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John R.W. Stott
on sermon preparation
Choose Your Text : It is best to rely on expository
book studies for the steady diet of your people. However,
the following may be occasions for special sermons: Special
calendar occasions: Christmas, Easter, etc. Special external
circumstances which are in the public mind. Special needs
discerned by the preacher or others. Truths which have specially
inspired the preacher. Keep a notebook to scribble down
ideas for sermons, insights, burdens, illustrations, etc.
Record them immediately wherever they come to mind, because
you will usually forget them later.
Meditate on the Text :
Whenever possible, plan out texts weeks or months in advance.
This gives the benefit of "subconscious incubation". Concentrated
"incubation" should begin at least one week before
preaching. It should involve the following: Read, re-read
& re-read the text. Be sure you understand what it means.
Do your own interpretive work. Never use commentaries until
you have formulated specific interpretive questions which
you have been unable to answer, or until you have completed
your interpretive work. Brood longer over how it applies
to your people, to the culture, to you, etc. All the while,
pray for God to illuminate the text, especially its application.
All the while, scribble down notes of thoughts, ideas, etc.
Solicit the insights of others through tapes, talking with
other preachers, etc.
Isolate the Dominant Thought
: Your sermon should convey only one major message. All
of the details of your sermon should be marshaled to help
your people grasp that message and feel its power. You should
be able to express the dominant thought in one short, clear,
Arrange Your Material to Serve the Dominant Thought :
Chisel and shape your material. Ruthlessly discard all material
which is irrelevant to the dominant thought. Subordinate
the remaining material to the dominant thought by using
that material to illuminate and reinforce the dominant thought.
Your sermon structure should be suited to the text, not
artificially imposed. Avoid structure which is too clever,
prominent or complex. Decide on your method of preaching
for this text: argumentation, faceting, categorizing, analogy,
etc. Carefully choose words that are precise, simple, clear,
vivid and honest. Write out the keys sections, phrases,
and sentences to help you in your word choice. Stick to
short declarative and interrogative sentences with few,
if any, subordinate clauses. Come up with illustrations
and examples which will explain and convict. Employ a wide
variety: figures of speech, images, retelling biblical stories
in contemporary language, inventing fresh parables, retelling
true historical and/or biographical events, etc. Keep a
file of these, especially if they do not come easily to
you. Avoid making illustrations and examples so prominent
that they detract from the dominant thought. Also avoid
applying them inappropriately or overusing them.
Add the Introduction and Conclusion
: The introduction should not be elaborate, but enough to
arouse their curiosity, whet their appetites and introduce
the dominant thought. This can be done by a variety of means:
explaining the setting of the passage, story, current event
or issue, etc. The conclusion should not merely recapitulate
your sermon - it should apply it. Obviously, you should
be applying all along, but you should keep something for
the end which will prevail upon your people to take action.
"No summons, no sermon". Preach though the head
to the heart (i.e. the will). The goal of the sermon should
be to "storm the citadel of the will and capture it
for Jesus Christ". WHAT DO YOU WANT THEM TO DO? Employ
a variety of methods to do this: Argument: anticipate objections
and refute them. Admonition: warn of the consequences of
disobedience. Indirect Conviction: arouse moral indignation
and then turn it on them (Nathan with David). Pleading:
apply the gentle pressure of God's love, concern for their
well-being, and the needs of others. Vision: paint a picture
of what is possible through obedience God in this area.
Write Down and Pray Over Your Message
: Writing out your sermon forces you to think straight and
sufficiently. It exposes lazy thinking and cures it. After
you are thoroughly familiar with your outline, reduce it
to small notes. Pray that God will enable you to "so
possess the message that the message possesses you."
from John R. W. Stott, Between Two Worlds (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1982), pp. 211-216.
