When you are preaching the Gospel, you need various tools to help you understand the Biblical text. As noted in other places on this site and others, you should never begin your preparation looking at these tools, however, you should always ensure that your preaching is in line with what is truth. There is nothing that will ruin your credibility faster than basing a major point in your sermon on something that is simply untrue.
When you are attempting to understand the text, you need to know the background of the text, author, occasion that calls for the writing of the scripture. One should never forget that the scripture is an alien book to us. Sometimes we think we are reading a book written primarily to 20th century readers, but there is a gap between us and the original hearers of scripture that require bridging. One important tool in this bridging is the Bible Dictionary. There are a number of dictionaries that can be of aid to the preacher. I personally have Harper-Collins Bible dictionary in addition to Anchor Bible Dictionary on CD. Harper-Collins is one volume and the Anchor is a multi volume tool.
A good Bible dictionary will allow you to look up any word you find in the Bible. That word may be a person, place, or thing. It might be a city. You might wonder about an animal or even the monetary system. Have you thought about the other gods in the surrounding areas of Palestine? All of these questions will be addressed in a good Bible dictionary.
Another Bible dictionary that you can find on the web for free is the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. However that is a bit dated. in any case, preachers should never preach a text that is not fully understood. While referring to the Bible Dictionary should not be the first place in the sermon prep, you must never get up in the pulpit preaching a text you dont’ understand, a Bible dictionary will help you not make that mistake.
After that, Wiersbe travels through the whole Bible looking at the major themes and images and pictures found in the different books. This book is a fantastic addition to any preacher’s library. If you are called to “tell the story” or preach the narratives of the Bible, then you need Wiersbe’s book. Black preachers will be especially helped because they are often judged by how well they help people experience the Bible story. Wiersbe provides a resource to help us do just that.
Get the book. In addition, I would encourage you to read our series on improving storytelling in preaching at the following links: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V. You may also be interested in our post on Dr. Frederick D. Haynes’ approach to story telling in sermons.
The final step to preaching a sermon that effectively tells a story is to Practice.
Record yourself telling the story. Then transcribe the story from the tape into a manuscript. This practice will improve your storytelling and your preaching in general.
It is amazing to me how often we preachers will not practice our craft. The musician practices for hours before she comes and performs. If the musician can practice like that to provide an enjoyable experience for the listeners, how much more should we, who are delegated the responsibility of proclaiming the greatest story ever told, practice the messages God gives us to preach.
The next step in preaching an effective sermon that makes use of stories is to decide what details that you collected from steps 1 and 2 are useful to help the preacher fulfill the purpose found in step 3.
In short, the preacher should determine the feelings and the sensory data that are needed to preach a “15-25” minute sermon.
Please note that you will not use all of the data that you have collected in steps 1-2. The guiding purpose is what you saw as the behavioral change taught by this section of scripture.
The third step in Martha Simmons and Henry Mitchell’s method for improving storytelling in preaching is the turning point towards putting together the sermon. Here you must determine the behavioral purpose of the sermon. You get this by asking yourself, What change in core belief or obedience is the Passage pushing the people to.
This step recognizes that the sermon must have a purpose. We are not preaching just to be preaching. Neither are we just telling stories for the sake of telling stories. There is a change in belief or practice that we are seeking in the people. For a list of core beliefs, I would encourage you to listen to my audio where I discuss Mitchell and Cooper-Lewter’s book Soul Theology.