Read an Excerpt
Part 1 Developing and Preaching a Biblical Sermon
Step 1 Grasp the Meaning of the Text in Their Town
Step 2 Measure the Width of the Interpretive River
Step 3 Cross the Principlizing Bridge
Step 4 Grasp the Text in Our Town
Step 5 Exegete Your Congregation
Step 6 Determine How Much Background Material to Include
Step 7 Determine the Sermon Thesis and Main Points
Step 8 Develop Text-Centered Applications
Step 9 Find Illustrations
Step 10 Write Out the Sermon and Practice Delivery
Preaching a Biblical Sermon
Have you ever experienced the preaching of John R. W. Stott or
Eugene Lowery or Tony Campolo? Stott is calm in presentation and fills sermons with background information from biblical times. He is intentional in his outline and lays out the truths clearly. Lowery is free in his approach and fills his sermon with narrative and colorful language to lead the audience in discovering the truth from the text.
Campolo is a whirl of activity and excitement, filling his sermons with stories of exploits of radical ministry. In our homiletics classes we want our students to be exposed to preachers like these. Each of these preachers possesses a style of preaching so different from the other two that one wonders how in the world what each does in the pulpit can be called preaching in the same sense. And yet each continues to enthrall audiences with unique presentations of God's Word.
How can these three men be so different and yet so effective with their preaching ministries? What common feature in their sermons endears them to congregations and continues to place them in the category of great preachers? For that matter, what will it take for you with your own unique style to establish an effective preaching ministry?
We think we have an answer to those questions, and that is the purpose of this textbook on preaching.We believe all three of these men, and many more like them, exhibit an understanding of biblical preaching. They approach it in different ways and present sermons their own way, but in the end they all arrive at the same place.
Good preaching is biblical preaching.You are now probably asking yourself what that means.What is biblical preaching and how can
I imitate great preachers? This textbook seeks to show you the way---
or at least a way to that kind of preaching. Our goal is to help you develop a process that will allow you to preach biblical sermons week in and week out in your own way---sermons that challenge and encourage growth in your congregation. So where do we start?
Defining a Biblical Sermon
In the 1960s, in A Quest for Reformation in Preaching, H. C. Brown declared that Protestant preaching in America was in a crisis because too many ministers held to 'inadequate and inferior concepts about the ministry in general and preaching in particular.' Unfortunately this
'inadequate and inferior concept' of preaching has probably plagued the church throughout much of its history. Until preachers grasp the goal of the preaching event and come to a clear understanding of how structure and content contribute to that goal, the people in our churches will continue to suffer under weak and ineffective preaching.Therefore,
it is imperative in a textbook on homiletics that we come to grips with the most basic building blocks of biblical preaching---how to develop an effective biblical sermon.
Obviously a biblical sermon is necessary for biblical preaching.
But what exactly is a biblical sermon? One way to define it is to connect the sermon to the concept of biblical authority. In other words,
a biblical sermon is one that carries with it high biblical authority. In such a sermon the biblical text serves as the basis of the sermon, and the message communicated through the sermon follows closely the intended meaning of the biblical text, thus drawing its authority from that text.
Brown classifies sermons according to how well they reflect the intended meaning of the text. Direct biblical sermons are the best, for they 'employ the natural and logical meaning of the text in a direct,
straightforward fashion.' Indirect biblical sermons tend to depart from the intended meaning of the text and stray from the central idea in the scriptural passage. Casual biblical sermons, continues Brown, utilize
Scripture in a rather 'free and loose'way. The combination biblical sermon attempts to combine all of the above categories, while the corrupted biblical sermon intentionally or unintentionally abuses the
The direct biblical sermon carries the highest level of biblical authority. If our goal is to preach with the authority of 'thus says the
Lord,' then it is critical that we ground our sermons firmly and directly in the Bible. That is, we should endeavor to develop and preach direct biblical sermons.
Beginning the Sermon Process
A biblical sermon first requires a text. The Latin term for text (textus)
comes from a root word connected to the concept of weaving a fabric. As the original inspired human authors of the Scriptures wove together the words of God to declare his message, so we, too, strive to declare this same message. In biblical preaching the text becomes the material or fabric to be woven into the sermon.When we declare a text from the pulpit, the sermon to follow should reflect that biblical passage in its points, theme, and message. It should be clear to the audience that the scriptural passage is the foundation and material of the sermon.
A sermon is not a biblical sermon if a passage is merely read and then ignored while the preacher tells funny stories or deals with other unrelated issues. As we discuss in this book, there are different effective styles or types of preaching, but all of them must be grounded in
God's Word, and their message must flow from that Word if we are to preach with biblical authority.
A few weeks ago I visited a church and sat through two sermons.
In both cases the preacher set up a text and stated clearly to the audience that he intended to use that text as a basis for the sermon. After reading it, he began to ramble through a series of subjects from morality to ethics to church.Not once did he ever refer us back to the text, make a point from it, explain it, or even give us cause to look at the Bible again. In other words,we could just close our Bibles and listen,
which is what several of us did after a while.Neither sermon possessed a text. Neither showed evidence of the weaving of biblical information or truth. They were not biblical sermons.He missed the idea of a sermon text.We don't want that to happen to you or your audience.
But how do you get the meaning of the text? The details of this process appear in the next chapter of this book, but some preliminary considerations are necessary here. In order to utilize a Scripture passage as the text and foundation of a biblical sermon, an exegesis of the text is necessary. To exegete means to work through the text sufficiently to 'bring out' the meaning. The fruit of good exegesis provides more than enough fascinating and relevant material to fill any sermon with principles originating from God. In the exegesis of the text and sermon process you discover the meaning of the text 'in their town,' determine the similarities and differences between our situation and that of the biblical audience, find universal biblical principles,
and begin to translate that meaning to your congregation.
How do you select a text for preaching? Various preachers answer this question in different ways, but perhaps a summary of some options will prove helpful to you.
(1) Personal reading and study of Scripture.Many preachers discover their sermon texts as they perform their own personal study of the Bible. Certain passages speak to them or cause a personal point of growth in their spiritual life.