Occasionally I’m asked how I put together a sermon. It’s really more art than science, it changes and morphs over time, and every preacher is different. Nonetheless, I’ve created a set of questions that I force myself to answer in preparing a sermon. There’s more once these questions are answered, but I can’t get very far until they’re answered.
Here are the questions I ask as well as why I think they’re important.
1. Observations / Impressions? — I first want to just observe the text, noticing key words, important phrases, etc. This is where I study the text in depth myself using Logos Bible Software.
2. How would you re-write the passage in your own words? — If I can rewrite the text without altering the meaning, I know I’ve really understood it.
3. What emotions are described or drawn out from this passage? — Emotions are critical connection points and they impact our motivation in significant ways.
4. What is basic point of the passage? — I’ve got to discern the author’s intended meaning. Without this, there is no sermon.
5. Why is it important? — I’ve got to know why this truth would matter to somebody listening. It helps me craft an introduction and raise the interest of the listeners.
6. Why do we resist this truth? — These objections need to be identified and dealt with if we want to see life-change.
7. What is the Fallen Condition Focus of this passage? — Bryan Chapell coined the phrase “Fallen Condition Focus” (FCF) in his excellent book, Christ-Centered Preaching (he explains it in this article). It’s the idea of finding the problem that exists because of sin that existed for the original audience and has implications for us.
8. How is Jesus the answer? — I’m not interested in preaching moralism, but preaching Christ and him crucified.
9. What does the text want people to know, feel, and/or do? — This is application. How our lives should change as a result.
10. How do I need to apply this personally to my own life? — I don’t want to just pass it on to others without it touching me first. As described in Ezra 7:10, I want to study the text, practice it in my own life, and then teach.
11. Connections to key vision & discipleship issues? (Love, outward-focus, stewardship, community, disciple-making) — I’m always looking for ways to connect the sermon with where we’re headed as a church.
12. Commentary Ideas & Quotes? — It’s critical to learn from good scholars and pastors. Many good insights, applications and illustrations come from reading those who have immersed themselves in the text.
13. Illustration Ideas? — I’ve got to make note of stories, examples, and illustrations that come to mind as I read, study and think over the passage. This recent article is incredibly helpful in finding better illustrations.
14. What is the single most persuasive idea? (Twitter length) — The big idea needs to be simple and transferable.
What other questions do you think should be asked in preparing to teach or preach?