One of the greatest joys of my life is to preach the Word of God in the church. Scripture is true treasure. It reveals a beautiful Savior and a wonderful life. I am so very thankful for the privilege to preach. I usually spend 10-20 hours on a sermon per week. This might sound contradictory, but while I am grateful and happy to preach and I love the beneficial nature of it, I must admit that it has always been taxing, terrifying and humiliating to prepare sermons. Here are the basic elements of my sermon research process:
Sermon Research Process:
I. Study the text
1. Read the text ten times, listen to it ten times on audio and prayerfully meditate on it before extensive study begins.
2. Identify who is speaking and who is being spoken to.
3. Outline the text. In expository preaching one of the primary objectives is for the sermon to derive its outline, emphasis and message from the text itself.
4. Identify important words in the text, and document where else these words are used and their lexical meaning.
5. Explain the historical locations mentioned in the passage by identifying where they are on the map, where they are referred to in other places in Scripture and why they are mentioned in this particular text.
6. Explain the identity of the people mentioned in the text, where they are found elsewhere in Scripture, and why they are mentioned in this particular text.
7. List the images and metaphors mentioned in the text.
8. Name the main themes.
9. Recently I have been listening to sermons on my text.
II. Understand the context
1. Explain the immediate context of the passage in terms of flow of thought and message.
2. Explain the wider context of the passage in terms of the flow of thought and message.
3. Explain the immediate historical context of the passage.
4. Explain the wider historical context of the passage.
III. Examine the theology
1. Identify the theological categories brought up in the text. For example, what do you learn about God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, man, sin, redemption, manhood, womanhood, childhood etc.
IV. Bridge from the text to the sermon
1. What is the dominant thought in the text? – state in one or two sentences.
2. Explain the practical contemporary importance of the passage. The text needs to be understood, and then applied to life in the 21st century.
3. What illustrations would help explain the text?
4. What practical applications and or conclusions does the text demand for the different kinds of people who will be hearing the sermon? How does it apply to Christians, non Christians, children, adults, teenagers, those in midlife, senior citizens, singles and marrieds, pregnant mothers? What is the message of the text for the libertines, legalists, rebellious, students, workers, brokenhearted, worried…?
5. Explain what happens when people ignore the message of the text.
6. Explain how is the gospel presented in the text.
7. Explain how God is good and all His ways are good.
Let me comment on the matter of research. You will always have more material that you gained from your study than you will be able to communicate to the church. This means that you always have to be disciplined to limit yourself, unless you want to preach two hour sermons every time. Here is a good explanation of how this works:
“A sermon should be like a tree… It should have deep roots: As much unseen as above the surface roots spreading as widely as its branches spread. Roots deep underground in the soil of life’s struggle in the subsoil of the eternal Word.”1
Because of this you end up with more material than you have time to communicate. So, you have to eliminate and much of your research remains underground in the root system of the sermon.
Preaching the Word of God means that you are content to be hemmed in by the text. You are not your own. You cannot bring your own message. You must wrestle with the text, with God and yourself to represent His words and messages and keep yourself out of it as much as you are able.
1. Davis, H. Grady. Design for Preaching. : Fortress Publishers, 1958. Print.
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