I find it helpful at times to take a step back from the nitty-gritty details of weekly sermon preparation and think about preaching from a big picture perspective.
There are lots of ways to look at preaching and describe the process of preparing an expository sermon. I’m always trying to refine my thinking in this area and come up with better ways of articulating and explaining the process to my students. In some cases I’m just trying to remind myself of what this thing called “preaching” is all about. Too often we lose sight of the forest for all of the trees.
So here are 10 P’s of preaching. (Honestly I’m not a huge fan of alliteration, but if it shows up at my door and doesn’t contort everything, I’m probably not going to turn it away.) This is intended to be a basic, simplified overview of the preaching process. In general the first 7 capture the hermeneutical phase. The last 3 represent the homiletical phase.
1. Steep the Process in Prayer.
Sermon preparation must always begin (and continue) with prayer. We need to be reminded at the outset that we desperately need God’s help to understand and communicate the Word.
2. Begin with a Passage.
Biblical preaching begins with the Bible. The form of preaching called expository preaching begins with a passage from the Bible.
3. Consider the People.
That passage was written by a particular person. In the case of the Bible there is a human author (small “a”) and a divine author (capital “A”). Those authors are addressing a particular group of people—one ancient and one modern (1 Pet. 1:10-12).
The preacher must consider all these people in his preparation of an expository sermon. What do we know about the original writer? Who are the people he is writing to? How does this information help us understand the passage?
Preaching from a passage begins by thinking of the people involved.
4. Uncover the Problems.
Anytime you have people you have problems. Not always sin problems, but sometimes problems associated with being a finite person living in a world that’s broken. (This is what Bryan Chapell refers to as the “Fallen Condition Focus” in his book Christ-Centered Preaching.)
What are the struggles of the biblical writer? What is the situation of his target audience? What are their circumstances, questions, fears, and weaknesses? In what areas are they experiencing pressure from the world? Where are they falling short of the glory of God?
Preaching from a passage begins by thinking of the people involved and their particular needs.
5. Understand the Purpose.
With the situation in mind, the preacher needs to think deeply about the objective of the biblical writer. Knowing what we know about him, and knowing what we know about his audience, what does he want to accomplish with them? What is his purpose? To encourage? To warn? To instruct?
6. Identify the Point.
Driven by his objective the writer sets out to communicate a point (or two or three). Even if there are many points, there is usually one overarching point—what some might call his “big idea.”
7. Trace the Pathway.
Let’s put some of the pieces together now. The people who make up the target audience have needs. The person writing has a burden to address those needs (the purpose) with a particular message (the point of the passage).
So we have answered the who, why, and what questions. But what about the how question? How is the author going to go about accomplishing his purpose with his point? Of all the options available to him, he is going to choose a certain pathway to get from A (where his readers are) to B (where he wants them to be). He may decide to move down the path deductively or inductively. He may decide to employ strong argumentation or moving illustrations.
8. Parallel the Process.
With all this in mind the contemporary preacher begins to parallel this process. He thinks of the passage with reference to his people. He compares their situation to that of the original audience. He thinks pastorally about the problems they are facing and begins to develop a burden to preach the the point of the passage in a way that accomplishes the purposes of the biblical writer and the Holy Spirit for that text.
The preacher must then consider the best pathway forward. Follow the order of the passage? Inductive or deductive? What explanation, application, argumentation, and illustration (and in what order) would best accomplish his purpose?
9. Preach the Word.
Now it’s time to preach and to do so in a way that represents the point and purpose (and maybe even the pathway) of the passage. The preacher’s re-presentation of the text must be done faithfully, clearly, and passionately.
10. Aim for God’s Praise.
The ultimate objective of preaching is the praise and glory of God. From the standpoint of the preacher, our objective is to glorify God through a faithful, Christocenric proclamation of his Word. With reference to our hearers, our goal is the glory of God in their glad and believing submission to the truth.
Question: If you were trying to talk someone through the process of preaching, what would you tell them? How would you describe the steps (without using any P’s 🙂 )?