by Michael E. Buffaloe (my son, my heart)
sixty years in the ministry, Doctor Louis Arnold has held
meetings in everything from small country churches to city
wide meetings in large tents and auditoriums. He has pastored,
organized and built churches, held meetings in foreign lands,
preached on radio daily for more than 50 years. Thousands
have been saved under his ministry. He preaches with wit,
humor, pathos, and power. In addition to his own broadcast,
"Preaching at Your House," he preached for 21
years on "The Voice of the Appalachians" broadcast,
founded by the late Dr. B. R. Lakin. He has been written
up by the Associated Press and in numerous papers and magazines,
and is listed in "Who's Who in America." He has
been a pastor, a church organizer and builder, a radio preacher,
a missionary, an author, an editor, and an evangelist. For
a time he flew his own airplane, commuting between churches,
flying to meetings, and preaching from the air over a powerful
amplifier. Many were saved as a result of his preaching
from the air. Since 1972 Dr. Arnold has been a full-time
evangelist. He continues to be active in revivals, conferences,
and weekend meetings.
by Henry Ward Beecher
by his contemporaries as one of the greatest, if not the
greatest, preachers of his day, Beecher was often called
the "American Spurgeon". I would not go that
far, but Beecher did have a fine, analytical mind - and
that definitely impacted his sermons. He was an apologist
in a time when Science, exploding on the American scene,
sought to challenge all things religious. His sermons
are controversial, but sure to make you think.
by Horatius Bonar
"The prince of Scottish hymn writers" is best
known for writing poems and hymns. He wrote well over 600
hymns of which more than 100 are still in use today, such
as "What A Friend We Have In
Jesus," and " I Heard
The Voice Of Jesus Say". He was also a minister
in the Free Church of Scotland. He studied at Edinburgh,
became a minister at Kelso in 1837, preached at the Chalmers
Memorial Church in Edinburgh in 1866, and with his congregation
joined the Free Church in 1843. He maintained an active
and powerful ministry for more than half a century. Bonar
was a quiet preacher, avoiding all sensationalism. He was
characterized by a calm, patient, sincere, and solemn demeanor.
Bonar sang of his Christ: "Glory
be to Him who loved us, washed us from each spot and stain.
Glory be to Him who bought us, made us kings with Him to
reign! Glory, glory, to the Lamb that once was slain!"
by William Booth (founder Salvation Army)
William Booth never intended to found a great movement,
nor did he intend to become involved with social action.
He was an evangelist, and it was his concern for souls that
led him to be concerned for the physical needs of men. He
told his followers to "Go for souls, and go for the
worst". He believed that all men were infected with
sin and were condemned to a fiery Hell without the salvation
provided by Jesus Christ. Further, he believed that the
saved person would act saved. In one of his sermons he stated:
"Sin is a real thing, a
damnable thing. I don't care what the scientists call it,
or what some of the pulpits are calling it. I know what
it is. Sin is devilish. It is sin and sin only which prevents
the world from being happy. Sin! Go into the slums of the
great cities, pick up little girls six years of age, sold
into infamy by their parents. Look at the drunken mother
murdering her own child. Look at the father, strapping his
crippled boy. Sin! ... something beastly, and filthy, and
by Charles Reynolds Brown
R. Brown pastored Churches from the east to the west coast
of the United States. He was named one of the twenty-five
most influential preachers of his time (1924). He served
as Dean of the Yale Divinity School. Though Brown preached
from the Scriptures, some of his sermons seem quite liberal.
He did not believe that Jonah was swallowed by a great fish
- he thought this to be no more than a parable. Though liberal
(or perhaps the label "moderate" would be better),
his sermons are well arranged, and make good Scriptural
points. Be aware, though, that I am
neither liberal nor moderate in my theology :-0
Bunyan was a living example of 1 Peter 3:1-2, which
says "Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to
your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they
also may without the word be won by the conversation of
the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled
with fear." Bunyan was, quite plainly, a hell-raiser
prior to his marriage, but this young woman powerfully influenced
him to seek out Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior. After
his salvation, Bunyan became a member of the Bedford Baptist
Church (1653), and later felt led of the Lord into the ministry.
Under the "Act of Uniformity" Bunyan was required
to register as a minister with the state church. He refused
to do this, and consequently was thrown into prison for
some twelve years. Yet he preached, even in prison - the
jailers often allowed him to go into the woods and preach,
as long as he returned to prison afterward. Eventually
Bunyan became pastor of the Bedford Baptist Church.
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