Many preachers have preached sermons that were not prepared from making use of sermon planning. Often the sermon lands us in Flunkersville and we resolve never to be in this position again. However, the next worship service approaches so quickly and the other demands of ministry and life force us to yet another sermon that we did not prepare adequately.
But, there is a way around this. It is called Sermon Planning which is the first step in my own homiletic program called Supercharge Your Sermons. In this article I want to give five benefits for Sermon Planning that I hope will convince you that this needs to be done in your own preaching ministry.
One of the questions that I often receive is: “how can we plan our sermons when we don’t have enough time to prepare sermons?” What the questioner doesn’t realize is that in the grand scheme of things, sermon planning helps us to make greater use of our time.
A good sermon plan first of all allows preachers to prepare at all times. When you are in the grocery checkout line, you can think about either the next sermon or any sermon that you have in your plan. Illustrations come to mind at any time. You can capture them rather than simply forcing them to fit at the last minute or attempting to find a sermon illustration from books. Yes, good sermon planning allows the preacher to make greater use of her or his time.
This is true because sermon planning allows us first of all to find the people’s real needs. We no longer make assumptions about what is needed in the congregation, we analyze the congregation to determine them.
When you construct a sermon plan, you give yourself a chance to plan in the people’s needs in a much greater way than when you are preaching week to week without a sermon plan. You can plan for a sermon series to address a weakness in your congregation or perhaps throw in a few sermons to strengthen the strengths of the congregation. When you plan, you and the Spirit decide what will be the larger direction of your pulpit ministry more than what would happen if you preached week to week without engaging in sermon planning.
All preachers have “blind spots” in their preaching ministry. These are areas where we either don’t preach or don’t spend enough time preaching. When we have such issues we deprive our congregation of certain themes that may be needed by the congregation.
Sermon Planning will help us see these blind spots. Just seeing them is helpful. An adequate sermon plan also will helps us determine how much we need to preach on some of these issues in our particular congregation. When you plan, you can put in sermons that address these places that we would normally ignore if we did not go through the effort of planning our sermon ministry.
Related to that, those who preach sermons derived from week to week preaching (without a plan) can preach a limited message. The sermons address the same themes. They often exhibit a limited theology. “Ain’t God Good” might be the only theme addressed. Or other preachers may end up with a “You Need to Live Right” message. Both of these themes are true and valuable in and of themselves, but they are not the full counsel of God. The full counsel would include both of these themes and more. A good way to broaden our message is to engage in sermon planning.
One of the great things that sermon planning does is that it removes the frantic search for an “idea” or “thought” or “text.” The text and a basic direction are taken care of in the plan. Now you can immediately go into exegesis and then sermon construction.
Certainly there are times when we set our plan aside as the Spirit guides us in another direction. But sermon planning helps us to preach a well rounded message to create a well rounded people. I believe that sermon planning will improve your preaching and help you to move your preaching ministry to the next level.
One preacher asked me if he should accept last minute invitations to preach. As an associate minister in a church where other preaching associates received most of the preaching opportunities, this preacher wondered about accepting such invitations.
The preacher must keep in mind a few important considerations before accepting such an invitation (or assignment whatever the case may be). First, can you give a solid sermon by the time you need to preach? The people who come to hear a word from the Lord expect and deserve a well thought out, well constructed, and well delivered word that God has given you to give to them. If you don’t have enough time to do that, then you aught to turn down the invitation. Note that I said, well constructed, though out, and delivered. Don’t just warm over a half concocted presentation and whoop at the end of it. Such sermons are like the offering of Cain, devoid of the transformative fire from heaven.
In addition, if you are not ready, you may actually end up with less invitations as you become known as one who half-steps in the pulpit. Such a reputation can truly be the kiss of death to preachers who do not receive many opportunities to preach.
So how can you be ready for these opportunities that come along? Simply “be ye also ready for ye know not…” When I was younger the older preachers used to tell the younger ones to always have a sermon in your Bible. You never know when you will be called to preach it. Rev. Napoleon Harris, before he accepted his first parish assignment, used to construct a sermon every week even though he had no assignment or place to preach it. Such diligence and hard work will pay off in the end.
Simply put, new preachers and associates will not always have the time that they wish to put together a sermon when the invitation comes, the only way to be ready is to stay ready by constructing sermons that can be preached at any time.
Some of us are guilty of using the text.Â We have the idea we want, we find the text that appears to say what we want it to say.Â And then we quote it as if we are allowing the Bible to lead.Â We then go to another idea that we want to present, go find a text that appears to say that and then we end up with a final idea that we want to preach, and find that text that appears to say it and then we whoop and sit down.
