Many good preachers have difficulty finding a place to start in their sermon preparation. They waste time casting about in various directions. We suggest you begin by reading the text two or three times and making your own rough outline. Then look at ours. Does it emphasize the points you wanted to emphasize? Does it fit you? Does it fit the needs of your congregation?
It may be that you will want to make your own outline. There may be other times that you can modify our outline to suit your purpose. Is there something in the printed outline that should be omitted? Is there something that should be added? How can it be modified to suit your own style, congregation, and aim? Are there synonyms that better express the ideas of the text than the terms we ve suggested? Look at the printed outline, asking yourself, "In what ways can this be improved?" Jot down your modifications right on the outline page there is usually room for that. Extensive revisions can be made on a separate sheet.
Then read through the illustrations. Do not hesitate to use the ones that you can use. Discard the ones that you cannot use. However, do not discard them completely! File them away for a future day. Do our illustrations suggest other and better illustrations to you? Many television programs are "spin-offs" from existing programs. Are there "spinoffs" that come to you as you read the printed illustrations? Do they suggest sources you may explore to find your own illustrations? Do they suggest sources you may have overlooked? There is ample space between the illustrations for you to revise and add illustrations as necessary.
When you have gathered your materials, you are ready to write. We suggest writing the sermon out in full. One 81/2 x 11 page, typed single spaced, will provide five minutes of sermon. Not one man in a hundred can successfully preach from a manuscript; but writing it out helps to develop ideas fully and gives you confidence that you have prepared enough material.
From the written manuscript, make a key word list. This is all you need to take into the pulpit. Perhaps you may want to try memorizing the key word list and preaching the sermon without notes.
In any case, memorize word for word the introduction and conclusion. These will usually amount to only a few sentences. You should know exactly what you will say to begin and exactly what you will say to close.
Begin your sermon work on Monday. Work on it a little every day. That will give you confidence. Your mind will be saturated with the subject; and you will preach with power.
An important word about texts. Some of the texts in this book are very long. It would be a mistake to read such a long text at the beginning of the sermon. Sometimes you may want simply to summarize or paraphrase the text and read only significant verses. This is especially useful if the text is an entire chapter. Sometimes you may want to use a portion of the text as the Scripture reading earlier in the worship service. Sometimes you may want to divide the text and read a portion at each of several points in the sermon. Sometimes you may want only to allude to the larger portions of the text in a general way. In any case, to read an entire chapter at the outset of a sermon would be to lose the attention of the congregation.
Above all, approach your task with joy! There is no thrill greater than exploring an old text and finding a new thought, a new emphasis, a new application. That is the joy of preparing to preach. It is the joy of discovery. That is matched by the joy on Sunday morning when you can come enthusiastically before your congregation and say, "Look what I've found!"