Sermons are designed to change lives and to spark motivation in the sin sick soul to give themselves over to the only one who can save, Jesus Christ. Sermons are also designed to give strength to those in the Church of Jesus Christ who have been wearied by life’s experiences and through the valleys they have been through. With a few things said about sermons if one word could sum that all up the word might very well be “important.” With such importance being laid on sermons by God the Father one must spend time developing their ability to write one and construct one. It’s been said that a sermon is only a sermon after it has been delivered and shared with the audience in which it was supposed to be delivered. There are many things to say about a sermon, but what about the preacher?
Before one can preach one must be sent. The Bible tells us all about men and women of God who were telling people the message of God, but first they encountered the God of the message. God calls men and women today to do the same thing, share His message of salvation to those he/she encounters. God calls us as preachers today to build up the Church of Jesus Christ and help all of those around us through the gift of speaking. Ephesians 4:12-13 tells us the initial purpose of the preaching and preacher: “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” The Minister must be well equipped to preach the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and Paul the Apostle put Timothy his son in the faith in great remembrance of that many times. We as preachers of the Gospel must first be right with God in order to get others to the right place with God. Preachers usually can preach their life stories along with their message and reach the audience, because we are not that far apart, from the pulpit to the pews. Jonah preached repentance immediately after he himself had to go and repent to God after rebelling against Gods plan and purpose for his life. God uses the preacher to preach, but God wants the preacher to be His kid, His child, His blood bought saint and without that, preaching is in vain.
When it comes to sermon choices, it’s easy for us to automatically pick something we know of, something we are “more experienced” in, something that would make us get rid of our notes, but God doesn’t always do what we want Him to do. It’s important to remember the scripture found in Isaiah 55:8-9 even in preaching which reads “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” For one to think they can just automatically pick a sermon and write on it is preposterous. The Lord sometimes will use a sermon text that you have little “experience” in, in order to grab the attention of someone who has little experience in Him. We cannot just stand firm in our resolution to make our own sermon choices; we have to allow God Himself the space in our heart to turn our hearts towards His Word and His own choice for a sermon text. We can’t have a clinched fist and closed heart when we desire to prepare a sermon, we must give God the opportunity through prayer and personal study to direct, lead and guide the preacher to the right preaching text by His Holy Spirit. Simply put James Forbes says: “To be sure, we as preachers must enter a contract with the Spirit. We have to agree to cooperate and allow ourselves to be used by the Spirit.”
When it comes to sermon preparation, studying the Word of God is important. However, we can easily forget we need others assistance as well. When we come into the truth of God’s Word, God promised that He Himself personally sent teachers to help equip us (preachers) to preach and teach the truth of God’s Word more effectively. God uses people to help people. God has anointed people to write commentaries, without a few good commentaries the preaching we have may not be as effective, we may be able to move a crowd, but God sees importance in feeding the soul. Jesus told Peter to “feed the sheep” and that is indeed what we must do “feed the sheep.” Commentaries are great aids to help us in developing our own personal life thus they will be of great need in our personal sermon preparation. I personally believe commentaries are the most important part apart from personal prayer and study of the text yourself. Charles Spurgeon says: “In order to be able to expound the Scriptures, and as an aid to your pulpit studies, you will need to be familiar with the commentators: a glorious army let me tell you, whose acquaintance will be your delight and profit.” Along with commentaries we should grab hold of a good Bible dictionary as well, we should delve at times into the Greek and Hebrew words to get a fuller and more developed understanding of what was “really said” and “how it really was supposed to be told.” God uses tools and we today in 2013 have those tools readily available. There is something called “e-Sword” online that will bless any student of the Bible and especially the preacher of the Bible, it has tons of free downloads, commentaries, dictionaries, maps and resources, within the vault of information found on e-Sword the preacher will be blessed. We need tools and God has given us those tools through the internet, through the local book store, through the Pastors library and through us. What we know now, we must tell someone soon. Paul said it best in 2 Timothy 2:15 “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Study to give glory to God, rightly divide the truth and preach the Gospel! Again Paul reminds us in 2 Timothy 4:2 “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”
Most of the time preachers have one of two ways of developing sermons, topical or expositional. Topical sermons are done by “topics.” Expositional sermons are more intense and intrinsic towards the Word of God. Topical sermons can be on “what to do when you backslide,” “how to get from A to B with God,” “how to be free from a sinful addiction,” “how to pray for people,” etc. etc. Expositional sermons sometimes go into actually breaking down entire chapters verse by verse. Expositional preaching a lot of times is extremely similar to Bible study teaching. Expositional can take a long time, some Pastors can expositionally preach through the entire Bible while other Pastors topically preach every week and can have a sermon series, but it’s usually not longer than 4-8 weeks. However, you can incorporate expositional preaching and topical preaching at the same time. Expositional and topical sermons are great ways to captivate the heart and mind of the hearer, but it’s also important to remember, “Is it relevant?” Does the message really matter? Do people go through “this” these days? It’s always important to get a good outlook of the sermon, thinking about it in various ways, after-all you are the preacher, if it doesn’t make sense to you, I doubt it will with anyone else.
