When I met with one of the faculty as I began my studies at McMaster Divinity College twenty years ago, I made it clear that I wanted to be a pastor but I didn’t want to preach. Ironically, writing and preaching sermons are now one my favourite activities as a pastor.
Much of the work for preaching takes place before I step up to the pulpit or even before I sit down to my computer. Here are five things I do for sermon preparation.
- I read the passage. Sometimes I translate it from Hebrew or Greek (I don’t do that as often as I would like). I may read it in multiple translations.
- I read relevant commentaries. Some people criticize commentaries in Bible interpretation but I find them helpful. If you are looking to find out what commentaries you should be reading, this site is very helpful.
- I study my congregation. I don’t see my sermons as a series of Bible lectures. I am trying to bridge the gap between the Scriptures and the congregation. To do that, I need to know where my congregation is at.
- I read widely and listen to podcasts on a range of subjects. I consider my ongoing learning as a part of my sermon preparation, even though I might not know what piece of learning will go with what sermon.
- I reflect on my experiences. Many of my illustrations are related to the things that have happened to me. I regularly reflect on what is happening to me now, as well as past experiences, and how these experiences connect with the Scriptures.
Bonus Item: This is something that is not tacked on but is supposed to be connected to the other five. Prayer. Prayer should be part of sermon preparation from the selection of the passage to the writing of the sermon to the preaching of the message. I have tried preaching without prayer and it doesn’t work.