6 THINGS I’VE LEARNED ABOUT BIBLE LESSON AND SERMON PREPARATION 

1.       Prepare my heart, not just my head.  I ask God’s Spirit to encourage, convict, or move me to action as needed.  I use the text to inform a time of prayer before I start thinking about how to teach it.  When something in the text moves me to tears, prompts confession of sin, evokes gratitude to God, or buoys my spirit, then I am almost ready to teach it. “No tears in the teacher, no tears in the learner.”  I don’t want to peddle the gospel without enjoying or experiencing it.

2.       Pray for learners/hearers, not just for myself as I prepare and present material.  I can only reach a person’s ears.  God’s Spirit must shuttle truth from the ears, through the head, to the heart.  Teaching or preaching or evangelism is never merely a human endeavor.  Paul delivered the gospel, but it was the Lord who opened Lydia’s heart (Acts 16:14).

3.       Write timeless truths or principles in sentence form.  If I cannot write or type a precise, clear sentence for every truth in the text, how can I possibly verbalize  those truths simply and clearly?  The gift of teaching is seen primarily in the ability to simplify and to convey in learnable form  insights from God’s Word.  (Simplicity is not the same as superficiality!)

4.       Identify the “irreducible minimum” for teaching or preaching the passage.  If you wind up having less time than expected, what is the least  you must say in order to handle the text with integrity?  Which principle cannot be sacrificed?  Which insights are relatively less important, especially in view of audience needs and the text’s “big idea”?  According to Bruce Wilkerson, what we choose to leave out of a lesson or message is as important as what we choose to put in.  And those decisions are best made in advance.

5.       Plan your life-related introduction last, when you are most familiar with the content.  How can you launch it in a way that shows relevance of the material, and earns their attention?

6.       Start  preparing many days in advance, rather than a day or two before.  If you have only 3 hours to prepare for a SS lesson, spread it out over several days rather that doing it all the night before.  Only have a total of 8 hours to prepare a sermon?   Spread those hours over a week’s time, rather than cramming on Saturday and early Sunday morning.  This approach allows time for the text to roil around in your mind.  Ideas or illustrations or applications will pop up at unexpected times during the week, because  material  has been simmering in your  sub-consciousness.  New Testament scholar Merrill Tenney said this about preparation to teach:  “Homemade soup tastes better the longer it simmers on the back burner.”

What preparation tip would you add to the list?

 

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