Meaningful preaching requires constant discernment and discipline. You will need to prepare your sermon carefully before preaching it in an accessible way.
Part 1 of 4: Choose a topic
Step 1. You must give yourself plenty of time
Start thinking about what to preach as soon as possible. You should give yourself at least a week, if not more.
When possible, it is actually wiser to start your research and planning two weeks in advance. It could take a while before the correct passage is shown, and even more time to prepare the proper sermon on that passage. The words you preach should be the result of thought and insight, not an emotional reaction
Step 2. Pray and meditate
Ask God to guide you. Since you are going to preach God's truth, you should expect God to reveal to you the truth that He wants you to preach about.
- Consciously endeavor to commune with God as you try to discern the right subject. Take a walk in the park while you preach. Meditate when you shower. Spend a few minutes thinking about it in the quiet hours of the morning.
- A specific passage or a specific theme will appear in your mind. Both options can be helpful, as long as you keep the message centered around the Holy Scriptures.
Step 3. Find passages that address the topic
If a topic comes to mind before a verse does, start looking for passages that directly talk about that topic. Look for different options until you find one that jumps out at you.
If a passage jumps out at you before a topic does, follow this step in reverse. Look up the meaning of that passage. Once you pick up the theme of the passage, consider looking for little supporting passages to jot down along with it
Step 4. Start over when necessary
Don't be discouraged if you hit a dead end while searching for a possible topic for your sermon. There are times when you may need to start this process all over again, from scratch. Doing so might seem inconvenient, but it's a better option than forcing a message that you can't wrap your ideas around.
Part 2 of 4: Study the Text
Step 1. Pray for perspective
Once you know what to talk about, pray for perspective on what to say about it. You must be in communication with God throughout the entire preaching process, even in the preparatory step.
Step 2. Focus on the Word
The message of your sermon should center around the Bible. Begin with the passage or passages you have been led to and build the rest of your sermon from there.
The message you preach should be based on biblical truth, not the other way around. In other words, you should not plan the message you want to send or misrepresent the writing in a way that fits your ideas. Your ideas must work around existing biblical truth
Step 3. Find the passage
Study the passage completely to improve your understanding of it. Consider its meaning within the biblical, historical, and cultural context.
- Look at the verses around the passage. Make sure you know and understand its immediate context so you don't misunderstand the meaning.
- Do some research externally as well, especially if the passage describes a custom or idea that is alien to contemporary ways of thinking.
Step 4. Determine its meaning
The entire Word of God is significant, but you must ask yourself why this particular passage is so important and why God wants you to preach about it.
- Find out the subject of the passage. Ask yourself what it says about God and why people should listen to it.
- Keep in mind that some part of this might find an answer as you finish the process of selecting the passage, especially if you found it by searching for a specific topic in the Bible.
Step 5. Be amazed
Don't assume that you already know everything there is to know about the passage you are working on. Be amazed by the truth and the insights that are hidden beneath the surface.
- When you tackle a passage with which you are already familiar, it can be easy to focus exclusively on the safe and common meaning that you already know. However, don't settle for just seeing what you hope to see.
- On the other hand, you should not look for a hidden meaning that is probably not there. Don't twist the text to find something shocking or new; just accept any thoughts that appear surprisingly and naturally.
Part 3 of 4: Preparing the Sermon
Step 1. Prepare the text of your sermon in advance
You can write the whole sermon or just settle for a condensed version, but either way, you should come up with a written plan that you can use when you actually preach.
- Having a prepared text will keep you more focused when you actually start preaching. Unless you have a good grasp on the subject, impromptu preaching is usually more disorganized and shallower.
- You can write the entire sermon word for word, use abbreviated notes, or use a summary. Summaries are generally preferred as they make it easier for you to keep an eye on the congregation as you preach and limit the temptation to look at your notes all the time.
Step 2. Provide context
Some passages may seem self-explanatory, but often those passages make more sense in a larger context. Include whatever biblical or historical information is necessary to really make the text stand out.
