|How to Prepare
and Preach a Sermon
by John Cunyus
I. Prayerfully read the scripture text(s) selected for the day.
Take notes as thoughts arise in your mind. Write down new
understandings. Offer these things up to God as prayer. Look up
words you aren’t sure of. Look at Bible dictionaries and
commentaries to understand the context in which the passage(s)
was written. Go through the passage(s) line by line and
summarize each main point. You will often find your sermon writes
itself, simply by paying careful attention to the text. Arrive at what
you consider to be the central idea of the passage and make that
the central idea of your sermon.
II. Consider the setting, time of year, special events taking
place in the world, community, congregation itself. While it may
not be necessary to address such events directly, it is good to
know what the concerns of the people are to whom you are
III. When outlining the message itself, I normally use five
A. Tell a Story: I look for a story, either from my experience, from
literature, from others’ experiences, from the news, etc, that
prepares the ground for the central idea of the biblical text. For
instance, I preached recently on Mark 2:1-12. In that text, four
friends bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus, despite the
obstacles. I used two stories in my introduction of people being
brought to Christ: my own, which was actually quite easy; and that
of Tokiyuki Nobuhara, a Japanese Christian who did not even
know the name of the Savior he had put his faith in until World
War II ended. Your introduction touches the hearers’ experiences,
hopefully, and helps them connect the biblical truth to their own
B. Talk about Context: I lay out the context of the text. As a
seminary professor once said, “A text without a context is a proof-
text for a pretext.” Answer, briefly, the great journalistic questions
as they pertain to the text(s) you are using:
Who (is the author, main character, etc)
What (type of literature is it: narrative, letter, law, poetry. What
type of literature has impact on what type of truth it is.)
When (was it written, under what circumstances.)
Where (was it written, does the action take place, etc.)
Why (the immediate situation that called forth this writing; the
issue the narrative intends to address.
C. Open the Text: Spell out in detail what the text itself says.
Interpret for the hearers difficult passages. Make sure to clarify
issues that aren’t so clear on just a superficial hearing. All of this
helps you bring out the central idea of the sermon, which comes
from the text itself.
D. Apply the Message: Apply the central idea of the text to the
hearers’ own situation. Be aware of the different groups of people
who are in your audience. Try to anticipate what their situations
are, how God’s Word might speak to them in particular through
this text. This allows them to measure their lives by the Word.
E. Issue an Invitation: Invite all present to act in accordance
with the Word, as God has spoken it. If hearing the Gospel does
not lead us to action, we obviously have not understood it.
IV. Write out your sermon. It should be no longer than four
pages, double-spaced. Read it out loud to make sure it is good
spoken English. Commit its outline to memory. Preach it like
souls depended on it! They very well might
Remember and respect time limits!
Stay focused on one clear idea!
Go no longer than 15-18 minutes!
John Cunyus is a free-lance writer in Dallas. His work is available on-line at www.
by John Cunyus
©2006, All Rights Reserved
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