Preaching and Sermon Preparation

We take a break from our regular format to enjoy a relaxed open forum. Nonetheless, the panel quickly focuses on the subject of preaching and sermon preparation. We ask questions such as when do you read commentaries? Should you work with secondary sources from the start or wrestle with the text on your own for a while? Should we have a preference for preaching extemporaneously or using notes or a manuscript? Along with thoughtful give-and-take from the contributors, these questions comprise a fruitful conversation.

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Christ the Center focuses on Reformed Christian theology. In each episode a group of informed panelists discusses important issues in order to encourage critical thinking and a better understanding of Reformed doctrine with a view toward godly living. Browse more episodes from this program and learn how to subscribe.

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Jeff Downs

5 years ago

I’m in the middle of listening to this program…good stuff already. The way I (try) do things, at least at the beginning. I look at the text, read, reread, etc. and come up with a propositional statement and the points (two or three, etc.)…at that point, I don’t have a problem going to dictionaries, etc.
Just an initial thought. eek, I just heard Nick say he abandoned the GPTS model….not good. 🙂

Nick Batzig

5 years ago

Jeff,

I’ll be interested in your thoughts after you have listened to the show in its entirety.

Nick Batzig

5 years ago

Also, I wouldn’t say I’ve abandoned the GPTS model. I take an existentially unique route of carrying it out.

Mark A. Winder

5 years ago

Ditto on Beale. I keep Commentary on NT use of OT, BT, and Temple and Church’s Mission at my fingertips, along with a few other resources. Never preach without consulting it. “Cash money” indeed.

Jeff Downs

5 years ago

Nick,

I just finished listening. I thought it was a good discussion, so much more could have been said. Something that was not mentioned is how one addresses various hearers in the congregation. Not everyone is going to be on the same level theologically, and so the language one uses is important. On the same line of thinking, our application needs to be addressed to those in our congregation (old, young, rich, poor, hurting, hopeful, etc.)

Two things that have changed my preaching, for the better (I hope) is making sure the hearers know where I am going (e.g. they know the main point of the text), secondly, I want to makes sure I’m addressing the particular congregation. Carrick’s chapter “Different Catagories of Hearers” in his The Preaching of Jonathan Edwards is valuable toward the second point..

So, as I’m preparing and as I’m thinking about the application: I want to keep in mind who is (normally) present in the congregation and how the particular text of scripture can apply to them in their particular situation. At the same time, I am not discounting the general applications to be made to the church as a whole.

The discussion on the use of the manuscript, or not, is fun one. At one point, I “believed” I wasn’t going to make it out of GPTS. I “reduced” as much as a could, but it was still too much. We all have a “strengths and weaknesses” in this area, and we call all grow. If one is reading a manuscript, I think that can create some problems. But as Camden said, if you are using it, just as you would notes, that is the way it “should” be done.

My two cents. Now, if only I could be consistent with these things. 🙂

BTW: The title you were looking for at the end of the program is A Pathway into the Psalter
The Psalms: Their History, Teachings and Use
by William Binnie. We have 8 left at the seminary, $11 each. 🙂

Mark A. Winder

5 years ago

If you use a manuscript with care, the congregation won’t be able to tell. But if they KNOW you have one in front of you – whether or not you use it – they will be distracted every time you look down – and think you’re reading your sermon to them. If you do use a manuscript, just don’t volunteer that fact.

Brian Cochran

5 years ago

Great discussion! I really appreciated the emphasis on the fact that everyone is different in their gifts and personalities and that we shouldn’t be overly dogmatic about these things. I tend towards what Jeff and Nick were saying in terms of sermon prep. and could resonate a lot with Camden in terms of preaching from a manuscript. I use a manuscript most of the time and use a combination of bolding first sentences of paragraphs and indentations so that I preach primarily from thought to thought rather than word for word. And like Camden said, I pretty much have extemporaneous thoughts every week and am not afraid to go off the manuscript so to speak. Thanks for this episode. It’s nice to hear what other preachers do and how God has gifted us each in our own way. And may we all continue to grow in our gifts throughout our ministry!

Philip Walker

5 years ago

I find the manuscript-or-not discussion fascinating. By training and profession, I lecture mathematics in a university. There are some obvious affinities there with the work of a preacher: I’m very used to working from manuscript notes, explaining them and maintaining rapport with my listeners through eye contact and the other means available to us. As a lay preacher, I bring that experience into the pulpit and preach from a manuscript but without losing rapport: one of our deacons commented the other week how helpful my facial expressions are!

But it’s always good to hear other perspectives. As Brian says, I think we should recognise that the choice is quite personal. The way we ‘should’ preach is about holding two principles to be held in tension: direct rapport with the congregation on the one hand, and expressing yourself in a clear and logical manner on the other. For some of us, the means we choose is a manuscript, for others it is outline notes, and for yet more it is nothing more than an open Bible. So long as you’re communicating effectively (humanly speaking), you’ve got a good method.

The main thing I would say is try to assess the strengths and weakness of any method, and of yourself, and choose methods which have strengths aligning with your weaknesses. If you struggle with rapport, don’t choose a method which is going make that worse! If rapport is fine but you need to work on structure, don’t choose a method which leaves structure flapping in the wind.

Ben Muresan

5 years ago

Great show, men. In my preparation, I find it helpful to sit with the text first before going to my various aids in sermon preparation. In doing so, I try to remember that as I’m reading the text for the first time, the congregation will also have my same current mindset as we read the text together the following Sunday morning. As I read the text for the first time, I note the questions that arise in my head and the words that stand out because, more than likely, many in the congregation will have the same questions and notice the same things during their first reading on Sunday morning. Some refer to this as the “first naivete.” In this way, as I’m digging into the text during the week, I make it a point to, among other things, answer the questions that arose during my initial reading. I’m also aware, as you all mentioned, that I do come to the text with many presuppositions that my church may not also have (books I’ve read in the past on the text or sermons I’ve heard). However, I still find this exercise helpful in my own preparation. Blessings to you all, brothers!

Ian Watson

5 years ago

I remember hearing William Still, late of Aberdeen, Scotland, saying that he used a full manuscript when he began his ministry, abandoned it, and then returned to full manuscript for the last 15 years of his ministry! He was over 80 when he retired.

Brett Mahlen

5 years ago

Dear Nick,

Would you mind repeating the names of the preachers to which you listen? You mentioned them in the show: Ferguson, Still, Alexander…

Thanks,

Brett

Brett Mahlen

5 years ago

Nick,

Please forget that I mentioned Still. I just read his name in Ian Watson’s comment.

Brett

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