It’s Monday morning and you are expected to preach Sunday! How will you be ready in six days? Here is a simple checklist. Do this to prepare:
Guard Your Time!
You will either set aside intentional time for sermon preparation or you will be forced to squeeze in prep time when others are not demanding your attention. Don’t settle for the scraps. Reject lesser priorities while you study and prepare to preach or teach God’s word. Take charge of your time. Be ruthless! Put your phone on sleep mode for those hours. Have your assistant block everything possible. Lock yourself in your study and labor. Remember the five P’s: proper preparation prevents poor performance. Guard your time!
Start With A Text!
If you are preaching or teaching God’s people, give them God’s word. Give them the Bible, the Old and New Testament. Start with a text of the Bible; not your own ideas, not the latest book you are reading, not the headlines that week. Let the word of God do the work of God.
Study your text till you get it clearly. Who wrote it? To whom? Why? Travel back in time, as it were. Understand the context: how your text fits in that part of the book, in the Bible as a whole. Understand the genre. Is there anything in your passage that doesn’t make sense to you? Find the answer. Start with a text!
Your work is a supernatural task. Ask the Lord for help. Bow your head as you open your Bible to begin. Close your eyes and ask when you are stumped. Talk to God as your text comes to mind through the week. When you pray, God works. Pray!
Preach the Gospel!
All of the Bible reveals the good news. Your task is to find the connection from your text. Jesus explained to the disciples on the road to Emmaus that all the Old Testament is about him: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself (Luke 24:27, ESV).” So it is with the whole Bible. A sermon without the gospel will normally be moralistic, a burden without help or hope in Christ.
Here is how Charles Spurgeon put it in his book The Soul Winner:
People have often asked me, “What is the secret of your success?” I always answer that I have no other secret but this, that I have preached the gospel,—not about the gospel, but the gospel,—the full, free, glorious gospel of the living Christ who is the incarnation of the good news. Preach Jesus Christ, brethren, always and everywhere; and every time you preach be sure to have much of Jesus Christ in the sermon. You remember the story of the old minister who heard a sermon by a young man, and when he was asked by the preacher what he thought of it he was rather slow to answer, but at last he said, “If I must tell you, I did not like it at all; there was no Christ in your sermon.” “No,” answered the young man, “because I did not see that Christ was in the text.” “Oh!” said the old minister, “but do you not know that from every little town and village and tiny hamlet in England there is a road leading to London? Whenever I get hold of a text, I say to myself, ‘There is a road from here to Jesus Christ, and I mean to keep on His track till I get to Him.’” “Well,” said the young man, “but suppose you are preaching from a text that says nothing about Christ?” “Then I will go over hedge and ditch but what I will get at Him.” So must we do, brethren; we must have Christ in all our discourses, whatever else is in or not in them. There ought to be enough of the gospel in every sermon to save a soul.
Preach the gospel!
Get it Across!
Make your message easy to hear and understand. The message of your sermon should be message of your text. Similarly, let the emphasis of your text be the emphasis of your sermon. Use illustrations to be clear and memorable. Make the flow of your sermon easy to follow. Craft your message for clarity (Colossians 4:4). Your listeners need to know the answer to this: “What does this have to do with my life?” Tell them. Show how the truth of God’s word is for us today. Apply it as specifically as you can. Get it across!
Open the Bible to preach with energy and joy. Get a good night’s rest. Pray yourself hot. Wake yourself up with a morning workout, a cup of coffee, extra prayer, whatever it takes. Richard Baxter wrote, “Though you give the holy things of God the highest praise in words, yet, if you do it coldly, you will seem by your manner to unsay what you said in the matter… speak to your people as to men that must be awakened, either here or in hell.” We who preach are useful when we have joy and zeal (Hebrews 13:17, Romans 12:11). The Greeks called this ethos, the character of the messenger. Be yourself and be your best self. Prepare yourself!
One more thing: If you have the high privilege of preaching God’s word, make progress in your preaching as you go (1 Timothy 4:15). Use the many resources provided by The Good Book Company, The Charles Simeon Trust, or The Proclamation Trust.
Use this simple checklist to prepare for your next sermon.