4 Things Sermon Prep Should Always Include


Every pastor develops their own style for writing a sermon: some prefer isolation in a quiet environment; others enjoy group dynamics and discussion. Some outline and some manuscript, others simply read, study, and get up with just the Bible in hand. Whatever your style is, here are 4 things that your prep should always include:

1. It should be founded in Scripture
There are many great books available, which contain great truths found in scripture–some of them by Christian authors – but they are not the inspired Word of God. There are many great blogs and articles available online for pastors to read and enjoy and even learn from, but they are not the inspired Word of God. There are many movies with clips that express deep emotions that pull at our hearts and move us to tears, but they are not the inspired Word of God.

When I come to prepare a sermon, I must always start with the primary source: The Holy Bible. There is only one book penned under the authority of God by eyewitnesses and those who gave their lives for Christ. There is only one book preserved down through the generations by the hand of God and nearly identical in every way now to its original in the days of old. This is where life comes from – the Word of God – and I must caution myself to never to build a sermon from anything else.

2. It should begin with prayer
Prayer is simply talking with God. He is the Head of the Church, so before I go and get fancy ideas about the flock that He has entrusted to me, I should sit down and spend some time talking to Him. God alone knows the needs of those in the church; He knows them better than I ever could. He alone is the only one who can speak life, hope, and redemption into the hearts and souls of those who come on Sunday (or Weds, or whenever you all meet). He also knows me better than I do, and is the only one who can reach into my heart and soften it.

That said, there are two questions that I ask God before I begin a sermon: “‘What do you want to teach me from this passage, Lord?” and “How do you want me to teach from this passage, Lord?” Both of these questions correctly place me under God’s authority. The times that I have failed to begin with prayer are the times that my heart has been hard towards His leadership and His voice, because of that I have struggled. If I cannot listen and obey, how can I expect to lead my flock to listen and obey?

3. It should involve repentance
Every sermon needs to contain the Gospel and a call to respond; otherwise, it is not a sermon but a nice talk. I want those who hear the Word to receive the Word, repent of their sin, and walk in the newness of life with Christ as their Lord. I want those who are in Christ to hear the Word and be convicted of their sin as well, remembering their need of and love for their Savior, Jesus. As a pastor, I am not above this. If the messages I preach contain the Gospel (they should!) and a call to respond – have I evaluated my heart in light of that call? Is there sin in my life that the passage reveals to me? Do I need to repent and respond to Christ’s love and mercy and holiness? Yes, and I need to do it before Sunday morning. I must let God show me the log in my eye and respond accordingly.

4. It should end with worship
I am compelled to worship the Lord as I write my sermon. I worship Him for providing a savior, for providing a way out from temptation, for providing a body of believers to keep me accountable and encourage me, for the Word of Life, for the Great Commission that I can play a part in, for a community in which to serve, and for the breath and life I have. No one in scripture who encountered the Lord responded in any way except worship. If I have indeed sat down with the Word of God, spoken directly to the Lord, and allowed Him to work in my heart, then worship is the only right response. Then and only then am I prepared to write the sermon, for I have allowed God to teach me first so that I, in turn, may teach others.

4 Things Sermon Prep Should Always Include

5 Things Not To Pack Up After Christmas

packing up christmas

Taking down Christmas decorations is not as fun as putting them up, right? Putting them up is something we do with excitement. Taking them down…it’s more like, “Oh no! It’s almost Valentines Day! Quick, shove the tree in the basement!”  We have tossed out the ripped wrapping paper and saved the bows for next year. The leftover food is eaten and long gone, and the lights have been turned off, wound up and, stored in the attic.

We forget about them.   We don’t spend time with them, anymore.   We move on with life.

And that’s the problem with packing up Christmas; we really do pack it up and move on.   We pull out all the stops for a few weeks and then we go back to life as usual.

