Choose which text (or texts) you will be preaching on.

• Begin by reading the text devotionally, asking God to speak to you from the passage.

• Read the text for depth.

• Read with others.

2. Interpret the Text

• Study the background and context of the book

• Read the text multiple times

• Outline the text

• Answer five key questions (The first three are from Stephen Olford, the last two are adapted from the teaching of people like Bryan Chapell and Mike Bullmore)

i. What is the dominating theme?

ii. What are the integrating thoughts?

iii. What is the motivating thrust?

iv. What is the fallen condition?

v. What is the gospel solution?

• Ask if your interpretation is faithful to the text, harmonizes with other Scripture, and faithfully points people to Christ.

• Check your interpretation with one or two good commentaries.

3. Explain the Text

a. Craft the main focus (central proposition, thesis statement) of the sermon.

• The dominating theme and motivating thrust of the text should inform the main focus of the sermon

• Form the main focus of the sermon by joining the theme of the passage with the need of the listener.

b. Craft the Main Points

• The main points should be based on the integrating thoughts in the passage.

• The main points should clearly communicate the main focus of the sermon.

• The main points should unfold the fallen condition and gospel solution of the sermon.

4. Apply the Text

• As a general rule, you should try to apply each point of the sermon.

• Think about the people you will be preaching to. Consider their life situations, spiritual conditions, and learning styles.

• Ask what claim does this passage make on the listener?

5. Illustrate the Sermon

• As a general rule, you should try to illustrate each point of the sermon.

• Do not illustrate with another verse (cross-references are a part of explanation, not illustration)

• Use a story, example, word-picture, or analogy to help people understand the point. The purpose of an illustration is to “shed light” on the meaning of the passage and stir the imagination of the listener.

• Illustrate your applications.

6. Write the Conclusion and Introduction

a. Write the Conclusion

• Drive home the claim of your sermon with the accumulative weight of the Word of God

• Point people to Christ and the gospel as the solution to their fallen condition

• Call for a personal response; plead for a verdict!

b. Write the Introduction

• Write the introduction last.

• Use the introduction to arrest the attention of your listeners and show them their need for God’s Word.

7. Finalize the Sermon

• Review the key questions (see step 2 above)

• Briefly write out the sermon’s flow of thought.

• Review and rewrite as needed – to heighten the tension the sermon seeks to resolve and to make the sermon more relational, simple, and practical.

• Pray before delivering the sermon, giving thought to the people you are speaking to and asking for the Holy Spirit’s help.

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