- Christ-Centered Preaching by Bryan Chapell. This was the first book on preaching which I ever read and it is my favorite. Urges the preacher to preach each sermon in the context of the whole Bible which is Christ-centered.
- The Preacher’s Portrait by John Stott. Great book for the preacher. Stott examines several words used for the “preacher” in the New Testament. An excellent and edifying study.
- Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture by Graeme Goldsworthy. Another great book on interpreting and preaching Scripture in light of the progressive revelation of Christ.
- Preaching & Preachers by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Must read. The good doctor was very opinionated and that makes for good reading. He is at his best discussing the romance of preaching.
- Lectures to My Students by Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Another must read. One of my favorite books that I refer to again and again. The lecture on “Sermons – Their Matter” is excellent. “The Blind Eye and Deaf Ear” and “The Minister’s Fainting Fits” are other excellent treatments. This is also a book that will make you laugh out loud because of Spurgeon’s humorous way of expressing himself.
- Power in the Pulpit by Jerry Vines & Jim Shaddix. This is a great book that deals with every aspect of preaching from the preparation of the preacher to the preparation of the sermon. It also deals with the delivery of sermons. An excellent one-stop guide to preaching.
- An Earnest Ministry by John Angell James. This older work (I’m not sure that it is still in print.), as the title suggests, emphasizes “earnestness” in ministry. James is talking about what we might call passion. This work was helpful to me in seeing the difference between communicating passion and manipulating emotions. The former is essential, the latter is evil.
- George Whitefield (2 volume) by Arnold Dallimore. Any preacher will be thrilled, encouraged and challenged by this biography. It is hard to put down, so beware!
- Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers by Lewis Drummond. One of the first biographies which I ever read and one of my favorites. It is a long one (896 pages), but an excellent read. Highly recommended.
- The Temple Repair’d by Hercules Collins. This one is not readily available (except in library archives in London). But it will probably be the main focus of my research and writing for my ThM thesis. It contains great exegetical and homiletical advice from a 17th century Particular Baptist. Coming soon!
On Monday April 2nd, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary will host its annual conference on preaching which is called “Power in the Pulpit”. This year’s conference will be taught by Southern Seminary’s own: Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. and Dr. Hershael W. York. They will be joined by Dr. Jim Shaddix, pastor of Riverside Baptist Church in Denver, Colorado and author of two books, Power in the Pulpit with Jerry Vines, and The Passion Driven Sermon. The registration for the conference is only $30.00 if registered before March 23rd and includes a meal and conference materials (thereafter $45). SBTS Students can attend for $20/$30. To download a conference brochure click here (pdf). You may register online by clicking here.
UPDATE: Audio from previous “Power in the Pulpit” conferences is available here. Previous speakers whose lectures are available online include Jerry Vines, Danny Akin, Robert Smith, Paige Patterson, and the late Stephen Olford.
Finally, I would like to thank all the people who made doing this series so rewarding for me personally. When I started it was just fun for to write down what I do on a weekly basis (as my wife has read them she has said, “Yeah, that’s what you do.”), but when I began to be linked by others who seemed to be encouraged by the series I was in turn encouraged! Thanks for all the encouragement and for entrusting me with your readers!
Here’s a list of people that I’ve found who linked to some part of the series:
- David Kjos at The Thirsty Theologian (every post). You don’t need a blogreader if you visit his excellent blog. He posts links to the best of the best (and some of my stuff too). He is also an excellent blogger himself, though he doesn’t post enough of his own stuff.
- Tim Challies at Challies Dot Com (as if you didn’t know). Tim came from The Thirsty Theologian link and when he linked to my initial post in his daily “A La Carte” my SiteMeter went crazy.
- Paul Lamey at Expository Thoughts. I have to confess that I had not read this blog before I found the link, but I have since added it to my blogroll and I now subscribe in my reader. I was surprised at the number of hits that I have already received and continue to receive from this site.
- Colin Adams at Unashamed Workman (not once, but twice). This new blog has quickly has become one of my favorites! As I commented over there recently: “This blog is to preaching what ESPN is to sports!” If you’re a preacher this blog (along with Expository Thoughts) is a must read!
- Bret Capranica at The Capranica (two or three times). Bret is a friend and a great pastor/expository in sunny California.
- Scott Lamb at Thoughts and Adventures. Scott also posts at Wisdom of the Pages where he talks about ideas by talking about books. I appreciate Scott’s friendship and ministry.
- Bill Hayes at rev bill. Rev. Bill Hayes is a PCUSA pastor, that’s about all I know about him. Thanks for the link, Bill!
- Jeff de Ruyter at Worlds Apart. I don’t know Jeff either, but I appreciate the link!
- Timmy Brister at Provocations & Pantings. Timmy is another friend that I’ve come to appreciate over the past year. He is an excellent thinker and he articulates well that which he thinks. That’s a great combination. This link was just added today, so I don’t know the impact it will have on my SiteMeter. I do, however, expect great things for Timmy is a “famous” blogger!
If you linked to the series and I missed it here, just comment here and I’ll edit the post to add your link. Thanks again everyone!
Part 6: Preaching the Sermon
I do not preach extemporaneously “without notes.” Instead I take the notes with me, but I do not read them (unless when citing a lengthy quote, which is rare). One of the worse things that a preacher can do in his delivery is to read, or even sound like one is reading his notes. I especially want to maintain eye contact during the introduction, therefore I have to know exactly what I’m going to say when I begin. There is a balance between not reading and yet knowing exactly what to say to introduce the sermon. I believe that rambling introductions are a curse! Get to the point as quickly as possible!
I strongly believe in the empowerment of the Holy Spirit in preaching. After all my studying is complete and the manuscript is written, there still remains a desperate need for the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit can cause the message to go forth in power and accomplish its God intended purpose. I pray for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit each time I preach. The more aware I am of my need for this work of the Spirit, the more powerful my preaching seems to be. If I go in my own strength, trusting in my preparation and not the empowerment, illumination, and convicting power of the Holy Spirit, I will crash and burn. Sometimes God graciously allows me to crash and burn when I go in my own strength in order to increase my dependence upon Him. On the other hand, some of my best moments preaching have been when I have been weak in body and therefore utterly dependent upon the aid of the Holy Spirit. God always seems to bless when I acknowledge my weakness before Him.
Because the act of preaching is one in which the Holy Spirit is at work, I never know for sure exactly how the sermon will go. I believe that the Holy Spirit is at work in my preparation, as well as in my preaching, but sometimes I say things that I did not plan to say and omit things which I had planned to say. This is the freedom in preaching that comes as the result of preparation, not as many believe, in spite of preparation. My observation is that the more one prepares, the more variety there will be in ones preaching because the Spirit has more material from which to choose from the preacher’s mind. Those who do not prepare well to insure their spontaneity or “being led by the Spirit” usually end up saying the exact same things in the exact same ways. I wouldn’t want to blame the messages that result from being ill-prepared on the Holy Spirit!
At the end of the sermon, I am a failure. Preaching, if done in the right attitude, is a very humbling activity. There is really no way to measure the success immediately (although many try through manipulative “altar calls”). This is sometimes frustrating. Only a firm belief that God will use His Word to convert the lost, convict the sinner, equip and encourage the saints allows me to continue each week preaching the Word with relatively little visible results. Another humbling aspect of preaching is the immense majesty of the Word which we are called to proclaim. The richness of God’s Word insures that all preachers will always fail to mine the depths of a particular passage. As I drive home from church on Sunday, I am keenly aware that I have failed to exhaust the depths of the passage. There was more that could have been said, and what was said could have been said better. But at the end of the day I must realize that God has chosen me as a weak vessel to manifest His own surpassing glory so that God alone receives the glory.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Part 5: Writing the Manuscript
Before writing the actual preaching manuscript, I have a number of papers on which I’ve taken notes during my study. These papers range from the copies of that week’s sermon text (see here for an explanation) to numerous sheets of notebook paper on which I’ve taken notes from the commentaries. On the former I will have most of the exegetical data which I have discovered in the study process. On the latter I will have pertinent quotes, illustrations or exegetical insights from the commentaries (these are usually only a brief description accompanied by the author’s last name and page number). I may or may not use this material in my sermon manuscript. These are merely the items that struck me as I read the various commentaries. I will also work through various potential homiletical or “preaching” outlines on a sheet of notebook paper. I never begin writing my manuscript till I have a preaching outline. It may not be the best possible outline, but at a certain point and time I have to go with what I have.
I usually do not begin writing my sermon manuscript until Saturday evening, sometimes later. I try to go to bed by 10 or 11 pm on Saturday night after meditating on the product of my studies for the week. I will often read a book on Saturday to allow my mind to take a break from the intense study of the week. This book may or may not have something to do with the topic(s) of the week’s text. I set my alarm for anywhere from 5 am to 7 am on Sunday morning depending upon the state of the manuscript at bedtime on Saturday.
Writing my sermon manuscript takes anywhere from 2 to 4 hours. This is one reason that I’m able to sometimes wait until early Sunday morning to write the manuscript. Keep in mind that this is after all the study has been done, all the commentaries read, and everything is somewhat organized. Also, please realize that I’m not recommending this schedule for you. It fits with my schedule right now. I can conceive of a much better schedule in which the manuscript is written by Thursday or Friday and then a day off before preaching on Sunday. One thing my current schedule does provide though is a sense of freshness, but this no doubt could be “preserved” by certain means for an alternate schedule.
I use a template for my sermon manuscript that allows me to print two pages on each 8.5 x 11 inch sheet of paper (see here for an example). The first thing I do is plug in my title and text. I usually don’t have a catchy title, it is merely descriptive. I spend zero amount of time trying to be cute in my sermons. If they are cute it is accidental and natural. Second, I plug in the main point titles and the scripture references upon which those points are based (if you don’t have scripture references for your main points, your sermon may not be biblical). The EXP, ILL, and APP are vestigial reminders to explain, illustrate and apply each main point. This is a worthy goal, but not all texts can be forced into a cookie-cutter mold (and none should be forced). Obviously, each main point needs to be explained. My goal is that each of my sermons have only one “real” point, the point of the passage. The main points (I, II, III, …) should each serve to develop the main point of the passage/message. I usually don’t have subpoints. I find them to merely confuse both me and the hearer about what the message is really about. Also each point needs to be illustrated. An illustration helps explain the unfamiliar in familiar terms which the hearer will understand. This can be done in a variety of ways. This is the weakest area of my sermons. It is an area where I constantly must be working. Finally, I try to apply each main point. My default tendency would be to save all application to the end of the sermon, but all truth needs to be applied to the hearer. Therefore each major point should be applied to the congregation (this tells the hearer what he or she is to do as a result of what God’s Word says). I personally believe that this is the ultimate difference between “preaching” and “teaching”. Teaching communicates facts, but preaching calls for a response to those facts.
I usually do what the textbooks say and wait to write my introduction and conclusion last. How else, the experts say, do you know what you are introducing or concluding? An excellent point, but when I begin writing my manuscript I usually already know what I’m introducing and concluding. Therefore, if I come across material that would be excellent for an introduction or a conclusion, or if I have an idea of how I want to word my introduction or conclusion, I will often go ahead and write those sections before the rest of the manuscript is complete. I may even have ideas jotted down on notebook paper before I begin writing the manuscript. I may also write all the text under each main point simultaneously (alternating back and forth) or straight through. Each week is different and I never know how any manuscript will turn out until it’s finished.
What I am calling my “manuscript” some would probably call merely an “expanded outline.” It usually consists of only 4-6 half sheets (5.5 x 8.5) in which all my notes are crammed as tightly as possible (see here for an example). It is essentially the same as what I post on the web on Sunday afternoons (lightly edited). After writing the manuscript, printing it off, and cutting the full sheets in two half sheets in order to fit inside my Bible, all that remains is to preach the sermon! I will discuss the actual preaching of the sermon in my next (final?) post.
A few important comments about this series. First, it was inspired by The Thirsty Theologian, David Kjos (see here). Hence, he deserves all the blame and none of the credit for the content of these posts! :) Second, this is not a prescriptive, but a descriptive series. It is intentionally not titled: “How You Ought to Prepare An Expository Sermon.” It is merely a description of my practice on a weekly basis. There are, of course, some key principles that everyone ought to do in preparing to preach, but the way you do it will differ based upon your gifts, time, personality and desires. Third, I have not consulted any preaching textbooks in the preparation of this series. This series has simply been the product of my reflections upon what I actually do each week. But this does not mean that I have not been profoundly influenced by certain books on expository preaching in the development of my current practice. Those of you who are familiar with the key texts used to teach expository preaching will recognize (I hope) elements of Bryan Chappel’s Christ Centered Preaching, Graeme Goldsworthy’s Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, Wayne McDill’s Twelve Essential Skills for Great Preaching. While those are my favorite books on the preparation and delivery of expository sermons, other great ones are available. Books like: Power in the Pulpit by Jerry Vines, Between Two Worlds by John Stott, Biblical Preaching by Haddon Robinson, and Expository Preaching edited by John MacArthur, Jr.
My next post will be a picture of my kids on our Christmas card sent out this year. On Sunday evening (Christmas Eve) or Monday morning (Christmas Day), I will post my sermon manuscript for this Sunday morning’s message on Matthew 1:18-25 titled “The Birth of the King.” Future posts in the “How I Prepare An Expository Sermon” will include posts on the writing of the manuscript and the actual preaching of the sermon. In these posts, I plan to outline different ways from the past in which I have scheduled my week to do the work of sermon preparation. My schedule changes from time to time based on other responsibilities, but I always have a schedule. Stay tuned for those posts either after Christmas or the New Year.
Finally, here is a list of links to the posts which have already been made in this series: