Central Baptist Church of Southington Connecticut


Preaching Helps

  • Jim Townsley
  • Apr 17, 2011

A recent graduate from Bible College gave his inaugural message in his home church. His title was, God, the Universe, and Other Things. It is amazing how four years of theological training can give you all the answers, but after 34 years of ministry you realize how little you really know.

Every young pastor faces the same challenge of preparing three or more weekly sermons while previously he has never had to prepare more than a few in his entire life. The criterion for each message has as its ideal: 1. It must be inspired from God 2. It must move every member to repentance and restoration 3. The preaching must be by demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit. Upon giving such a heartfelt message that moved no listener, you know your points were weak, and your wife tells you that you used the word "uh" forty times; the reality is far from the ideal. No wonder every preacher is ready to quit every Monday.

Preaching is an emotional experience! If you have done your job well you will be spent emotionally after every message. Preaching is extremely taxing and if you have to start every message from scratch with no idea what you will preach, you will have difficulty enjoying, or perhaps even surviving the ministry. There must be resources and a plan of approach to properly build a church through biblical preaching.

Preparations should begin as soon as a man receives the call to preach. Every sermon heard should be recorded by taking notes, storing outlines, and filing illustrations. While in Bible College I took notes from every message I heard preached and many of those outlines were sermon starters for my future messages. I must be honest, my wife took better notes than I and often I used her notes as my sermon starters. Sermons should be recorded on your word processor and filed on a spreadsheet, such as Microsoft excel. Your spreadsheet should include: date, title, location preached, preacher, and text. In addition you should keep a file on illustrations you heard or found. These can be stored in a manila folder or on your computer.
The process of becoming good at preaching can be enhanced by reading and listening to other great preachers, as well as reading good books and sermons. Make a habit of listening to audio sermons from some of the old time preachers such as Oliver B Greene, Harold Sightler, and Tom Malone. Many other great preachers and their sermons can be found on the internet. Periodicals carry sermons and these should be read as well as books by well known preachers of the past. As a young preacher, who you listen to will ultimately reflect who you become! If you listen to the modern day psychology, self help, feel good type of radio and TV preachers, you will eventually be like them. If you listen to men of God who stand for the truth without compromise and tell people what they need instead of what they want you will become like them. Amen!

Some day in heaven the true identity of the great preachers will be revealed. We may be surprised that it was not the pastor of a renowned city church with thousands of members, but a simple, faithful man at a country crossroad where the congregation was small or perhaps it is a missionary serving at an isolated location who gave his life while serving in obscurity.
Though we are all a composite of our past and present friendships and acquaintances, we must become the man of God He wishes us to be. If we become a faithful preacher of the Word of God we must be students of the Bible. In addition we must be readers of good books and literature. When a preacher does not read, it will be evident in the pulpit. Every preacher should make it a priority to get good books and materials. These materials are his tools. The church should provide a budget for the pastor's library so that he never feels restricted in purchasing the materials he needs. A pastor's library is his workshop and he needs the proper tools to hone his craft.

Preaching must be appropriate for the audience being addressed. A sermon to children should be prepared and delivered in a way that is age appropriate. Preaching at a funeral will be unique from all other sermons and whether or not the deceased was saved or lost will affect the message content. Starting a church usually finds a young preacher delivering sermons to new believers and weak Christians. Most of the preacher's time should be spent soul-winning and preaching should be primarily on salvation, separation, soul-winning, and service. Many of these types of sermons can be delivered with little study and preparation. As time passes people will expect more from the preaching and more time and study will be expected in sermon preparation. Why spend hours on a sermon when no one is in attendance to hear it? You must get people to come and most of your effort should be given toward that end.

Every preacher would love to have hours of solitude to quietly spend time in mediation and preparation. This ain't the reality of the ministry! As pressures and responsibilities increase the preacher must learn to manage his time, his family, and the church.
Finally, I want to give you the secret of a great ministry. The secret of a great ministry is doing God's work, God's way and doing it for a long time. The number one reason given for building a strong church is the longevity of the pastor. This great work cannot be done by changing pulpits every time a crisis is faced. Preachers must stick by the stuff and do it for a long time.

Many scholarly works can be helpful to us, but we must realize many of the writings come from men who were Calvinists, baptized infants, were not Baptists etc. A wise man will take the good and leave the rest. Discernment is a must when gleaning from men of the past. With that in mind I will recommend works that can help you if you are discerning.

Some of my most cherished reference tools for young preachers are as follows:

My KJV Bible
Vines Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words
Strong's Concordance
Wiersbe's Old Testament Outlines
Wiersbe's New Testament Outlines
The Pulpit Commentary
Barnes Notes (In my opinion my best commentaries are individual rather than an entire set)
J. Vernon McGee's commentaries
Many pamphlets by John R. Rice
Sermon books by Dr. Lee Roberson (Space limits a much longer list of other very good books.)