I’ve been reading a few books on preaching recently. John Piper’s Expository Exultation: Christian Preaching as Worship and Tim Keller’s Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism have been especially helpful. I’ll share some of what I learned from these books in coming weeks.
But, the most important lesson I learned from these preaching books was to keep reading preaching books.
Over the years, our preaching can drift without us realizing it and we can get into bad habits. It was good, therefore, to be reminded of many of the basics again.
I updated my preaching checklist too so that I can regularly “audit” my sermons and make sure I’m not forgetting the basics or drifting into bad habits.
As I thought this could help my fellow-preachers too, I’ve pasted it below or you can download the PDF here.
Selecting a Text
- Have I prayed over my choice of text?
- Does my chosen text start at the beginning of a thought/passage/paragraph?
- Does it finish at the end of a thought/passage/paragraph?
- Is it a complete text?
- Is it too long/too short?
- Does it contain one important point?
- Does it contain too many important points?
- Is it the best text for teaching this subject?
- Is it suitable for the congregation, the occasion, the time of year?
- Does it contribute to a balanced preaching diet?
- Am I preaching what will help my congregation rather than what merely interests me?
Exegeting a Text
- Have I prayed over my exegesis?
- Have I explained the historical background, geographical setting, cultural cues, and canonical context?
- Have I taken account of the genre of the passage?
- Have I explained who wrote the text, when, why, and to whom?
- Have I identified the original message to the original audience?
- Have I distinguished between what is central and what is peripheral?
- Have I shown the connections between the text and the previous verses?
- Have I explained every significant word in the text?
- Have I translated the text?
- Have I compared other translations?
- Have I conducted word studies on the most important words?
- Have I parsed key verbs and determined significance of mood, tense, voice, etc?
- Have I understood the syntax of the words?
- Have I incorporated relevant Scripture cross-references?
- Have I connected the passage with systematic theology, biblical theology, and Christology?
- Have I checked my exegesis with reliable commentators?
- Have I outlined the logic/argument/narrative of the text?
- What doctrines are involved in the text?
- Where is the Gospel in this text?
- How does this text reveal or point to Christ?
- What does this text reveal about God and his way of salvation?
- Have I asked all the right questions of my text?
Outlining a Text
- Have I prayed over my outline?
- Does my sermon have a recognizable structure/outline?
- Is it simple enough to help people understand the text?
- Is it memorable enough to help people remember the sermon?
- Can you make it any simpler or more imaginative to further the aims of #2 and #3?
- Does it have as few divisions as possible for the material?
- Are the points symmetrical/parallel in form?
- Are the points distinct or do they overlap? Same question for the subpoints?
- Are the points in the right order? Do they follow logically?
- Is the theme as short and yet as comprehensive as possible?
- Does the theme reflect and incorporate the main points of the sermon?
- Do the theme and points assist the aim of the sermon?
- What are the main insights/ideas in your sermon?
- Does the textual data support these insights?
- Do your transitions raise a question at the end of a point/insight that you answer in the next point?
- Do I have any illustrations to help my hearers engage and understand?
Introducing a text
- Have I prayed over my sermon introduction?
- Is it too long/too short?
- Does it contain no more than one thought/idea?
- Is the introduction connected/relevant to the sermon?
- Does the introduction connect with your hearers? Does it draw them into the sermon?
- Does it give hearers a reason to listen to the sermon?
- Does it steal the sermon’s thunder? In other words, is there sermon material in the introduction?
- Is it apologetic and hesitant rather than authoritative and declarative?
- Is it unnecessarily offensive or humorous?
- Is it sufficiently varied when compared with your other sermon introductions?
Applying a text
- Have I prayed over my application?
- What problem is your sermon addressing?
- What is the primary action I am aiming at? (not limited to physical action but can also be spiritual action)
- Is the application rooted in the text? Is it the primary application of the text?
- Do I apply throughout my sermon?
- Is my application contemporary or dated?
- Do the insights in my sermon drive someone towards the desired action?
- Do the actions of my sermons vary (Know…, Love…, Believe…, Repent…, Fear…, Do…, Be…, etc.)
- Have you distinguished between believers and unbelievers?
- Have you addressed different kinds of believers (e.g. strong, weak, healthy, unhealthy, assured, doubting, etc.) and different kinds of unbelievers (e.g. stubborn, seekers, ignorant, hypocrites, deceived, children, singles, atheists, agnostics, worried, bereaved, etc.)?
- Have you used a mixture of question, exclamation, imperative, questions, threat, promise, comfort, warning, motivation, invitation, demonstration, adoration, admonition, self-examination, etc., in your application?
- Have you identified areas in your sermon where you hope to lead hearers into worship?
- Have you offered the Gospel to sinners?
- Have you applied the Gospel to different ages, stages, classes, etc?
- Have I gone through my congregation asking how this sermon applies to each person?
- Did I describe the Christian’s experience of the truth?
- Did I show how the text connects with/speaks to modern culture?
- Did I use dialogue/conversation?
- Does it help Christians evangelize their neighbors or give a reason for the hope that is in them?
- Is the application too general or too specific?
- Have I prayerfully applied the sermon to myself?
- Is it personal? Is it in the second person?
Preaching a text
- Did I pray before my sermon?
- Was it oral (suited to hearing more than reading)?
- Did the congregation walk away with greater understanding of the text?
- Did my conclusion bring everything together?
- Did I have something for children?
- Did I use as simple language as possible?
- Was the sermon doxological?
- Was my tone and demeanor appropriate to the text?
- Did I have enough eye-contact with all parts of the congregation?
- Was my voice varied enough?
- Was I authoritative or apologetic?
- Was I myself or trying to be someone else?
- Did I speak clearly (diction)?
- Did I use the right mix of volume, tone, emphasis, pace, repetition, passion
- Was it as plain as possible?
- Was there too much material
- Was I conscious of God?
- Did I pray during the sermon?
- Have I prayed after the sermon?