One of the most important tools for preachers is the hymnal. Sometimes when I tell new preachers that they look at me as if I am asking them to sing a solo before their sermon. However, even if you do not plan to sing a note, the hymnal contains tools to help you preach.
The Hymnal Index
Many have heard and make use of cross references in their Bible. But did you know that many hymnals have scriptural and thematic indices in it? How do you use them? Let us assume that you are to preach the scripture John 3:16. Head on over to your hymnal and look up the scripture in the scriptural index. Now read them.
Now go to the thematic index (sometimes called topical index). Let us assume that your sermon’s theme is the first advent of Jesus Christ. Look up “First Advent” and now you have a number of hymns that relate to the theme. Read those hymns as well.
Other Hymn Resources
Now that you have a number of hymns, go to other resources to read on these hymns. Go to Come Sunday: The Liturgy of Zion and you might find a paragraph describing the hymn. In addition, Look at Soul Praise, for a page or two on many songs of interest to African American people.
Remember the old formula 3 points and a poem? Well now you have the “poem” that you can quote at the end of the sermon. In addition, now you have tools to help you articulate the points in your sermon. There is simply nothing like quoting an old hymn or a trusted gospel song at the right moment. These tools will help you find that perfect song.