This year needs to be different, for me and for you. I’m not saying we should keep the tree up all year. I advise against it, actually; it’s weird.   Yet, when you find yourself packing away the tinsel and stockings, don’t forget about…

 1.  Jesus 

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.  (1 Corinthians 15:1-4, ESV)

Paul had to remind the church of the Gospel that they claimed because it can be so easy to be ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Don’t forget about Jesus for 11 months. Pack the decorations–and for goodness’ sake, throw out the tree!–but don’t move Jesus from His place in your home and heart.

 2.  Scripture 

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men. (Acts 17:11-12, ESV)

We spend so much of the Christmas season embracing the beauty of prophecy in the Old Testament – the voices of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, and Moses, just to name a few. We revel in the majesty of the miracles in the New Testament – Elizabeth conceives, the Star in the sky, throngs of angels singing and a virgin birth. We sing carols that tell the stories, emphasize the fulfilled prophecies and praise God saying “Glory to God in the highest!”

Don’t cease immersing yourself in Scripture now that Christmas is over. Don’t cease singing songs of praise, full of Scripture, now that Christmas is over. Don’t cease time spent reading and marveling at God’s Word!

Don’t pack Scripture away until next Christmas. Make a defined and concerted effort to examine the Scriptures every day; you will increase in faith and maturity when you steep in God’s word. There are hundreds of ways to encourage, and develop your passion for God’s Word.

Here are a few to get you started!

  • This FREE APP will email you a devotional reading, and you can share notes with your friends, post to social media and save private journaling notes. I use this, and recommend this.
  • This FREE APP is a no frills and simple, beautiful devotional app. It provides an Old Testament, New Testament and Psalms reading (with devotion) each day.
  • Got kids? Great, check out this FREE APP will keep you and your kids engaged with interactive bible stories and Scripture.

3.  Giving 

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.  (Acts 2:44-45, ESV)

Christmastime is marked by over-the-top generosity – to friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, missions, pastors, causes and church. Christ-followers and non Christ-followers alike dig deep so that needs are met. Don’t let that kind of generosity be a once a year kind of thing – let that kind of generosity be a defining quality about your life every single day. Intentionally choose someone else’s needs over your own desires.   Sacrifice your own comfort for someone else. Sacrifice your time to minister in the name of Jesus and, when asked ‘why?’, tell them about Jesus!

Do it all without being asked – see the need, meet the need.

4.  Fellowship

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:46-47, ESV)

At Christmastime we spend a great deal of time and effort cleaning the house so friends and family can come over. We have potlucks and gatherings and spend extra time hanging out with each other. There are parties in the office and at friends’ houses… and we simply carve out more time for just being with others.  Yet, Christmas ends and we retreat back to our busy lives, hoarding time and the sanctity of our homes and schedules.  Don’t restrict the joy of fellowship to a season: let the joy of fellowship, of a an open home and open arms, be the kind of thing you intentionally seek.

The early church spent time daily together – meeting needs, praying, telling jokes and sharing food. They were building community together because they saw fellowship as vital to the life of a Christ follower. If you forget about fellowship, you forget about what Christ has called us to be: the fellowship of believers, the Body of Christ.

5.  Proclaiming

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touchedthis we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete. (1 John 1:1-4, ESV)

Christmas and Easter are the two times of the year that you can easily leverage an invite or gospel share to your unchurched friends. It’s expected that Christians are to be vocal at these times of the year because we are proclaiming the birth (or resurrection) of Jesus! John tells us that every believer who has experienced eternal life through Jesus, is to be a proclaimer!

The Christmas season may be over, but don’t forget that you are empowered by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Glory of God and the joy of salvation all year long!  Proclaim eternal life through Jesus. Pray with those who are hurting. Listen and sympathize, and share how God has helped you.   Proclaim Christ boldly, authentically, and tenderly every chance you get.

Which one of these five did the Holy Spirit nudge you on?  Find some accountability through  a friend or small group to start and continue in that area this year!

5 Things Not To Pack Up After Christmas