Plan Well to Preach well

Preaching well is not something I simply strive to do, it is something I am called to do. When I sit to plan my preaching the weight of that calling can sometimes crush me underneath it. The effort of creating a sermon that allows the Holy Spirit to do great and unhindered work is a sweet but rigorous task.

So how do we plan in such a way that it yields unforgettable messages in the end?

With much prayer, we submit ourselves to the proper preparation needed to make the most of our series. Simply picking a book of the Bible to preach isn’t going to give you a plan for series with specific dates, topics and titles. You and I have to diligently goldmine to find the best way to present the content so God’s Word can speak into the lives of our listeners.

I am starting a new series on Colossians in a few weeks. I’ve had to engage this four-chapter book to find the best pace to preach this text in a meaningful manner. I always want the text to drive the sermon, not the other way around. Therefore, my preparation before the series even start is vital to executing well-crafted sermons in this series.

Let’s take some time to identify the key elements to planning an expository sermon series that will given you epic results in the end:

1. Pray. If I start planning a series without praying, I deny myself and my congregation the greatest power of the series. I always start by asking God, “What do you want me to say?” I am His ambassador, so I wait for His assignment.

2. Listen. Ask the elders and the people what they need to hear. Not necessarily what they “want” to hear, but what is happening in the lives of the people and what do they need to hear from God.

3. Read and Re-read. Once you’ve chosen a book of the Bible (or two), read and then re-read the books. Read them in several translations. Listen to them. Soon you will find the one that you should preach; continue to saturate yourself in that text. For example, as I prepare to preach Colossians, I am reading it in its entirety every day. You need to (1) let it feed your soul and (2) become an expert in the book’s outline and context.

4. Divide the text in pencil. Once you feel you have a good understanding of the structure, take a pencil and start dividing the book into the series you will preach. Choose the verses for each sermon (i.e. Chapter 1:1-14, Chapter 1:15-23, etc.). I mark these in my Bible. I also underline the main passage I think will be the thrust of each sermon (I am aware this may change when I study the passage).

5. Check other sources. Once I’ve divided the book into the series I hope to preach, I will go look at outlines of the book by commentators. I will also find other preachers who have preached this book in an expository manner. I take note of their divisions, titles and main passages of emphasis. Sometimes this changes my outline, but most of the time it affirms the work I have done. Notice that I do this next to last—I want my study to be my study and not rely too heavily on the word of other men but rather the leading of God.

6. Type it up and sit on it. Once I think I’ve nailed the series breakdown, I will type it up and even put the dates I will preach next to the passages. Often I will also type the big idea or key passage I hope to preach on that day (this helps the worship leader and others in their planning). Then I sit on it—I wait, pray, think, review and ask God to affirm that this is his leading. If I am at peace with it a for a few days, I will then finalize it and send it off to the people that need to know it.

When we spent adequate time in the series and sermon preparation process, the message begins to grab our heart. William Feather said, “The best sermon is preached by the minister who has a sermon to preach and not by the man who has to preach a sermon.” May your work and toil in your study be a message of maximum impact in the pulpit.


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