Steps in Sermon Prep
Dear Preacher/Bible Teacher,
What are your steps in sermon/teaching preparation? Hopefully,
you pray fervently about the text on which you are going to preach, you
look carefully at the text (first in the original languages, if
possible) and compare translations, you see how the text is
mentioned/developed in the rest of Scripture, and you see how the text
directly relates to Christ and His gospel. Then, you look to sound
commentaries to see how other faithful preachers/teachers have
understood the text throughout history. Finally, you consider how the
text applies to your particular audience: what are the most likely
concerns/misunderstandings/areas of disobedience that confront your
congregation or class?
May I suggest an additional step in preparation?
Before you preach/teach the text, evangelize
Takin' It to the Streets
You want your congregation/class to 'put feet to their faith:' don't just tell them, show them
As a regular part of your sermon/teaching preparation, I would encourage you to make use of the text you're studying in evangelism
[that is, OUTSIDE the walls of the church-building]. This may be done in several different ways, such as:
1. Street preaching
(if you live in Louisville, you may be
encouraged in street preaching through looking up the "Unplugged
Gospel" group on Facebook).
2. Speaking with friends about the text
(especially if you are bi-vocational, you can discuss the text with friends/co-workers who are not Christian: you may get some blank stares at first, but hopefully it will promote some good questions/conversation).
3. Personal evangelism
(whether door-to-door, visiting
people who have visited your church, or conversations with strangers on
the sidewalk, don't just use a scripted conversation from someone else,
'write' your own 'script,' starting with the passage you have been
Now, obviously, if you are a full-time pastor and preach 3+
distinct sermons a week, there may be some texts that you honestly don't
have time to employ in evangelism outside the church before you preach
them, but let this be the exception, rather than the rule.
Also, if you are preaching through books of the Bible
verse-by-verse (or section-by-section/chapter-by-chapter depending on
the type of literature): an excellent idea, there will be some
verses/sections/chapters that do not lend themselves so easily to
evangelism, but these parts of Scripture are, of course, organically
connected to texts that are
excellent for evangelism. Commit to evangelize with the text, and then skip a little ahead if you must!
In addition to the most obvious benefits--glorifying Christ in
gospel proclamation, the possible eternal salvation of the person you
are evangelizing, and your own reward in Heaven for being faithful in
evangelism-- [worthy enough motives indeed!], there are numerous other
benefits to using your text in evangelism before preaching/teaching the
text, such as:
1. Urgency in your message
. You may
know that most of your congregants/class members are fellow believers,
and it may be easy to become complacent about the fact that the words in
Scripture are the necessary words of life. Speaking with those outside
the church about the text may give you a sense of urgency about the
vital matters either in your text or related to it.
2. Clarity in your message
. Communicating with those who
may not be used to a church environment will help you to communicate in
such a way so as not to assume a great deal of background knowledge on
the part of your hearers: knowledge that is increasingly uncommon in our
biblically illiterate culture anyway.
3. Christ-focus in your message
. On the road to Emmaus,
Christ taught His unwitting disciples about Himself from "Moses and all
the Prophets" (Luke 24:27). It is the job of the preacher/Bible teacher
to not only teach concepts, but to point people to the living Lord Jesus
from whatever text is studied. Using your text in evangelism outside the church
you to examine how your text leads people to Christ and His gospel.
4. Anticipating objections to your message
. "The Bible says it, that settles it:" for the preacher/Bible teacher who trusts in Christ, who Himself taught the infallibility of every letter of Scripture (Matt 5:18), this statement is-- in a real sense-- our creed. But for those who are outside of Christ, there are many parts of Scripture that are offensive or objectionable (i.e., virtually everything except Matt 7:1 and 1 John 4:8b). Your congregation/class will be influenced by worldly attitudes toward Bible teaching and/or regularly encounter those who are hostile towards right doctrine. If you are regularly using the texts you teach in evangelism outside the church, you can gain first-hand knowledge of how non-Christians react to those texts, and you can better consider how to equip your congregation/class to deal with objections.