Fruitful Sermon Research Strategies
Preaching is an essential aspect of Christian ministry. Fruitful research and delivery are necessary for a message to have meaningful impact. Here are twelve (12) things required for effective sermon research and delivery.
A Call to Preach: I know this seems basic but many who read this article have no call yet proceed anyway. False preachers and Pastors are real no matter how earnest they are.
Biblical Knowledge and Holy Ghost Illumination: fruitful sermon prep requires an in-depth knowledge of the Bible. Understanding the context and applicability is essential.
Prayer: entreating the Lord is crucial. Praying for guidance and wisdom brings clarity and focus to the research process.
Deciding Theme or Idea: another item is finding a theme or idea. Too many ideas can be overwhelming and dilute the message.
Relevance to Audience: I would never suggest audience should drive “doctrine”, but it should dictate content! Jesus did the same and Paul preached this concept. Understanding need helps tailor the message to their specific situation.
Cultural Nuance (Context): understanding audience nuance is important for productive research. It helps to ensure that the message is relatable and applicable to their lives.
Relatable Text: obviously, scripture needs to match the message. Assuming your theme text is selected (item #4), surrounding text should be brought into the message as well. For instance, one (1) could preach “Jesus as Creator” in John chapter 1, but Genesis 1:1-3 should support the foundational idea(s).
Personal Reflection: personal reflection on the text helps to bring a deeper level of understanding and connection to the message.
Application of Theme and/or Idea: this lesson discovery process should include practical application of the message to the lives of the congregation.
Inspirational Moment: prayerful and thoughtful research leads to unexpected insights and inspiration that brings new depth to the message.
Archiving Ideas: something I have found true is that even if certain parts of my research do not apply to a current message, they have future value. There is no such thing as “coincidence” so archive ideas which stand out for later use.
Archiving Notes: do yourself a favor: create thorough notes for future use. A Preacher told me something wise: “always create notes and archive them because you will not always be able to recall everything.”
In summary, be both methodical and thorough when aggregating ideas for your sermon and/or Bible study. Always remember that these notes will have both future value to you as well as those they are shared with.
Key Components for Successful Sermon Delivery
After research, there are certain steps with respect to sermon delivery. I used the word "successful" in the section title not for the reasons one (1) may believe. Success in preaching is saying what the Lord God, through the Holy Spirit, commands we say and nothing more. We must not measure ourselves according to the world! If we do, Jesus must be the most unsuccessful Preacher in the Bible because His preaching got Him killed.
Here are 12 components for successful (God's measure) sermon delivery:
Clarity of Purpose: Holy Ghost delivery requires clear communication of the message. This includes clear enunciation, pacing, and volume.
Connection to the Holy Ghost: A strong connection to the Holy Spirit should go without saying. You would be surprised to learn how often the Spirit IS NOT involved.
Be Authentically You: an authentic delivery helps to build trust with the audience and reinforces the message.
Passion Can’t be Manufactured: A passionate delivery cannot be manufactured so you must be spiritually invested in the topic.
Humility in Transparency: willingness to share personal experiences and struggles can help to create a sense of empathy and connection with the audience.
Structure not Chaos: to the non-spiritual ear, preaching may seem guided and unfocused but that is far from reality. A clear and organized structure helps to guide the message and reinforce key points.
Storytelling like Jesus: Storytelling can be a powerful tool for conveying the message in a relatable and memorable way. Jesus was the Master at this and conveyed powerful messages through “parables”. Don’t force this, however. Like other things (singing, etc.) storytelling to make a key point is a “gift”.
Illustrations May be Helpful: using visual tools can be a great thing, but is not necessary if all other key methods are satisfied. I have seen expensive audio/visual additions to ministry where no Holy Ghost power exists and vice versa.
Develop Uniqueness: this develops over several years and is perfected through repetition. Never change your chore delivery and presentation gifts but they can be added too. For instance, after developing my delivery style, I can now add things such as short hymns before preaching or even “no notes” free-style preaching (which is exceedingly rare).
