Could you say that you have your sermon preparation process nailed down?
Ever since my first preaching class, I’ve searched for the method that “works for me” like a pimply faced teenager goes through acne medication regimens. I’ve seen blemishes disappear here and there over the years, but I have finally found something that really works.
How sermon templates help your preparation
My solution: use a sermon template. It’s a document that has headings of all the things I want to put into each message. It’s a checklist for sermon writing.
Why use a template in the first place? Here a few benefits I have experienced since using one.
1. I have tangible evidence that tells me whether or not I am ready to go on to the next step. Instead of just feeling like I’ve done a lot of work, so I must be good to go, I look under each heading and determine if I’ve dealt with the section adequately.
2. I have a place to record thoughts, even if I’m not at that point of the sermon writing process yet.What do you do if you get an application idea when you are halfway through your exegesis? Make a mental note? Stuff I keep in the back of my head always seems to escape out the back door. But you can immediately put thoughts where they belong if you are working off a template because the sections are pre-made, waiting to be filled in. That way it is out of your head and you can go back to the section at hand.
3. I forget less. There’s lots of steps to the processes of exegesis and homiletics. A template means I don’t have to keep my old textbooks open to make sure I cross all my t’s and dot all my lower case j’s.
(For the record, I’m heavily dependent on the Workshops on Biblical Exposition put on by the Charles Simeon Trust for this part of my template. If there is ever a workshop near you, you have to go.)
A sermon prep template for exegesis
Context of the book: How does the passage you are going to preach develop the author’s main point of his book as a whole? (Of course, this assumes that you actually know the main point of the book you are preaching. Do you?)
Immediate context: How does your passage fit with the sections that come before and after it?
Grammatical structure: Here you analyze your passage, which will be different depending on the genre. For epistles, you’ll do a discourse analysis or arc of the passage. For narrative, you’ll develop a plot line. For poetry, you’ll look for parallelism and flow of thought.
Exegetical insights: Wrestle with the text until it blesses you. List repeated words, theological insights, biblical theological connections, technical terms, and whatever else helps you understand what the author was trying to communicate to his original audience.
Theme: In one sentence, what is the main point of the passage?
Aim: In one sentence, how did the author intend his audience to apply the passage?
How this text points to the work of salvation in Jesus: This will depend on which testament you are in and the contents of the passage.
1. Is this passage quoted or alluded to in the NT? Carson and Beale’s Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament is invaluable for this.
2. Is there a theme that anticipates Jesus’ fulfillment (e.g., the sacrificial system and Jesus’ penal substitutionary atonement)?
3. Does this passage represent a movement in the story line of the Bible toward the 1st advent?
1. Is there a resolution of the OT story line, or movement toward the 2nd advent?
2. Does the passage show what Jesus has accomplished by his life, death, or resurrection?
3. How are these things displayed as the plan of God? How are they showed to be wrought in us by the Spirit. While Jesus is the main character of the Bible, we must maintain a trinitarian view of each passage.
Using this template has increased the accuracy of my interpretation of my sermon texts, not to mention my confidence. But if we stop here, we will be very accurate and barely relevant. The next part, the homiletics template, is the Flux Capacitor for exegesis, sending the message into today’s world.