Preaching is not easy. It is hard. There is a massive amount of labor involved each week to produce one sermon. This involves much studying and praying. It takes a lot of thinking, shaping, and writing. Then comes the actual delivery of the sermon. The physical act of preaching is exhilarating, frightening, and exhausting all at the same time.
I would never want to minimize the amount of work that goes into the whole sermon process, BUT, at its core, it really is a simplistic endeavor. There are three basic steps to preaching. If these simple steps are followed, the preacher will be faithful to his task.
Here they are: Read the text, explain the text, and point people to Jesus.
1. READ THE TEXT.
I’m taking for granted that there is a text to read. This is something that I did not give a lot of thought to when I started in pastoral ministry, but it is important. The text must be read. Paul counseled Timothy, “…devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.” (1 Timothy 4:13 -ESV)
Scripture should be read out loud. If nothing else happens in the sermon, at least people can benefit from hearing God’s Word spoken audibly. This is no afterthought. The Bible text should be read with conviction, with feeling, and with great care.
A great example of the power of reading a text before a sermon is Mark Dever. I once heard him preach on Ezekiel 1 and he read the text in such a way that he honestly did not have to elaborate on the text at all.
Reading the text is an often overlooked aspect of the sermon, yet an important one.
2. EXPLAIN WHAT THE TEXT MEANS.
This is the bulk of the preacher’s task. After the text is read, it is the pastor’s job to explain what it means. This involves understanding and explaining the original context and the original audience that the biblical author is writing to.
Only after that groundwork is laid can the preacher bring the implications of the text to bear upon the contemporary audience sitting in front of him. Illustrations, Scripture cross-references, and application are all then needed to help shed light on each given biblical passage.
3. POINT PEOPLE TO JESUS.
This is essential. Jesus must be the point of every sermon. Christ is the hermeneutical key to every text. Jesus actually taught that HE was the key to the whole Bible (Luke 24:27, 44). This means that the preacher better find his way to the gospel message of Jesus in every text every week.
This is easier to do in some texts than in others, but there are no exceptions. The gospel of Jesus Christ must be preached in every text from every corner of the Bible. From Ruth, to Mark….Lamentations and James. Fill in any biblical text.
Christ and His gospel are the non-negotiable elements of every sermon. This is why Spurgeon advises, “No Christ in your sermon, sir? Then go home, and never preach again until you have something worth preaching.”