This year our Baptist Association will be having its second annual Pastor's Conference. As one of the speakers in the event, I feel unworthy in comparison to the other pastors who will be speaking. I give all glory to God for any benefit derived from any sermons I preach or any piece that is written, since all things and affects come from Him. (Romans 11:36) I thought I would share both today and over the next couple of days the portions that I will be presenting in the realm of sermon preparation, presentation and invitation.
My prayer is that for any preachers out there who read this blog that perhaps you can glean something useful. Even if you are not a preacher, we all as Christians have a responsibility to know Jesus and make Him known to others. I know for myself, I'm always learning and read other's blogs to enrich my own understanding. So with those thoughts in mind, let us begin considering what typically goes into a sermon's preparation, presentation and Invitation.
Some important terms used in preaching
To begin, what is meant by the word "sermon?" According to Merriam Webster's Dictionary, a sermon is a: “speech or conversation that links together words, thoughts and ideas” and comes from a Latin word meaning ”to link together”. When I was learning how to preach in Bible College, one of the finest preaching professors, Dr. Lloyd Perry, taught me about both the science and the art of preaching. The field of study that one enters into when learning how to preach is what is called "homiletics". Dr. Lloyd Perry taught the following definition of preaching throughout his many books and courses: “Homiletics is the science of sermon construction. Preaching is the art of sermon presentation. The sermon is the product of preparation for presentation.”
Preaching is all at once an art, a science and a Spirit driven event
As you preach a sermon or hear a sermon preached, a good sermon will engage the mind, the heart and bring about change. In going off of Dr. Perry's above definition, we could say that as an art - preaching captivates the heart and the imagination. As a preacher develops and grows, his "artistry" or "sermon delivery" should improve over time. Certainly too a good preacher will also aim at the mind, which would cover more of the science or technical side of things. Whenever you hear a sermon, can you trace the preacher's conclusions and remarks from the logic of the text? Does the preacher's sermon make sense or does it at least have a discernible flow? Can you follow what is being preached? Has the preacher adequately unpacked what is in the Biblical text? Has the preacher explained what the Biblical author is communicating? Questions such as these are covered in the "science" part of sermon preparation or homiletics.
With a good sermon being a combination of artistry in motion and the scientific part of homiletics, unless the Holy Spirit attends the preaching - all the best intentions in the world will be in vain. The most polished and honed sermons can fall flat if the preacher relies more on himself than the Holy Spirit. The chiefest of all attitudes when approaching the pulpit is humility. One old preaching rule of thumb applies well: "if you go into the pulpit with your head low, then you will come out with your head high. However if you go behind the sacred desk of God with your head high, you will come out with your head hanging low". The preacher must ever be in a state of reliance on the Holy Spirit, since the Bible He is preaching from is the Spirit's words and the power that he utilizes to preach the sermon derives from the Spirit indwelling his converted human heart.
Having looked then at some introductory thoughts on preaching, as well as what initially marks a good sermon or what characterizes some traits necessary to preach (trust me we could spend several blogs just on those traits and characteristics), we will consider tomorrow what to do when preparing a Biblical sermon.
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