How do I personally prepare to preach a sermon?
Yes, this is a my old Scofield Bible I used in 1960
I have addressed this topic a number of times over the last 52 years. I must admit as I have over 50 years, I have broken all the rules of preaching or at least in the preparation of a sermon.
I must admit, I started out preaching wrong, in the sense of what they say you should do when you are preparing a sermon.
When I first started out, I taught a youth Bible class back in December 1964 and for 24 months until February 1966 I taught the Bible, that is I taught a book at a time. Psalms, Revelation, Galatians, Proverbs, etc. What I was taught by my Dad was to study books. Dad used H.A. Ironside as a guide. In the Psalms I used C. H. Spurgeon’s set on Psalms.
I remember I did a study on the Book of Galatians. I still have the notes. I used the Thompson Chain Bible notes and went to every verse and wrote down the notes from that study Bible. And of course, to preachers, that was for a Sunday School lesson and not preaching.
Preaching was more application of how the people were to live, and little interpretation.
So what I did was take notes from those books and used them in teaching. I didn’t have any new ideas to add to what Spurgeon said on Psalms, hello!
Then I went to Seminary to learn to preach or at least to learn what the Bible taught, back in 1966. I didn’t learn how to really prepare a sermon. The idea back then was to preach, which was not to teach the Bible but to talk about things that you wanted the people to do. Preaching was different from teaching a lesson in a Sunday School. Oh!
While in Seminary I went to Dr. Wayne Martin’s church, and I took good notes from his sermons; they were very good. Then I went to Dr. Raymond Barber’s church and I took good notes. I had a lot of sermon outlines. And I used them a lot in those early years.
What I was doing was using outlines from many different sources. I could take an 0utline and preach rather well from that outline. I had enough knowledge that I could add to that outline.
My first sermon outside my Dad’s church was at Dad’s friend’s church, and I was asked to preach. I was 17 years old. I only knew to take a sermon from Charles Spurgeon. And I tried to preach his sermon. I only got through the introduction. Of course I have used Spurgeon as a guide for a number of years anyway.
Of course those first years, as youth pastor I would teach the Psalms which I loved doing. I would find material from Dad, or a book and use that as a guide. I also did that in Wooster Baptist, Calvary Baptist, Victory Baptist and Mansfield Baptist. I still have most of the written notes I used. They were not bad if I might say.
The first church I was the pastor was Madison Missionary Baptist in Minford, Ohio back in 1971 to 1974. I still have many of the sermons. I did teach a class, and preached too. Again, I used material from those who I liked. I still have most of the sermons, and I noted that in some sermons I didn’t even use a verse in the Bible!
But what I have always loved doing more than anything was to take a book in the Bible and learn what Paul meant by what he said in Romans, or Ephesians.
Yes, I have read many many books on preaching. I have taken many notes on the process of preaching. But never quite got the hang of it.
As I have stated, it was not until that day I got delayed in the Denver Airport and read Walter Kaiser’s book on How to Prepare A Sermon From Start To Finish. This was in 1982 after I had attended the Shepherd’s Conference. I learned that I could never do that. I didn’t have the learning.
Then in 1982 I discovered the ministry of John MacArthur and that changed my approach to preaching. I came back from the conference and changed my whole preaching style. I left the Jack Hyles style of preaching and went to the John MacArthur and Lloyd-Jones style. And I have not looked back since.
While I was learning to preach what is called expositional preaching, that is one verse at a time. I used primarily MacArthur’s sermons. The book of Matthew was the first book and I used MacArthur’s sermons.
While I was learning I began to launch out and restocked my library of books. My main objective in preaching now was to learn what the Bible was saying and what it was teaching. Again I was using MacArthur’s main idea for a sermon but I was adding the expositional study notes as I was studying. So what one sermon was for John, it took me at least three sermons from the same text because I was adding extra study notes.
The approach to preaching was that it was more teaching the text rather than so much application. I was asked to preach at an Ohio fellowship meeting, and I preached a sermon from Ephesians. One of the preachers said that was a good Sunday School lesson but not a good sermon.
J. V. McGee was a great Bible teacher on radio, but I admit when he peached at his church it sounded so different. The same with Oliver B. Greene. And that is good. There is a different style of course. Preaching is exhorting and teaching is giving knowledge of the text. And of course both are necessary in any preaching. If you are not teaching what the text is saying you have nothing to preach about.
When I preached Romans back at First Baptist Church in Altoona, Kansas I taught 115 sermons. When I came to Rivers of Joy Baptist in Minford Ohio, I have taught about 275 sermons as of chapter 15.
The difference has been that I really do extract from each verse a clear study of the text.
Then starting with Ephesians, I would footnote quotes and places where I found the material. I would not always tell the people all the places and all the men I quoted.
Now up to 2003 I didn’t have the internet or a reasonably good computer either. I had to hand print my sermons, and use books that I had in my library to research the sermons.
In one sermon as I was hand writing the sermon, I used a number of books. In the book of Revelation I used over 70 books. I would buy books for each Book in the Bible I was to preach.
What I have noticed, that one sermon that I had written down, which should have been one sermon, somehow within preaching that sermon, I would find myself not finishing. It would take sometimes three 40 minute sermons to complete that one sermon.
So I guess the Lord had put on my mind things that were not in my notes.
So to say that I sit down with a pen and paper and write a sermon without any books, would be totally false. I have not done that.
Over the years I have followed John Piper as well as John MacArthur, as well as Martyn Lloyd-Jones and much of what I learn is from them. But I prefer the style of John MacArtur. But I must admit that I tend to explain the text more than make a sermon out of it. Most of the time I just explain what the text is saying.
So what I have learned about how to preach.
Start with text. Stay in the text. Keep it within the context. Understanding the literary context. Understanding the historical context, and understand the biblical context, (how a passage fits into the whole story .
Well all that is good, but its still hard to know all this if you don’t study. In the old day, there were a lot of books on my desk, today most of those books are on the internet. I like both. So much Bible study helps are so available today. But there are so many good study Bibles. So many books that you can get. I love a Kindle, and Tablets that are do easy to download.
I am only speaking for my self, I have not gotten a e mail from heaven on a sermon. I have to study. But I do believe as I am delivering a sermon the Lord does give me things to say that are within the passage that is before me.