The strength of a good sermon lies in the preparation. Though experience is its own teacher, sermon preparation will go more smoothly when a new preacher learns to use certain skills correctly. A new pastor or a lay person preparing for lay ministry can prepare an effective sermon by following these steps.
1. Pick a legitimate text. The original biblical writer wrote the text in units of thought; follow them as closely as possible and a stronger sermon will result.
2. Use inductive Bible study to explore the meaning of the text that has been selected for the sermon. Inductive Bible study is when we give careful examination of all the details of what the original writer intended to say before drawing a conclusion about the meaning of the text. Inductive Bible study begins with the parts and then moves to the whole, as opposed to starting with the whole and then examining the parts. Expository preaching allows the text to shape the sermon. Dig into the text. Analyze the parts and let the whole slowly form in your heart and mind. Even if we are using a type of sermon other than expository, we must still let the scripture fully grip our own hearts before preaching it to others.
3. As one uses inductive Bible study certain key words will begin to emerge. Focus on what those key words mean. This method allows the preacher to focus on key words that will explain the text part by part, slowly building an understanding of the whole text.
4. As we engage in inductive Bible study, we begin to discover the biblical writer’s intended theological meaning in the text. We do this by a careful analysis of all facets of the text. Only by understanding the theological meaning of the original writer will we be able to offer appropriate application of the text to a modern audience.
5. Give careful consideration of the context in which the text was originally written. Knowing the context means understanding what is said before and after the text. It also means understanding the history, local culture, economic conditions, and geographical facts. These are not just extra bits of knowledge; they are often the key to fully understanding why the author wrote what he did.
6. Remember that sermon preparation is a supernatural endeavor. We must be prayed up and confessed up, as well as studied up. Therefore, as the sermon begins to build, we must be sensitive to what the Spirit may be saying to our own hearts about the truth of the scripture we are studying.
7. As the sermon begins to build, think of ways to influence the audience through the use of the rhetorical elements common to persuasion.
8. As the sermon continues to build, remember to think of a way to aim for a response of faith and obedience to the biblical truth on the part of the audience. Remember that we cannot force the audience to respond; we can only aim for a response.
9. Remember that the great weakness of preaching is fuzzy, ill defined ideas. If we have not thought it out completely for ourselves, we probably will not be able to explain it well to others. Therefore, take the time to learn the text and study it until the ideas portrayed in the text are clear.
Above outline adapted from: McDill, Wayne, Twelve Essential Skills for Great Preaching (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2006), pages 3-17.