Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Preaching: A Beginners' Guide (2)

  1. From text to sermon
1)      Decide on your text

Pray for the Lord’s guidance. Reflect on the basic thrust of your sermon. Will it be evangelistic, aimed at presenting the gospel to the unconverted, or a message that is primarily for the people of God? What does the congregation they need to hear; encouragement, challenge, or warning?

When first setting out stick to passages that you know pretty well rather than try and tackle something from Ezekiel or Revelation. Learn to walk before you run.

2)      Discern the meaning of your text

Ask questions of your text:

1. What is its context in the passage?
2. What is the literary form of the text? Is it poetry, a song, historical prose, a parable, a Gospel or an Epistle?
3. What is the place of the text in the plot line of the Bible?
4. What doctrine is being taught by the text? What does it say about God, salvation, the Christian life or the last things? How does what is being taught in the text relate to the teaching of the Bible as a whole?
5. What is the practical application of your text?
6. As each sermon should have one main point, what is the leading theme of the passage?

3)      Develop a clear sermon structure

This will make your message memorable and easy to follow. The order of sermon points should be logical and progressive, giving the message a sense of momentum. Try and follow the natural divisions of your text. For example, Genesis 22 could be divided up as follows:

I.                   The Lord tests Abraham (22:1-6)
II.                The Lord provides for Abraham (22:7-14)
III.             The Lord promises blessing for Abraham (22:15-24)

Alliteration is nice when it happens naturally, but not absolutely necessary.

4)      Use helpful illustrations

Illustrations help people to understand what is being said. They should illuminate the truth rather than draw attention to themselves. Biblical narratives are virtually self-illustrating. Abraham is the key example of a man whose faith is on trial in Genesis 22. But including other instances of people whose faith has been tried and tested will help to get the point home.

5)      Preach Christ from all the Scriptures

This is especially important when preaching from the Old Testament. See Jesus’ own practice, Luke 24:44-49. Genesis 22 is about Isaac, the promised “seed” sacrificed and risen. (Genesis 3:15, 21:12, Galatians 3:16, Hebrews 11:17-19). Note the way Paul echoes Genesis 22:16 in Romans 8:32, which is about the Lord providing for his people, another theme in Genesis 22.  

6)      Discriminatingly apply your message

The purpose of preaching is to enable the people of God to play their roles in the drama of redemption. Application must be rooted in the gospel and determined by the text on which you are preaching. If the text is a promise, the application is, believe it. If a command, obey it. If a warning, heed it. Apply the message appropriately to different kinds of people. Urge unbelievers to repent and believe the gospel. Comfort and encourage the downcast. Challenge the spiritually lazy. Explain God’s ways to the perplexed. Apply the message all the way through, not just at the end. 

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