Frequently people ask me about my preaching, sermon writing, and experiences as a Pastor of a Church. Today I wanted to share a little something about my preaching. I cannot say if this is true for all preachers, but it is undoubtedly my weekly practice.
A year before I ever preach, I spend time in prayer and come up with a sermon series, the individual sermons, topics, and often texts. Over the coming year, I will occasionally run across material in a blog or on social media that I will save knowing the sermon is coming.
Eventually, the series date comes, and I try to plan the whole series in more details before the first sermon. Each week, I will take the topic, text, and general idea and begin to develop an outline. This includes looking deeply at the context of the Bible, how it ties to overall theology, and how to apply it today. Usually, the framework is the easiest thing to get as God’s word has so many facets to understand and explain.
Then comes the part that few people understand or talk about publicly. Now I add illustrations. Some of these come to me quickly. I have a life experience that is similar to what I am trying to explain. Other times, I have heard someone else use an illustration on that topic, and it fits my message. Occasionally, the articles and information I have saved over the past year have something useable. These illustrations are a vital part of the sermon. They reveal the truth in an understandable way. They touch real life and can be challenging or comforting. I have often seen a confused look when I am explaining the text then get a smile and a nod when the illustration brings it home. These stories and anecdotes are a crucial part of a good sermon.
Sometimes these stories do not come easily. This week, I spent almost an hour searching the web for one little illustration. It will only be about two minutes of the sermon, but it is critical to help people connect with the material. There is no formula for the exact right story; it is just one of those things where I know it is the right one when I read it. Some weeks it only takes me thirty minutes to fill out a sermon and give it all the needed material. Other weeks it is a long slow, process of reading, searching and thinking. I have spent as much as five or six hours in a week just looking for the right stories.
Is it worth all the extra effort? I believe it is totally worth it. In fact, I find that many times people will remember the illustrations long after the sermon outline is forgotten. I know I have a head full of ones that I have heard that help me understand the Bible and what it means to be a believer. Some of those have been in my head for forty years, and I can remember them today as clearly as the first time I heard them.
This week I have been working for Sunday. The words did not come easily, but they are ready. I hope you will join me to hear the Bible explained and possibly hear a story that will change your life. That is what I am praying for, now all we need is you.