I have been preaching sermons for almost twenty years. Hopefully my skills have developed during that time. I know that I have learned a lot, both through the good responses and the less than good responses.
How do I write a sermon?
It is slightly different if I am writing a sermon for a church I am pastoring or one that I am a guest preacher at. I may not have opportunities to preach a series as a guest and I may be able to retool an older sermon.
I will share how I go about writing a sermon in the context of being the regular pastor.
- I prepare for sermons in two ways. The first is by reading widely all the time. If you check the books I am reading at the bottom of this blog, you will see I read different types of books. I also listen to a wide variety of podcasts. I consider this all part of my preparation even if I do not have a particular sermon in mind.
- When I preach, I am aiming at a particular goal. I strongly believe in preaching a series to work toward that goal. That may be preaching through a book or it may be preaching on different passages that are related by some theme.
- Do I preach expository or topical sermons? I prefer expository sermons but I am not against topical sermons on occasion. There may be something happening in the culture or community that needs to be addressed. Still I will aim for expository sermons as much as I can.
- Having decided on a series, I break down each sermon according to how it will have a unique voice toward a common goal.
- Having my passage, I read the passage over a number of times, including the paragraphs before and after for context. I often read the passage in a number of translations. If I have the time I may translate from the Hebrew or Greek myself. I do not mention this in the sermon but I have found that this helps me to understand the passage better.
- I then go to the commentaries after I have an idea what the passage is saying. Never go to the commentaries first. Wondering what are good commentaries? Check out this site.
- I then structure my sermon. I do this in different ways. I am old fashioned in that I often fall back on three points (my homiletics professor stressed that a sermon should have at least one point!). Sometimes I structure it by looking at one aspect of the passage and then looking at what that looks like today and then repeating that one or two more times.
- I include some illustrations. Sometimes it is a number of short illustrations. I may also include a longer story. I know that some preachers believe we should just let the Bible speak for itself. Still, a good illustration may help the congregation to hear the Bible clearly. I usually use illustrations from my own life but do include historical illustrations as well.
- I try to be careful with humour. A well planned laugh can be good but I do not include formal jokes. There is a danger that the congregation will hear the joke and not the sermon. I often look for a humorous twist at something I would say anyway or poke a bit of fun at myself (this can be taken too far).
- I then write out the sermon in full manuscript form. I do not take the manuscript to the pulpit, but having the sentences written out helps in my delivery and it gives me something to post on my blog.
I hope this helps you if you are just starting out in preaching. If you do something different, I would love to hear from you.