LECTURE 6 ON SERMON PREPARATION The Title and the Objective

The Title: Interesting, honest, and refined.

The Proposition: It should be brief and summarize the gist of the sermon. It should also be one of the first things we do because it will keep us focused in our preparation. The most disastrous sermons are produced by people who do not have a theme. They just talk about the text and its meaning. But what is the point? A sermon without a proposition or theme is always a collection of disorganized thoughts and comments.

As for Objective, according to Chapell, the sermon should consist of three vital elements, which include explanation, illustration, and application. Sproul reminds us of passion in the pulpit, but although our messages should be dynamic, they must also be carefully planned.  If you do not know where you are going, you will surely not arrive at a destination. This does not mean that we cannot be extemporaneous, and there are times when important thoughts occur in the process of preaching. However, these thoughts must be related to the points we are emphasizing. Careful planning will prevent us from speaking off the cuff and getting off the subject. As a result, sermon manuscripts are very helpful in crystalizing our thinking but our delivery should not be tied to themn. Preaching also has a spiritual dimension in the sense that it is not just a discourse, but a message from God. It is useless without the Holy Spirit. Preaching without organization is ineffective, but preaching without the blessing of the Holy Spirit is absolutely useless. The best illustration of this that I can recall is Jonathan Edwards. He was renowned for spending hours in prayer, however, he had vision problems and when he delivered his magnificent sermons he had his eyes close to the manuscript because he couldn’t see otherwise. Yet a great revival broke out under his preaching. It surely was not a result of his pulpit demeanor.

Logan writes on the phenomenology of preaching. In it he talks about focus and language. Is there a focus and does the language support it. Words are tools. Logan spends a lot of time talking about the meaning of words and statements. The upshot of that complicated discussion is that emotions should be stirred by words, and not the other way around. Some preachers stir expect the Holy Spirit to do all the stirring of the emotions. Others do it by pulpit acrobatics and affectations. However the language we use can be very instrumental in communicating the truth of the Gospel. We need, as I said before, to pay more attention to the way we say things. Great authors stir our emotions by their use of language. Why should sermons be carelessly and monotonously worded?

To that point Haseldon in talking about relevance, militates against the idea that content will produce an effect. He suggests that taste, style and elegance are important to the objective. Offensive language is to be avoided as a device of man and not the will of God. And carefully crafted language is essential to the sermon. Without this the objective is lost. Finally If the work of preaching is to prepare the saints for service as Paul says in Ephesians 4, it must care for the people. Does the objective of the sermon deal with the essential stuff of human nature and experience and meet people where they’re at?