Timing is Crucial: Effective sermon delivery requires timing. Knowing when to pause, emphasize a point, or move on to the next topic helps maintain the flow and momentum of the message. However, it must flow naturally!
Prayer: prayerful prep ensures a sermon is delivered in the right spirit and the right intentions.
Post Preaching Reflection: reflection on both message and delivery identifies areas for improvement and lead to growth and development as a preacher.
In summary, effective sermon research and delivery require a combination of spiritual, intellectual, and practical skills. By prioritizing Holy Ghost guidance and prayer, a more effective lesson and thus changed lives will result.
Successful Sermon Archiving Strategies
Successful sermon archiving must be a practice for future sermon preparation as well. Although the subject will be a first-time exposure for most reading this, it should not be brushed off or taken lightly. To be successful at archiving your sermons, you have to understand their eternal value. Each line of creative content, within each sermon, can literally be an entire sermon series itself.
Yes, God’s word is that expansive (and more). This is crucial because you will get to a point of what I term: “max sermon output”. This is a point at which you will begin to repeat earlier themes without realizing. This is where sermon archiving becomes crucial. There is no crime in preaching the same sermon multiple times. An old preacher responded to a complaint of how repetitive his sermons were like this: “I will stop preaching the same sermons when you become born-again”. I am sure we can see what he really meant!
I am not suggesting that God’s word has limits only that, for instance, after creating 500 or so sermons, we will repeat earlier themes. This occurs for a lot of reasons which will not be mentioned here.
However, here are archiving strategies which can result in “picking more meat off the bone” (let those who have an ear hear).
1. Develop an Effective Archiving System: this can begin with placing them in a desktop folder but that is just the basics. Make sub-folders for various topics such as forgiveness and love, salvation, etc. You can also divide them out into “pre-salvation” (to the lost) and “post-salvation” (discipleship) message folder. This assists with rapid message location for both ongoing message development as well as “last minute” go to sermons.
2. Combine Topic Specific Sermons into PDF: with numerous “pdf combiners” online, and free to use, it can be useful to combine sermons into one (1) “searchable” pdf document. Depending on your sermon note length, this is a massive time saver. My outline style notes, for example, are three (3) pages in length per. Twenty (20) sermons would equal sixty (60) pages. That is a large document, so perhaps ten (10) per pdf is more usable. Making a pdf searchable allows you to type in a word or phrase, and it will take you directly to that phrase, anywhere is the document instantly! That saves tons of word by word, and page by page searching, right?
3. Back up the Back up: some things we have are simply irreplaceable and not backing them up is insane. I have a flash drive which I carry everywhere and a back up of this drive which is updated every few weeks. I would rather lose all my photos, taken over multiple decades, than my sermon archives. The images are only precious to me, and those close to me. Therefore, there value is limited but sermons from the Throne of God impact every person who hears are reads them!
4. Update Notes with Postscript Additions: assuming you have Word documented sermon notes, we often have last minute additions right before we get up to preach. Whether we use those additions, or not, is another matter entirely! A sermon is not complete until it is preached, updated with any “postscript” additions, and stored. Take a moment to scan in any handwritten additions. It will be invaluable in the future and moreover, what if those few additions are enough content for a future message?
5. Save “No Where” Sermons: if we are truthful, all of us felt a “twinge” of inspiration on certain topics. Nevertheless, when we put them to paper, the former inspiration seemed to disappear as suddenly as it appeared. These were moments when the Holy Spirit was simply revealing something to us, and for us ALONE. However far you get with these “nowhere” sermons, save them for future consideration. Like many of the books in the Bible we read, God’s Word is often “dripped” to us over long expanses of time.
6. Re-Watch Video (if available): we say things in the Holy Spirit which only video (or audio) can document. These, absent media capture, may never be spoken again (but need to). Takes notes of your sermon, from video or audio. This will be invaluable for developing future content.
In summary, creating a content archive system which works for you is crucial to future sermon development. Most of all, we must not waste any “spiritual food” the Lord puts on our plates.
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