Reflections and resources for lifelong learning for missionaries

Category: Preaching

preparing sermons

Preparing to Preach as a Missionary

“Missionaries need to be ready to preach, pray, or die at a moment’s notice.” Or so I’ve heard all my life. Though this is often said jokingly, there is a ring of truth to it. In this new blog series, I am focusing on how to prepare a sermon. Missionaries often have opportunity to preach both in their home country and in their host country. Yet, many missionaries do not have formal training in preaching. In this post and four additional posts, I will share my perspective on preparing expository sermons gleaned from teaching homiletics (the art of preaching) at Alaska Bible College for 35 years. In this introductory post, I will define expository preaching, and focus on the preacher’s relationship with the Word and the audience. I will also list the topics for the next four posts.

Expository Preaching

Expository preaching is also known as expositional preaching. It is a form of preaching that focuses its attention on the meaning of a particular passage of Scripture.1See Wikipedia article.

the big idea
Photo by Alexander Michl on Unsplash

Preparing to Preach: Stating the Big Idea

In the first post in this series on preparing to preach as a missionary, I noted that the preacher must understand both the Bible and the audience. Moreover, the preacher must connect the two. Now I raise the question, “Does a good sermon consist of one point (one main idea) or does it need at least three points?

Often expository preaching is viewed and practiced as a running commentary on a text of Scripture. The pattern seems to come from lectures heard in Bible college and seminary. Yet, I have never read a book on preaching that advocates a running commentary approach. In fact, John Stott points out that the chief difference between a lecture and a sermon is that the sermon “aims to convey only one major message.”John Stott, Between Two Worlds, Eerdmans:1982, p.225.

developing the big idea

Preparing to Preach: Developing the Big Idea

In the previous post in this series, I emphasized that a sermon should have one main point. Now I turn to developing the big idea in the body of the sermon. Haddon Robinson explains the task in this way:

When anyone makes a declarative statement, only four things can be done to develop it. It can be restated, explained, proved, or applied. Nothing else. To recognize this simple fact opens the way to develop the sermon.

Haddon Robinson, Biblical Preaching, Baker: 1980, p. 79

There is a story of a preacher describing his sermon outline in this way: “First, I tell them what I’m going to tell them, then, I tell them, and finally I tell them what I told them.” While repetition and restatement have their place in preaching, this leads to boring preaching. Additionally, restatement is only one way to develop an idea and it doesn’t add much to understanding. So, how do we develop the big idea of our sermon?

illustrating and applying
Photo by Alena Koval from Pexels

Preparing to Preach: Illustrating and Applying the Big Idea

In this series on preaching for missionaries, I have stressed being students of Scripture and of our audience. This “double listening” (as John Stott calls it)1See the first post in this series. is critical for illustrating and applying the big idea of our biblical text. In fact, illustrating and applying form the key connection between the biblical truth and our listeners. Additionally, illustrations set the stage for the application in the daily lives of our audience.

Illustrating the Big Idea

Shining light on the big idea

Illustrations include quotes, anecdotes, examples, comparisons, statistics, testimony, and poetry. Sources include personal experience, news, history, literature, imagination, and the Bible. Whatever the type or source, they must shed light on the biblical truth and connect with listeners. That is, illustrations must help our audience understand and identify with the biblical truth. For instance, a quote from a book your listeners have probably not read would not make a good illustration. It is helpful to listen to traditional stories and everyday conversations to identify types of illustrations commonly used. Remember, your illustrations are the key connection between the biblical text and your listeners. So, they must be faithful to the biblical text and understandable to the people.

introductions and conclusions
Photo by Pascal Meier on Unsplash

Preparing to Preach: Introductions and Conclusions

Taking off and landing require a pilot’s utmost attention. Likewise, sermon introductions and conclusions demand careful preparation by a preacher. In fact, the introductions and conclusions will make or break the connection with our audience. In the introduction, we meet them coming from their daily life of the previous week. Then, in the conclusion, we send them off to live in the light of the biblical truth expressed in the sermon’s big idea. So, introductions and conclusions must be carefully worded to connect our audience with the big idea. For the simple reason that we need to know our destination before we start a journey, writing the conclusion precedes writing the introduction.

Writing the Conclusion

Conclusions Conclude

A sermon conclusion should not resemble a jetliner in a holding pattern waiting to land, or worse, aborting an attempted landing. Rather, it should briefly summarize the thrust of the sermon. An extended conclusion will frustrate our audience. It should not introduce new ideas but provide listeners memorable statements to aid in application.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

%d bloggers like this: