How to Prepare Sermons

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This practical book supplies ministers, theological students, and laymen called upon to preach with a helpful tool for their ministries. Rather than being an attempt at a complete and exhaustive treatment of homiletics, it is a clearly outlined guide, written in a conversational tone, for study, selection of sermon texts and themes, and sermon building.

Dr. William Evans has drawn upon extensive education and years of experience as a pastor, preacher, and Bible instructor to ...

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This practical book supplies ministers, theological students, and laymen called upon to preach with a helpful tool for their ministries. Rather than being an attempt at a complete and exhaustive treatment of homiletics, it is a clearly outlined guide, written in a conversational tone, for study, selection of sermon texts and themes, and sermon building.

Dr. William Evans has drawn upon extensive education and years of experience as a pastor, preacher, and Bible instructor to produce a guidebook that is personal and easily understood. After establishing definitions of terms under consideration, he examines the value of the personality of the preacher, the voice and interpretation of the text and theme, and the gathering and arranging of sermonic materials employed. He then gives close attention to the introduction, body, and conclusion, various types of sermons, and the use and abuse of illustrations. A concluding section contains sermon outlines which illustrate the material of the preceding pages.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802437259
  • Publisher: Moody Publishers
  • Publication date: 6/28/1939
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 683,829
  • Product dimensions: 5.82 (w) x 8.66 (h) x 0.66 (d)

Meet the Author

WILLIAM EVANS, (1870-1950) a noted American Bible teacher, was born in Liverpool, England, in 1870. Following several years in various pastorates, he was appointed director of the Department of Bible at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. Evans devoted his life to directing Bible conferences throughout the United States and Canada, and was the author of more than forty volumes on biblical interpretation including Great Doctrines of the Bible and How to Prepare Sermons.
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How to Prepare Sermons

By William Evans

Moody Publishers

Copyright © 1964 The Moody Bible Institute Of Chicago
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8024-3725-9




The word "homiletics" is derived from the Greek word homilia and signifies either a mutual talk and conversation or a set discourse. The preachers in the early Church were in the habit of calling their public discourses "talks," thus making it proper to speak of what is in the present day in some quarters called a "gospel talk."

From the word homilia has come the English word "homiletics," which has reference to that science or art—or indeed both—which deals with the structure of Christian discourse, embracing all that pertains to the preparation and delivery of sermons and Bible addresses. It shows us how to prepare a sermon or Gospel address and how to deliver it effectually. Homiletics, then, is the art and science of preaching.


Preaching is the proclamation of the Good News of salvation through man to men. Its two constituent elements are a man and a message—personality and truth. The Gospel proclaimed by means of the written page or the printed book is not preaching. There is no such thing as seeing "sermons in stones." Again, the proclamation of any kind of message other than the gospel message, which is the truth of God as revealed in the Bible and especially in Jesus Christ, is not preaching. Much of what is heard from so-called Christian pulpits of today is not real preaching. The discussion of politics, popular authors, current topics, and kindred themes may rightfully be called addresses, and may result in the emulation of the orator, but such efforts can in no sense of the word be called preaching; and such men have absolutely no right, so long as they continue to deliver such addresses from the pulpit, to the honored name of preachers of the Gospel. The message of the very truth of God through man to men—that is preaching.


The preacher is separated by God for the specific work of preaching the Gospel and is a man who from one side of his nature takes in the truth from God and from the other side gives out that truth to men. He deals with God in behalf of men; he deals with men in behalf of God.

This truth must not be mechanically expressed. It must not be merely truth through the mouth, over the lips, in the intellect, or by means of the pen, but truth through his character and personality. Every fiber of the man's moral and spiritual nature must be controlled by the truth. The force of a blow is measured not by the arm only, but also by the weight of the body behind the arm. And just here is the difference men instinctively feel between one preacher and another. The hearer is persuaded that the truth which is being proclaimed from the pulpit has come over one preacher, whereas it has come through the other. Consequently, the preaching of the one is tame and uninteresting, while that of the other is strong, fascinating, and convincing.

The preacher must not be a mere machine, an automaton; he must be a real man—a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith. The effect of such a life and such preaching will be that many people will be added to the Lord (Acts 11:24).

The personality of the preacher has very much to do with the effectiveness of his message. An artist may be a profligate and yet produce a picture or a statue which will call forth the admiration of the people; an author may be dissolute in morals and yet produce a book that will set the world aflame with his popularity. These are works of art and can be considered apart from the man himself. But not so with the preacher and his sermon; it is a part of himself; indeed, it must be the expression of his very life and experience. If such is not the case, then what is called preaching will be nothing but "sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal."

Personality counts in preaching. Is this not one of the reasons why many sermons do not usually make good reading? The personality of the preacher is absent. Of course, there are some very splendid exceptions to this fact, but often—alas, very often—the sermon is but an echo of the man. Have we not wondered more than once at the dryness of a sermon we were reading when at the time we heard it we were moved to the very depths of our being? What was lacking? The personality of the preacher, that is all—but how much is wrapped up in that personality!

The experience of the truth must be in the preacher himself before he can proclaim it with convicting force in and through the sermon. Given a man who is a born artist, you have only to supply the palette and brush, or chisel and mallet with mere technical skill, and you have a statue or a picture. And if you have your preacher—a man with the experience of the truth in him—you will find that very little else is needed to set free the sermon in him.

From this it is clearly evident that true preparation for the Gospel ministry does not consist in mere tricks in sermon-making or delivery, but in the development of true personality. Such a man in the pulpit will surely prove to be a preacher who will reach the masses.

We hear complaints on every hand to the effect that people do not want Gospel preaching today. This is a mistake. There never was a day when people wanted it more than now. What they do object to is a Gospel read or declaimed and not preached. In other words, they ask for a consecrated personality in the pulpit. Look abroad today, and what do you see? Wherever the Gospel is preached by a consecrated personality, there are found men and women to hear it.



It has been said that truth and personality are the fundamentals of all true preaching. With reference to truth it is hardly necessary for the content of the message to be considered here except to say that it must be the truth of God as it is revealed in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ—that truth which is fitted for every man, and changes not with the passing of the years.

This chapter deals with the preacher and the development of his personality. What kind of man ought the preacher to be? What elements in his character need to be emphasized in the development of personality if he is to be a real success in the ministry of the Gospel?


Such a statement might seem to be altogether unnecessary were it not for the fact that the average preacher is actually almost anyone else except himself. Every truth the preacher expresses and every message he delivers ought to be stamped with his own personality and should be expressed in his own way.

Let us remember that God has made no two faces or voices alike. Each man has his own individuality to stamp on the work which God has given him to do. If your name is David, and you are called upon to kill your Goliath, then do not covet the armor of Saul, but take your sling and stone, and by the help of God the boasting giant will fall and lick the dust. Many a man has failed in his ministry, when otherwise he would have been a glorious success, simply because he was not willing to take himself as God made him. The very individuality with which God has endowed us is the very thing which makes us worth hearing—otherwise a phonograph could do the work about as well and at less expense.

It is worth noticing that men who copy the ways and manners of other preachers who have been successful almost always copy their faults, not their virtues, and in the attempt to do so become ridiculous in the extreme. What ludicrous results may be observed when men imitate with servility the doings of others! The ambitious young preacher who is aspiring to be a genius copies the peculiarities in attitude and manner of the popular preacher near him and causes actual merriment in the very matters in which he thinks he is most effective. Such a preacher is much like those monkeys whose imitative power, Harris says, the Indians turn to destruction in this way: Coming to their haunts with basins full of water or honey, they wash their faces in the sight of these animals, and then, substituting pots of thin glue instead of the water or honey, they retire out of sight. The monkeys, as soon as the Indians are gone, come down and wash their faces likewise and, sticking their eyelids together, become blind and are easily captured. In other places the Indians bring their boots into the woods and, putting them on and off, leave them well lined with glue or a sort of birdlime, so that when the unhappy monkeys put them on, the boots stick fast and hinder their escape. How many men have found it impossible to extricate themselves from difficulties into which they have been drawn through attempting to imitate others.

By shining in the light of others we may have made a name as great preachers; our people may have eulogized us. But we must turn now from imitating others and become our own true selves.

The preacher should be himself, his best self, his consecrated self, his highest self. In so doing he will best prove his sincerity, honor his God, and become a means of greatest blessing to the people to whom he ministers.


Again and again in his letters to the young preacher Timothy, the aged Apostle Paul insists on purity and piety of life. The great and often the only difference in many sermons is simply the difference in the character of the preachers. To know the inner life of such men as Spurgeon, Moody, or Finney is to understand the secret of their powerful ministry. What we are does indeed speak louder than what we say and certainly is more effective in the long run. A bad man cannot long remain undiscovered in the ministry. If the preacher is not living up to his preaching, the people will soon find it out—then woe be to that man. "Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the LORD."

The preacher must be clean in the habits of his life. Little foxes spoil the vines. He must have no impure habits nor secret vices. God will openly put to shame him who secretly sins. David's life is an illustration of this truth (II Sam. 12:12). Paul's exhortation to Timothy is still a helpful one: "Flee youthful lusts." The preacher will be shorn of his power in the pulpit if he is not clean in his private life. He cannot face his people with confidence if he knows that his life is not pure as it ought to be. The very confidence of the people will rebuke his hypocrisy. The preacher must cleanse himself from all defilement of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord. If a man shall purge himself, he shall be a vessel unto honor, meet and prepared for the Master's use.

The preacher must also be truthful. Exaggeration is lying, stretching the truth is lying, and a lie in the pulpit is worse than a lie anywhere else. If an illustration which the preacher is using did not occur in his own life, then he must not say it did. How many a preacher has been conscious that the story he was telling while in the pulpit was not true, that he was exaggerating, yes, that he was actually lying. He must not do evil that good may come from it.

A preacher's life may be a lie; he may be pretending to be in life what he is not in reality. Piety in the pulpit must be accompanied by piety in the home. A certain quality of life is expected from the preacher by his people, and reasonably so, too; he must see to it he proves himself worthy of their confidence. He must tell the truth to God. If he has vowed to Him, he must keep his vows. He must tell the truth to men. If he has promised to meet an obligation on a certain day, he must meet it; and if he is unable to meet it at the proper time, be a man and go and confess his inability to do so.


He should consider whose servant he is and what court he represents. A clerical jester is sadly out of place both in the pulpit and out of it. There should be a difference between a cheap advertising medium for a circus and an ambassador from the court of Heaven. It is to be feared that a preacher may grieve the Holy Spirit more by foolish talking and jesting than by anything else. If his strength has departed from him and he does not know the reason why, let him examine himself with this thought in mind.


Ordinarily a man must be a good animal before he can be a good preacher. The preacher should be in his best condition physically. A good physique is an attraction in the pulpit as well as the basis for good spiritual enjoyment. Spirituality and dyspepsia are very seldom found in the same individual at the same time. Let him exercise, take care of his health, look well to his diet. There are many spiritual enemies that cannot be cast out except "by prayer and fasting." A change of diet is the first thing some Christians need to attend to in order to progress in sanctification. The Apostle Paul also says, "Bodily exercise is profitable"; therefore, exercise.




The word "text" is from the Latin textus or textum and signifies something woven or spun. It is, therefore, that out of which the sermon is woven, the basis of the sermon or message. The text is not to be a mere motto for a sermon, nor is it to be chosen after the theme or subject is chosen and the sermon finished. If the sermon is not to be woven from the text, then the preacher must not take a text or pretend to do so. If he chooses a text, let it be a text and not a pretext. Sometimes texts are too apt to be "points of departure" for a sermon.

Whether texts should be long or short depends upon circumstances and usage. We are told that the early Christians chose long texts. From the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries short texts were popular. Today the tendency seems to be toward the choice of long texts. The popular preaching is expository preaching.


The importance of the right choice of the text upon which the sermon is based should not be underestimated. A young preacher, on asking what text he should choose for a sermon, was answered, "Oh, any text will do; speak on the Medes, Persians, Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia." This was certainly fatal advice to give to any young preacher.

The choice of a right text is often a difficult task for the preacher. No one knows better than he how nerve-wracking it is to have Saturday come and not to have found a text for the coming Sunday sermon. And often when a text is chosen under such conditions it is more of a pretext than a text.

Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Episcopalian preachers have a great advantage over preachers of other denominations in that their texts have already been chosen for them by the Church. Because of the Pericopes, and Gospel and Epistle lessons for the year as found in the prayer books of these churches, they are saved the trouble of searching for texts. The Scripture lessons and the texts for the sermons are already mapped out for them. It may be that this is a good thing for the preacher, and it doubtless has many commendable qualities. If considered an ironclad rule, it may at times seem arbitrary and binding and cause a man to preach on a subject with which, for the time being at least, he is not in sympathy. Yet, on the other hand, it settles the mind and allows the preacher to quietly and calmly gather material for his sermon all the time. He is thus saved many a sleepless night.


There certainly are many important advantages accruing from having an aptly chosen text. Textless preachers are great losers in the matter of effective preaching.

A. It Awakens the Interest of the Audience

This is by no means an advantage to be ignored. To pass it by is fatal to the preacher. How many times, we have listened to a preacher announce his text, and our attention has been aroused by the very reading of it, have we said within ourselves, "I wonder what the preacher is going to get out of that text?" Thus at the outset our interest and attention has been secured. To be able to secure this state of mind in the audience is of great advantage to the preacher. He can well afford to give diligent attention to whatever will produce this result.

B. It Gains the Confidence of the Audience

Confidence—in that he is to proclaim to the people the Word of God and not his own opinions. The Word of God is to many people—it should be to everyone—an end to all controversy.

C. It Gives the Preacher Authority and Boldness in the Proclamation of His Message

He need speak in no vacillating or uncertain tone. With a "Thus saith the Lord" as the basis of his sermon, he may speak with the authority of Heaven, for, after all, it is God and not man who speaks from the text. With such an authoritative message no preacher need be timid about proclaiming the will of God. A timid preacher is a caricature and useless in the pulpit. To be sure one has a direct message from God gives the messenger a sense of authority and holy boldness.


Excerpted from How to Prepare Sermons by William Evans. Copyright © 1964 The Moody Bible Institute Of Chicago. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


1. Definitions

2. Personality of the Preacher

3. Choice of the Text

4. Interpretation of the Text

5. Theme

6. Gathering Sermon Material

7. Arranging Sermon Material

8. Introduction of the Sermon

9. Body of the Sermon

10. Conclusion of the Sermon

11. Expository Sermons

12. Bible Readings

13. Great Chapters as Texts

14. Illustrations and Their Use

PART II: Oulines of Sermons, Gospel Messages, and Bible Readings

Textual Sermons

Expository Sermons

Bible Readings

Great Chapters as Texts

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2003

    Perfect for Beginners

    This little volume is ideal for laypersons who preach occasionally, or for beginning clergy. Evans writes in a familiar and earnest style. If you think preaching is no big deal, he'll convince you otherwise.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted March 31, 2011

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    Posted July 3, 2011

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