As I have family in town between now and Monday, the series of posts on sermon preparation will not resume until Tuesday, September 2.
I need to reiterate that this is what I do; you need to decided if you think doing the same things or something similar will help you engage in your preparation.
My next step is to read through the entire book from whence my text is taken several times, and I do it in one sitting. As I do this, there is a single question burning in my mind: “What is the author’s purpose in writing this book?”
Now that we’ve laid out the convictions that ought to be settled long before men every begin to preach, we’re going to turn to the nuts and bolts of sermon prep. To do so, we need to look at the question that will vex, challenge and haunt every preacher: “What will I preach on?”
Today I’d like to look at the last conviction every minister ought to have settled in his own mind before ever beginning to preach. Once that is handled, starting tomorrow we’ll get into the nuts and bolts of sermon preparation.
So what is this final conviction? It’s what you believe about you and your people. What sort of relationship are you to bear to those people to whom you will preach?
As we saw last time, we must have certain settled convictions before we ever step in the pulpit. We looked specifically at our convictions about our God and about ourselves. This time I’d like to take a look at the necessary convictions about our Bible.
This is especially necessary given that the Bible is what the minister of the Word has been called to proclaim, and with out settled convictions here, all might well be lost. We recognize that God, out of nothing but His mercy, has spoken and continues to speak to all of humanity through his works of creation and providence. And while this “general” revelation makes God’s goodness, wisdom and power known, it is not sufficient to show lost sinners the way of salvation. For this reason, in a further display of His mercy, God made a “special” revelation of this necessary knowledge. It is this special revelation about which the preacher must have certain clear convictions.
In the last post, I covered some of the daily acts of piety that should undergird our Christian life. They had to be emphasized because the minister is a Christian first, and too often we allow the pressures of life to crowd out the things of God.
Now I want to turn to those things that are foundational to preaching: namely our convictions about ourselves, our God, and our Bible.
Last time, we looked at all of the stuff that can get in the way of sermon preparation. Now we’re going to start getting down to the nitty-gritty of sermon preparation, and we’re going to start by looking at all of the stuff that, in my opinion, ought to be happening in the background.
But before I delve into those things, let me reiterate that this is my process; yours may look different. In fact, it probably does. Don’t take away from this series that there’s only one way to prepare your sermons. However, there are certain things that should be common across the different processes and methods.
All of the stuff I’m going to talk about today forms the background for your sermon prep. All of the nuts and bolts of preparing the sermon we’ll call foreground, and we’ll start dealing with that soon.
It’s the weekend of July 4, and I’ve just left the pulpit. I habitually station myself near the exit of the sanctuary when the congregation is singing the doxology, so that I can be available to speak to the congregants who are leaving. Occasionally, I get pulled aside to deal with a tender conscience, or to pray with someone if they so desire. But this particular morning, I got what is probably the most common question I get after preaching.
“How do you do that?”
I have recently begun following the Christian Reformed Church’s Young Adult Leadership Taskforce (YALT); as I have mentioned before, my wife was raised in the CRC and her parents are still members of a CRC church. I’ve filled the pulpit for two of the largest CRCNA churches in her hometown. Because of these ties to the denomination that once produced Geerhardus Vos, Cornelius Van Til, and Louis Berkhof, I continue to watch with the CRC with an ever-growing degree of concern for the direction of their theological drift.
The existence of YALT has done nothing to assuage my concern.
In the last 20 years, but especially the last 10, there has been a significant resurgence of lectio continua preaching; that is, a return to the Reformation practice of preaching consecutively through one book of the Bible, Lord’s Day by Lord’s Day. Given the state of preaching when this resurgence began, it was manifestly a good thing. For decades our preaching failed to show the intimate connections to be found between passages in the same book, and also failed to patiently open up all of the doctrines found in a single book in Scripture.
On the other hand, not all has been well with this recovery of expository, lectio continua preaching. There are those in our congregations who are dissatisfied with the expository method, often for a whole host of reasons. Too many times our expository sermons seem more like bible study lessons than actual preaching. The preaching can also reach a certain level of monotony, especially if you linger too long in one particular section or chapter. On the whole, it seems that there are those in our churches who are starving for solid, biblically faithful topical preaching, and we haven’t provided it.