Here’s what I will tell you if you are about to start preaching at GBC.

I have the privilege of meeting with a young man this evening who will be preaching for the first time in a couple of weeks on Sunday night. He is coming over this evening and we will spend some time together. I will do my best to help him to prepare to serve the Lord and his people well on that occasion.

Here’s what I plan to talk to him about.

1] Your job is to let the Bible speak.

Unfortunately I think its far too common to find people who will preach from the Bible rather than preach the Bible. There is a significant difference. This seems to be something that american comedian Garrison Keiller understands. In one of his gently satirical “Lake Wobegone Days” he describes the small town Lutheran pastor preaching on John 11 (Which describes the raising of Lazarus) on the theme “The importance of family.” Now arguably the text of John 11 does have something to say about the importance of family, but it is not what the chapter is about!

I will tell my brother “Let the Bible speak” Don’t engage in “diving board preaching” which is where you read the text and then dive off. Don’t decide what you want to say and find a text to hang it on. Do your best not to engage in contextless preaching. Letting the Bible speak will involve understanding the text in its context, book and indeed in the whole Bible.

2] Your job is to proclaim Jesus.

I think it may have been John Stott who when asked by a young preacher what he should preach about was told “You should peach about Jesus and you should preach for about twenty minutes!” Maybe I’ve remembered incorrectly; maybe its apocryphal; but the point stands.

We must preach about Jesus. After about twenty five years of preaching I’m pretty convinced that there is a legitimate way of doing that from wherever you are in the Bible. Even in the depths of the Old Testament there are a thousand streams that run downhill to Christ clothed in the gospel.

So tonight we will think about the sermon my brother is preparing will proclaim Jesus.

3] Lets talk about how I prepare to preach and think about what might work for you

I will talk him though my usual process which involves printing out the text on A4 sheets of paper with a huge margin and then reading, thinking, praying and covering the paper with notes. I’ll talk about the commentaries that I might use (depending on the text chosen.) I’ll talk about taking the sermon for a walk and thinking and praying about it away from my desk, and I’ll talk about how to put notes together so that they serve well in the pulpit.

4] There are lots of ways of outlining a sermon…. but start out like this. 

I will introduce him to what is really a simple template for sermon preparation. I will admit that there are lots of other legitimate ways of organising a sermon, but point out that when you are staring out and learning, its no bad thing to use one that is well proven and useful.

The outline is really very simple and looks something like this:

  1. Introduction.
    1. Illustration or Story (Catch our attention and show how the message of the sermon is important to us.)
    2. Premise. (Either a statement that summarises what the sermon is about or the question that you will set out to answer.)
  2. Point 1
    1. Make the point from the passage
    2. Illustrate the point
    3. Apply the point
  3. Point 2
    1. Make the point from the passage
    2. Illustrate the point
    3. Apply the point
  4. Point 3, 4, as required each with…
    1. Make the point from the passage
    2. Illustrate the point
    3. Apply the point
  5. Conclusion
    1. Remind us what you have shown us
    2. Call to action

This approach certainly doesn’t originate with me, but I would commend it.

5] I will pray with him and for him

Preaching is a task that we should never undertake alone. We will pray for God to be gracious and equip his servant with the same Holy Spirit who inspired the writing down of the Word.

6] I will arrange to see him again after the sermon.

The folk in GBC will be really nice to him when he preaches and I’m sure that will be really encouraging. Encouragement is vital, but growth in skill in teaching and preaching the Bible also requires that we think about where there is room for improvement.

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