The Anatomy of a Sermon – Thoughts on Preaching

Dear Sovereign Redeemer and other friends,

Early Sunday mornings, after the sermon is completely written, I print it and go back over it thoroughly, making additional hand-written notes and highlighting certain places to draw my attention to them as I preach.

On an average week, this represents 1 hour of work. For those keeping track, that brings my total time to prepare a sermon to a range of 11-15 hours.

As an example, here is what I carried into the pulpit for a recent sermon:

Final Sermon Sample

The entire file is accessible here.

Here are some additional thoughts related to actually delivering the sermon.

  • Position of the sermon notes makes a difference. I find myself less tied to my notes and more able to make eye contact if I have my notes elevated and tilted at a good angle. It sounds silly, but for me this makes a big difference. There are enough challenges with sermon delivery without having to crane my neck to see my notes.
  • There are ways to make sermon notes “preaching friendly”. I make the font big (for me, 12 point Arial, but whatever). Sentences are bad, at least long ones, and short bullets are good. I maintain generous spacing to make it easier to find my place. I use as many visual cues as I can think of: colors (sparingly), bold, italics, underlining, and highlighting.
  • Urgent appeals are an essential part of preaching. If there is no urgent appeal to be made, then I shouldn’t be preaching. Preaching is fundamentally about proclaiming the word of God so that people change and make progress, and that requires urgently appealing for change. Done well, an urgent appeal is accompanied by a marked difference in intensity. Obviously if this is too frequent, it loses its significance. I normally identify one or two spots where I think an urgent appeal is appropriate, or where a particular point should be made more forcefully, and then I increase my intensity markedly in those places.
  • God loves His people. Paul says this to the Ephesian elders: “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:28). However much or little confidence I have in any given sermon, I always go into the pulpit with the full assurance that God loves His people and will help them to be well fed.

If you have the time and inclination, print out the sermon notes and listen to the sermon with those in hand.

I hope you find it to be a sound, expository sermon, and that this series of posts helps you grow in your ability to prepare and deliver the same.