Sermon Preparation Help
A breif sermon preparation guide. Learn how to create a powerful speech when you have a short amount of time.
Suppose you are visiting a church and the pastor becomes ill. He knows you will speak in churches, when given an opportunity. Or, suppose that it's Saturday night, and your pastor calls, saying that he cannot speak on Sunday and needs a fill-in. Or, suppose you are at a civic club meeting, and you are asked to speak for ten minutes about the upcoming fundraiser.
If you choose to speak, you have little time to come up with appropriate words. What can you do?
If you consistently practice the following disciplines, you can learn to speak extemporaneously, or on the spur of the moment. While we prefer more time to prepare for sermons, we sometimes are asked to speak with little notice. I remember visiting my grandmother's church as a young preacher boy. Her pastor, an older gentleman, would ask me to give the message. I asked him why he would ask me on such short notice. He quoted 2 Timothy 4:2a: "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season…."
Therefore, here are some tips I have learned along the way after fifteen years of preaching and speaking. They will work at churches, synagogues, civic groups, political rallies, or wherever you have to give an impromptu speech.
1. Study, study, study.
This was Charles Haddon Spurgeon's secret of preparation. He would read and absorb information during the week. On Saturdays, he would go into his study and pray for a sermon. Sometimes, he wouldn't know what he would preach until he stepped into the pulpit. The process worked for him, because he became arguably the most effective preacher in the 19th Century.
I remember the advice of a former pastor of mine: "Always preach from the overflow." He used the analogy of a glass. If, on a Saturday, I had to fill the glass half-full, the sermon would not be the best. If, however, I constantly filled my glass during the week, the people would benefit from the overflow.
During high school and college, I competed on forensics teams. One of our events was extemporaneous speaking. We were given a topic and just a few minutes to create and give a speech about that topic. The key was the clip file. If we had to speak about peace in the Middle East, and we had clippings about peace in the Middle East, we could give an informative speech about peace in the Middle East. If we made it up as we went, the speech didn't go well.
2. Summarize what you have to say.
Norman Vincent Peale believed that many of his powerful sermons were due to a little trick he learned from his father, who was also a minister. When Peale first started in the ministry, his father would have him send a telegram with a one-sentence synopsis of the sermon. If he could not summate the sermon in one sentence, the sermon wasn't ready to deliver.
This helps me bring my writing and speaking into focus. As Jack Hyles used to reportedly say, "Tell them what you are going to say, tell them, then tell them what you told them." My wife believes my best sermons are focused instead of rambling. In fact, a five-minute emphasis on prayer may have more impact than a forty-five minute tome on the relationship between prayer, eschatology and the role of multi-media presentations in the church's educational program.
3. Make rational divisions within your point.
Dr. Jerry Vines uses the analogy of splitting a log. Take the verse and divide it into parts. For instance, 2 Timothy 1:7 says, "For God hath not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." Then, speak about power as your first point, love as your second point, and a sound mind as your third point. These are all antithetical to fear. Therefore, your main point is that God does not want us to fear. Instead, he gives us power, love and a sound mind. Conclude by restating the main point. Tell a few appropriate stories along the way, and you have a good sermon.
4. Put your heart into it.
When you speak, or when you do anything at all, put your heart into it. Share your innermost feelings and thoughts. Leonard Ravenhill used to say that preachers needed to preach from their hearts, that we didn't have enough heart preaching in our churches.
That reminds me of my favorite quote from Dr. John Maxwell, an expert on leadership and preaching: "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.
If you follow these four disciplines in your speaking, you can deliver an effective, extemporaneous speech at church or anywhere else.