Note that it is not the Bible that is leading or guiding, but it is our own idea of what we wish to present.Â We are not preaching the Biblical word, we are preaching our own ideas with an aleged surface reading of some texts to back them up.Â This kind of preaching ends up with aÂ congregation that doesn’t really know what a text says until they go talk to their preacher.Â The Bible is not in the driver’s seat, but the preacher is.
In addition, such preaching can end up with a congregation majoring in what the preacher thinks are the fundamentals and not majoring in what the Bible majors in.Â Let the Word speak!Â Go to the Bible.Â You may come to a text becuase you think it is going to say what you want it to say, but have enough intergrity to allow the text to speak.Â It may surprise you.Â It may agree with you, and then again, it may totally change your sermon.Â Let it…Let the Bible take the center spot.
There are multitudes of sermon outline sites. Some of them require you to pay for the outline, others are membership sites that give you access to thousands of outlines, and still others are completely free.
Some have asked me how can you use these outlines to effectively preach a unique word to the people? The answer to this question should be broken up into three components. First how can you evaluate the effectiveness of the outline, how can you modify the outline for use, how do you put flesh on the bones of the outline for preaching? In this article we will look at the first of these questions.
While outlines are all over the place, many of them are either totally unusable or need modification before using. The first question one should ask when evaluating a sermon outline is: “Is the outline derived from the text?” Read the text of scripture and then read the outline. Think about it. Are they related?
In many cases this test will cause you to eliminate a lot of the outlines you find on the net and even in some books. It is as if he author simply thought up a few points that seemed “religious” and wrote them down as an outline for a sermon. However, such outlines would require to much work to salvage, so I would suggest tossing it and going on to another one.
Another common problem with many of outlines is that there is more information than you can adequately present in one sermon. You will see points, sub points, and sub points. Often there is enough information in the major points for each of them to become a sermon in a sermon series.
I heard a preacher once give a sermon on the end time. The preacher talked about signs in the social world, economic world, political world, etc. There were about 10 of these “worlds” and the sermon went on for 2 hours and actually felt like the length was 8 hours. The preacher actually had a sermon series that he delivered in one sermon rather than one sermon. So read the sermon outline and ask yourself, “Is this one sermon or many sermons?” The nice thing about this is that if you have a series, you can use the outline, rather than simply throwing it away. Use it to plan your sermon series.
Not too long ago another preacher delivered a presentation that talked about the Q-source and Mark. The preacher defined Greek terms. the preacher even gave helpful background to understanding the text. However, the preacher did not call for change. The preacher didn’t seem to have a point beyond giving information to the congregation with religious material.
Some outlines suffer from now having what Henry Mitchell calls a “behavioral purpose.” Read the sermon outline. What is the purpose of the sermon? If you can’t see where it calls for change in wayward humanity, or celebrate the good news, or confront broken society, then you probably can’t use it.
Does the outline present the Gospel in a way that you understand? If you disagree with an outline, then toss it. You may disagree with the theology of a particular outline. In addition, there may be points that are just factually wrong. You may be able to salvage such an outline, but think carefully.
There are so many sermon outlines available that you might take a peak at a few here and there. However, it is still best to generate your own sermon outlines from interaction with the text and the Spirit. If you do need to use a sermon outline, please evaluate it before preaching. I hope this short article will help you do just that.
Preaching multiple texts can derail your sermon. It should be very clear to everyone who is listening what your main point and your main text is. If you have too many competing points or too many texts, the people will get lost and will simply choose one of the points to focus on, or check out and wait until you start whooping (or whatever kind of celebration you do) to check back in…
Now certainly you can use other texts. You can bring them in, but always keep in mind that these other texts are supplemental to your main text. They are illustrating or bringing out the ideas in the main text. They are not for the purpose of bringing in completely new ideas that may take you down another street that simply leave the people lost.
What am I talking about? Well if you are preaching John 3:16 about the love of God, and then you decide to bring in 1 John 3:1 to give greater depth to the love, or to illustrate or define that love. That is fine, appropriate, and needed. However, if you allow 1 John 3:1 to take you to a “side point” that is not related to the main point of either the sermon or John 3:16, then you could easily fall into the trap of preaching 2 sermons at the same time. The people wonder what is the main point, and they simply choose one of the points which may or may not be the one that you have put all your effort into preaching.
In short, preach one text. Don’t tell irrelevant stories that may detract from the message. One popular preacher always begins his sermons with a story that may or may not have any reference to the message. It is just to get a laugh and probably to get the people engaged. But what if your story is the only thing they remember, and it was unrelated to the text and the sermon? Only tell relevant stories.
If you like that other text and you think you want to drop that point, that is true, but not relevant to the point of your sermon, then guess what, you have another sermon idea that you can develop into a full fledged sermon. Don’t muddy your current sermon with ideas that will only confuse your people. Preach one strong point, any supporting points you wish to preach, and sit down.