- Remember the search you did while trying to understand the passage. Information that gave you a new understanding should be included in your sermon.
- Of course, you should not get too carried away. You still need to focus on your sermon and the Word itself. You should use supporting details so that the listener better understands the passage and they should not be the most impressive thing about your preaching.
Step 3. Apply the message
You must illustrate how the text is applied in real life in the contemporary world. Give your listeners whatever information they feel will be useful to them as they navigate the trials and temptations of everyday life.
- Start with the end in mind. As you organize your sermon, think about what your listeners should learn from it and structure the course of the sermon so that it builds on that.
- Link the message directly to a real-life hypothetical framework and choose one that is more or less common and that attracts as many people as possible. By illustrating one possible application of the message, you can help your listeners understand how to apply the message in their own lives.
- When applying the message, you must challenge the listener. Your sermon should give your listeners something to think about and prompt them to do some good deed that is consistent with biblical truth.
Step 4. Practice
Practice preaching the sermon out loud ahead of time. When you practice, you should also time and edit your sermon appropriately.
- As a general rule of thumb, your goal should be a sermon that lasts about 25-30 minutes. A sermon that is meaningful, but a little short is usually more effective than a long and over-the-top sermon.
- Practicing your sermon can also help you determine the most effective way to preach it. The more you become familiar with it, the easier it will be to add pauses and emphasis in the right places.
Part 4 of 4: Preach the Sermon
Step 1. Pray before you begin
Before you stand up and preach to people. You should spend a few minutes in silence praying for guidance, clarity, and wisdom.
Even if the text you have written has been done and practiced devoutly, still, you must pray for the ability to send it well. You should also pray for the hearts and minds of your listeners, that they remain open to the message
Step 2. Speak in simple terms
Do not use academic language or other forms of expression that some people in the congregation will not understand. Speak in simple, colloquial terms so that the message is accessible to all who hear it.
This does not mean that you should moderate or simplify the message. The truth you preach should be deep and meaningful, but the words you use to preach it should be understandable to most of your audience if you want to make an impact
Step 3. Be approachable
Your body language must be attractive. As a general rule of thumb, you should look confident and friendly rather than stiff, nervous, or overly severe.
- Even if you don't feel confident, you should seek it out. Avoid nervous tics, frequent use of nonsense words like "Hey" and "This", and other signs of anxiety. If you don't look confident, your sermon message may lose credibility.
- The form of your speech, your movements and expressions must match your words. Be serious when talking about something serious, but relax when talking about something that is not serious.
Step 4. Stick to the point
There may be times when the Holy Spirit rightly leads you in an unexpected direction, but most of the time, you must stick to the text and points that you have prepared in advance. Losing focus in the middle of a sermon can cause you to never finish and seem aimless.
When a sermon gets out of the way, you may end up losing a large chunk of your listeners. At that point, it can be easy for you to start talking more in an effort to bring them in, but beating around the bush will usually harm your cause rather than help it. A better option would be to simply be more concise from then on
Step 5. Use humor and creative tricks with care
Using humor and creative illustrations can help a sermon when applied as support, but relying too heavily on these tactics can actually weaken the overall message.
- Whatever humor you use should be relevant to the overall message. It may be used to get the listener's attention or to illustrate a point. It can even be used to relieve tension.
- On the other hand, you shouldn't use humor to get approval. It won't do anyone any good if the congregation remembers your joke but forgets the message.
Step 6. Learn and improve
After you finish preaching, evaluate your effectiveness. Ask people who listened to you for feedback. Find out what you did well and where you can improve, and then adjust your technique accordingly for the next time you preach.
- Reach out to other members of your pastoral team or trusted congregation members for constructive criticism.
- Consider asking someone to record you when you preach, and watch the recording after going to church that day. You can probably learn a lot just by looking at yourself.
- Accept the fact that you are not perfect. There will always be room for improvement, especially when you don't have much prior preaching experience.