The church has changed much over the many years since Jesus Christ walked this earth. The Sunday morning service has also seen some radical changes too in everything from music (styles and even the instruments used), to the addition of more skits and drama and even the way that offering is taken (as some churches are offering online or even weekly withdraws from your credit card or checking account). The “Sermon” has always been a big part of the Worship Service. It often takes up at least the majority of the time. I personally believe that it is such an important part of the week for many people as they get to sit and hear the word of the Lord (if the Bible is preached). One area of interest for me has always been homiletics or the study of preaching. There are many books written about how to prepare and deliver a sermon. This article is not trying to do that in any way. I am writing this article to give you some thoughts of things I have learned and used in preparing a sermon. I am not an expert on this subject as I have only been preaching and teaching for about 12 years but I hope I can increase or renew your passion about what it means to prepare and preach a sermon.
1. Rely on the power of the Holy Spirit
This is the first and most important aspect of preparing for a sermon. It is one area that I believe many of us can neglect or fall short from time to time. If you have gone to Bible College and maybe Seminary and you may even have a Doctorate and have obviously studied and learned this craft well. In fact, you may know it so well that you have become “good” at speaking in front of people about any topic out there. Sometimes we become so reliant on our own knowledge and preparation that we forget to include the most important person that can help us, namely, the Holy Spirit. I have fallen short in this area more times that I care to remember. Words from Zechariah come to mind here… Zechariah 4:6 Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts.”
There are many ways to rely on the Holy Spirit and prayer  is one that should be at the forefront of our minds. Prayer could be a separate category for this article but I combined it here. We need to read and meditate on God’s word and be in prayer. There have been sermons that “Daryl” was ready without the Holy Spirit that fell completely flat. These were sermons that I felt good about before hand. The exact opposite is true too. There have been times that I wrestled with a passage all week and may not even felt I had a good handle or grasp on the text and yet got on my knees and asked God to speak truth to His people and the results and responses were amazing.
2. Humbly Approach the Word of God
There is an old story that I don’t know if it is even true or just an illustration as I have heard it many times but not always told in the same way. But it goes something like this…
One young pastor preached his inaugural sermon at his new church. After ascending the staircase to the pulpit with his head high, he discovered he had brought the wrong notes. He attempted to deliver his prepared message without notes and failed miserably. Descending the pulpit, his eyes cast downward, the rookie pastor was greeted by an old sister, who offered some sage advice. “Son,” she said with a smile, “if you had gone up like you came down, you would have come down like you went up.”
The point is simple…God wants us to be humble and preach His word. I point to some words by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians.
1Corinthians 2:1-5: “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”
3. Prepare your sermon with 1 main point
Every time I prepare a sermon I keep this principle in mind. My mind and thinking has been influenced greatly by Andy Stanley and his book called “Communicating for a Change.” If you teach or preach at all and don’t have this book in your personal library I recommend you get it right away. I have read it a number of times as it is both inspiring and enjoyable to read.
Some sermons have great content but if it is not all pointing in the same direction and with the same point it can and will make the entire sermon cloudy and not clear to your congregation. A simple sermon point that is memorable and measurable will go a long way towards having your people hear from God and give them a plan on moving forward in their sanctification process. This again is not always the easiest point to do in your sermon as often we are studying a passage and there are many great points as you work your way through a passage but when this is the case, I recommend taking these other “major” themes and preaching them in your next sermon.
4. Use the Bible
Again this sounds simple enough but many people standing behind the pulpit get distracted and can rely too heavily on outside materials to speak for the Bible. Now don’t misunderstand what I am saying, there are many great resources out there that can help in your (as a pastor) understanding and even in helping make your message come to life but never neglect your Bible as the first and most important tool. It is God’s word  to His people. May we never loose sight of that most important fact. I often remind people of how we may save old letters from old sweethearts or from our spouse when we were dating and go back from time to time to soak in and read the words because they are so precious. That should be how we embrace the word of God. I have my people stand when I read the word of God during the sermon. The main reason that I do this isn’t because of some ritual or church tradition but it is a physical reminder that God’s word is so precious to us that we want to be a full attention and reverence as we hear from Him. The reading of Scripture is so important for our people to hear because even if your words don’t connect God can still use His words to melt the heart of the most hardened person.
5. Ask Questions
Every time you read and meditate on a passage be ready to ask questions. This is one of the first things you learn when in Bible College. Start with the who, what, where, when, and why and then go on from there. Be ready to ask the questions that your congregation is thinking such as…in the women at the well story (John 4) why are the disciples so distressed at Jesus talking to this woman? Or in John 3 when Jesus tells Nicodemus he must be born again, what does He mean? Why is this so unusual? You see if you have been going to church and have been teaching for a long time it seems perfectly logical for someone to be “born again” but think through these 2 words from the perspective of someone coming into your sanctuary that has rarely (if ever) been in a church service. We have to explain and make these words and phrases come to life but it begins by asking these questions during our preparation and meditation on the word of God.
There are obviously many more steps and areas of importance in sermon preparation but these things I always try to keep at the forefront of my mind every time I speak. We are speaking the Word of the Lord to a lost and dying world. We need to be diligent in our preparation by relying on the Holy Spirit to confront and convict us about the passage and then we are ready to preach. In college I had a favorite professor by the name of Paul Benware that used the phrase that we “have an audience of One.” This has always stayed with me in that when I preach and teach God’s word I am trying to please and bring God glory and stay true to Him. Regain your passion and focus on preaching God’s word today.
Related reading: How To Preach Expository Sermons 
Resource – “Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”