I'm preaching in my church's main service this upcoming Sunday, so I've been busy preparing what God would have me say to our church family. Every time I preach/teach, I keep these five questions before me as a sort of grid to keep my content focused in the right places. These aren't my own questions; I think I stole the basic framework from Bob Hyatt (I honestly can't remember), but over the years I've tweaked and shaped them into my own .
Here are five questions I ask myself as I prepare a message: where in the message do I...
1. Clearly point to Jesus? Whatever the topic or the passage of Scripture that we're addressing, I strive to preach Jesus every single time. I tend to lean towards narrative preaching, having been influenced by Eugene Lowry's book The Homiletical Plot. In the narrative of the sermon, the Gospel message and the person of Jesus tend to be the "climax" of each story, with the whole sermonic narrative leading up to Him. I strive to share about the Father and Holy Spirit too, keeping the sermon trinitarian, but the nature of kerygma is to preach Christ and Him crucified.
2. Speak to Christians? I try to specifically address the Christians listening to the sermon, acknowledging that even if a person has been in church and following Jesus for a long time, the gospel is still good news. Good news never gets old, and Christians need specific and clear reminders of its goodness.
3. Speak to non-Christians? I also try to address people who may be investigating spirituality and Christianity who are not yet followers of Christ, usually with a statement preceded by "if you're just checking out church and this whole Jesus thing, then...." This is out of a desire to be inclusive and to recognize/acknowledge that not everyone in a church or youth service knows Jesus yet. I don't have a hidden agenda either. I make my agenda quite clear--I hope they come to know Jesus because He's the source of life and love and joy and grace.
4. Speak to the heart/attitude? This is where Jesus went every time. While outward actions and behaviors are also valuable, they are only a reflection of the inward heart motivations we carry. If I'm just speaking to behaviors, or only giving application points that are behavioral in nature, I'm missing a huge component of spirituality: the heart, the interior, the desires and affections of the human soul.
5. Give people something to do immediately? In harmony with speaking to the heart, I want to also give a clear and defined action step for people to do. If a person hears a sermon and can walk out the door thinking, "that was nice...but I have no clue what to do with any of that," then I haven't communicated clearly enough. There needs to be clear pathways on how to respond, whether that's relationally, emotionally, or with a particular action. Pray for someone today. Sign up for this class or mission trip. Forgive someone in your heart. Read a passage of Scripture every day this week. Go invite one of your neighbors to dinner or coffee. Specific, clear, and immediate practical steps need to be taken, lest we become only hearers of the Word and not doers.
What question resonates with you the most? Pastors and preachers: what questions do you ask yourself when you're preparing to preach?