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.