Friday, May 4, 2012

How I Prepare to Preach Longer Passages of Scripture

Currently, I'm preaching through the Gospel of Luke chapter by chapter. It is hard work and I was surprised that preaching this way is slightly different than the way I learned to preach smaller sections of Scripture. Certainly the main principles remain, but I have to approach the text and prepare the sermon differently than if I were preaching only a paragraph or two.

In preaching preparation, it is easy to get bogged down in the details. Word studies, historical backgrounds, and theological rabbit trails can render a sermon covering 60 verses nearly unpreachable. I've had to learn to approach my preparation differently when I preach long chapters. Here is what I do:

1. I read the chapter at least 10 times. More is better. I don't pick up a pen and paper. I don't try to make notes. I don't underline or highlight verses. In this first step, I just try to immerse myself in the text and try to understand what is being said.

2. After I read the text, I start making preliminary notes. I try to summarize in one sentence what the theme of the chapter is. I try to get to the big idea the chapter holds.

3. Once I feel confident I know what the chapter is about, I start consulting outside resources to confirm my observations or help me see what I've missed. Most commentaries are too long and too involved for the kind of sermon I want to preach. I don't need to get bogged down in technical details. The best first stop resource are study Bibles. I read the ESV Study Bible notes, NIV Study Bible notes, Holman Christian Standard Study Bible notes, and the MacArthur Study Bible notes. These great resources solidify what I've already observed, fill in some holes, and point me toward areas that need further study.

4. Once I've got a good grasp on what the chapter is about and have taken note of any particular questions or issues I need to work through, I pull out the bigger commentaries. I try to read just one shorter commentary completely (like the Tyndale New Testament Commentary). Then I skim other commentaries to see what they say about particular questions that come up in my mind about key verses or themes.

5. I also do word studies on two or three key words.

6. Once I have done my study, I go back and make sure I understood the meaning of the passage, refine my one sentence summary and begin outlining the passage for preaching.

7. I flavor the sermon with appropriate illustrations and anecdotes. I continually bathe the whole process in prayer. On Sunday, I step up and preach.

And then, on Sunday night, I open my Bible once more and begin reading the next chapter and repeat the process.

No comments: