Preacher's Preparation for Preaching
by Wil Pounds
Effective biblical preaching and sermon preparations must always begin in the quietness of the man of God in the presence of God.
“Help me to remember that I am a prophet; not a promoter; not a religious manager—but a prophet,” wrote A. W. Tozer.
If we are to be men who proclaim God’s Word to hungry and thirsty men and women, we must spend time in His presence alone with Him.
If we are to be His messengers, we have to spend time in the presence of God to get His message that has been wrought by the Spirit of God in the crucible of our hearts and experiences. When we sit in His holy presence humbled by His Word, He will speak plainly, clearly, pointedly, and with conviction.
William Culbertson said, “The sermon without the life is worthless, and the sermon without the Word is powerless.”
Alone with God
The most important time spent is alone with our Lord in personal worship and the study of His Word.
There is a direct relationship between the effectiveness of our preaching and the quality of our personal walk with God. Robert Murray M’Cheyne observed, “My people’s greatest need is my personal holiness.” The great pastor and theologian John Owen said, “The Word must dwell in us with power before it can go forth from us with power.”
Prayer and the study of God’s Word will produce godly character in our personal lives, which in turn produces power and credibility in the pulpit. Personal integrity is vitally related to power in the pulpit.
Jesus spent time alone with His farther. “Then Jesus got up early in the morning when it was still very dark, departed, and went out to a deserted place, and there he spent time in prayer” (Mark 1:35 NET). Evidently He spent some time praying. King David found time in the morning to spend with God.
As for me, I will sing about your strength;
I will praise your loyal love in the morning.
For you are my refuge
and my place of shelter when I face trouble (Psalm 59:16 NET).
Good sermon preparation must always begin with time alone with God pressing out the wrinkles and frustrations of our lives, confessing our personal sins and claiming the fresh presence of the Holy Spirit as we allow Him to control our lives.
I have found it a great blessing to begin my day making myself available to my Lord. “Lord Jesus, I give You this day. Come live your life through me. Here is my heart and love through me today. Here is my mind; let me think your thoughts. Here are my eyes and hands; let me see and feel what You see and feel today. Here are my feet; let me walk only where you desire me to walk. And here is my tongue; let me speak Your words for Your glory.”
Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). How is your heart? Sermon preparation must always begin and end here.
God is always pursuing an intimate love relationship with us. “Set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts. . .” wrote Peter (1 Pet. 3:15a NET). Are you what you should be in the light of God’s standards? A sanctified heart knows and understands as God speaks through His Word and applies it to the heart in secret prayer.
Spend time reading devotionally. It is inexcusable to attempt to speak for God without having let God speak to us. As I read His Word, I am sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s speaking to my heart. Is there some sin that needs to be confessed to Him and repented? Is there a promise to claim? Is there a new area of obedience and surrender to the Lordship of Christ? If we love Him, we will obey Him.
Alone in the Study
“Preaching that costs nothing accomplishes nothing,” said J. H. Jowett.
C. H. Spurgeon told preachers: “Unstudied thoughts coming from the mind without previous research, without the subjects in hand having been investigated at all, must be of a very inferior quality, even from the most superior men; and none of us would have the effrontery to glorify ourselves as men of genius or wonders of erudition.”
He went on to stress, “Churches are not to be held together except by an instructive ministry; a mere filling up of time with oratory will not suffice. Everywhere men ask to be fed, really fed.”
It takes time to discover the grammatical-historical exegesis of the Word of God. Study the word, sentence, paragraph, or chapter by reading it in various translations. Gather every possible source of information, discussion, exposition you can find on the passage. Write out the material. Make sure your interpretation is accurate. Compare Scripture with Scripture. We need all the scholarship that we can possibly gather together that we may be sure our teaching of the Bible is what God has accurately said. Do not neglect the careful study of the Word. Be extensive as time permits. Think through it, digest it and let it become a part of your soul. Make the message as clear and powerful as possible.
Be very careful to digest the truth. Do not jump in to quickly to preach on a text or doctrine. Take time to digest the text and let it begin to come alive. If it is not really ready, don’t attempt to preach it. This is why it is advantageous to keep items on the back burner giving them time to mature.
A colorful word, a turn of expression, a thought or an illustration or a sentence clarified makes the sermon more effective.
After gathering all of this information and making sure your exegesis is correct begin forming an outline of the sermon so you can use the material in the introduction, development of content and consummation. What is the goal of your message? Where is it headed? What do you want the listeners to do in response to God’s Word?
There is something God wants these people to do, to believe, to respond to, to work at, to achieve. Cry out to be used by God.
W. A. Criswell said, “Preaching is for a holy and heavenly purpose: to win the lost, to edify the saints, and to move a whole community and city and nation God-ward. Every time the preacher stands up to preach, he ought to have before him some definite thing he prays the congregation will do.”
The method of delivery will depend on the preacher’s own personality. If you are not Billy Graham, don’t try to be Billy Graham. Be yourself to the glory of God.
Preach from a heart that is on fire with the presence of God. Preach from the overflow.
Tozer prayed at his ordination to the gospel ministry: “Lord Jesus, I come to Thee for spiritual preparation. Lay Thy hand upon me. Anoint me with the oil of the New Testament prophet. Forbid that I should become a religious scribe and thus lose by prophetic calling. Save me from the curse that lies dark across the face of the modern clergy—the curse of compromise, of imitation, of professionalism. Save me from the error of judging a church by its size, its popularity, or the amount of its yearly offering. . . . Let me never become a slave to crowds. Heal my soul of carnal ambitions, and deliver me from the itch of publicity. . . . Teach me self-discipline, that I maybe a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
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