Before you read too far into the fundamentals of sermon preparation, it’s also important to remember the most important thing, prayer. Before the preacher can preach the preacher must first pray. Prayer is our communication with God and it’s also Gods way of directing and communicating with us. God can direct the preacher through his personal prayer life. Preaching isn’t preaching until serious intercessory prayer is on the line. Souls literally “hang in the balance” of heaven and hell when a sermon is prepared and preached, it’s serious and the most important thing we can do with something so serious is to “give it to God” and we do that through prayer. God will take our prayer time and use our devotional time as well. God wants the preacher to study for himself not for others. Too often we get pulled into the clutches of Ministry and only study the Bible to get a message or to get a sermon or to have some great knowledge of the Bible in case someone asks us a question, but God doesn’t desire that. God wants the preacher to learn about Christ first and then go out and teach about Christ. We can’t forget about studying the Bible for ourselves, we need that personal time with God where we are one on one with Him and through that we will develop our messages, determine what illustrations we use and see who our audience is.
There are many other things that someone should be concerned about when preaching the Gospel, but one is greatly important, illustrations! Without a good illustration the people may forget what the purpose was. Ask The LORD to show you some way to visually demonstrate what the sermon was about or how it can relate into the lives of the Christian hearers. The truth is, people want sermons that stick, ones that last, ones that are memorable and not just to say “that was a great sermon” but “I learned how to apply Gods literal word to my life today.” That’s what we need to bring to the people, life application, that’s what is missing these days and that’s what illustrations can do, they can bring life application to the mind of a person and make them say “oh, that’s how that relates to my life.” Ask God for illustrations, find out ways to make the prodigal son real, find ways to make fishing for men more than just “you go share the Gospel with someone,” find ways to make Jonah’s rebellion not just a big whale, tell others about your own rebellion and the “whale” that you were in, be it financially, spiritually, emotionally, etc. etc. God will use what you have been through to get to the minds of your hearers, so don’t despise the days of small beginnings! Chuck Swindoll says “A room full of seminary students will have different needs from a Sunday morning congregation. A story that resonates with a group of single mothers would fall flat when addressing a men’s group.” In short, it’s vitally important whenever we can to have something that will grasp the ears of those who are hearing the sermon. It’s one thing to be educated scripturally in the Bible, but it’s another thing through pride of having to show that education in the message. God wants His people to hear the Gospel in simple terms; terms so simple that you could relate them like Him “the birds of the air have nests…..” When you are preparing your sermon, make sure you check the framework and context of the message and say “if I was a new Christian or even an experienced one, would I know what I just read and heard?”
When it comes to qualifications to the Ministry, few people have them; actually we don’t have qualifications! Nobody is qualified to preach or Pastor a Church! We can’t be qualified because we would boast, we would glory in the sight of God and God is completely against boasting. When we think of things that are needed for sermon preparation and ministry, we need to remember that there is one ingredient that will make the preaching all the more effective, inadequacy! If we stand in a pulpit and people can see the pride on our faces and hearts it’s a bad thing. Anytime we think “I can do this on my own” we are in quicksand and don’t even know it. God uses those people who have nothing to offer in order to through them offer hearers the purpose of life, Jesus the Christ and the value/offer of Eternity, Heaven. God uses people who are inadequate, so throughout all these ways and formulas we see valuable insight, but the most valuable thing is your inability to do something, we should shake at the thought of preaching anything about God. Most of us can get a good conversation started and that’s great, but when it comes to adding the Gospel to our lips we shouldn’t stand in full “reliance upon what we already know” we need God, we need Jesus Christ, we need His Holy Spirit. When we come into the agreement with God that we are but dust and ashes and stand before God as broken vessels, He will make the Ministry successful. James Forbes says it like this “But the anointing of the Spirit undoubtedly assists us and makes the difference in the overall preaching process.” In other words, when it’s time to preach, don’t just go preach, go pray, go study your Bible, you go and worship God and let God direct you as you follow Him. God Bless!
Spurgeon, Charles. Lectures to my Students. Hendrickson Publishers Marketing. Peabody, MA. 2012. Print.
Forbes, James. The Holy Spirit and Preaching. Abingdon Press. Nashville, TN. 1989. Print.
Swindoll, Charles. Touching Other with Your Words: The Art and Practice of Successful Speaking. FaithWords. New York, NY. 2012. Print.
 Forbes, James. The Holy Spirit and Preaching. Abingdon Press. Nashville, TN. 1989. Print. (p 83)
 Spurgeon, Charles. Lectures to my Students. Hendrickson Publishers Marketing. Peabody, MA. 2012. Print. (p. 563)
 Swindoll, Charles. Touching Other with Your Words: The Art and Practice of Successful Speaking. FaithWords. New York, NY. 2012. Print. (p. 111)
 Forbes, James. The Holy Spirit and Preaching. Abingdon Press. Nashville, TN. 1989. Print. (p. 76)