What questions do you ask during sermon prep?
In his excellent book Expositional Preaching, David Helm provides a step-by-step guide on how to preach an expository sermon. I found the book quite helpful, and so did Matt Chandler who says that this is “the most helpful, concise, and useful book on expository preaching I have ever read.”
One section of the book that is immediately applicable is the appendix. In this part, Helm outlines several diagnostic questions the preacher can ask before entering the pulpit. I have listed the questions below. This list is by no means exhaustive but rather are merely a starting point for sermon prep. I’ve also included a few more resources for preachers at the bottom of this post.
Questions for Sermon Prep
Have I prayed for God’s help as I begin my work?
How has the author organized this text?
Is there a repeated word, phrase, or idea in the text?
How is the text divided into scenes?
Is it organized around geography or shift in characters?
What is the plot?
What is the conflict, or what is providing dramatic tension?
What is the climax or turning point?
Is the tension resolved? If so, how?
How does the grammar or logic of the passage show the flow of ideas?
How does the tone or subject of this poem shift?
What does the organization reveal about the author’s intended emphasis?
How does the immediate literary context — the passages on both sides of the text — inform the meaning of the text?
Why is this passage here in this place?
What was the historical situation faced by the first audience or, depending on the genre, the first readers?
How does the passage fit within a larger section?
What is the essence of this book?
How is the passage informing and informed by the melodic line?
What is the theme of the text?
How does this text anticipate or relate to the gospel?
How does biblical theology help me see the gospel in this text?
How is the author using prophetic fulfillment, historical trajectory, themes, or analogies?
How does systematic theology help me see the gospel in the text?
Is it holding me in the faith, helping me connect to the gospel, or honing my ability to speak to non-Christians?
Do I know the people who will be hearing this sermon?
Have I pledged myself in love for them?
Have I been in prayer for them throughout my preparation?
What shape and emphasis will I bring to my sermon?
Does that shape and emphasis reflect the structure and emphasis of the text?
Am I preaching for an internal change of heart, both in my life and the lives of my listeners?
Am I doing so in ways that rightly humble the listener, exalt the Savior, and promote holiness in the lives of those present?
What aim or intention does the biblical author have for his readers?
How are the characters in the text responding to God’s truth, or to God’s anointed?
How does this author want his readers to respond?
Does my application follow from the author’s aim?
Is my application the primary application of the text, or merely a possible one?
Does my application undermine the text?
Does it contradict other biblical texts?
Is the application I am making grounded in the gospel, or am I simply placing more commands on my people?
Am I leaning on the text to say what I want to say? Or am I bringing out of Scripture only what is there?
More Resources for Preachers
Be sure to think about those questions the next time you preach. And here’s a few more resources for you to consider:
How to Write an Expository Sermon: A step-by-step guide on how to write an expository sermon.
The Preacher’s Cheat-Sheet: Here’s several pointed questions from Tim Challies to help you during sermon prep.
What I Pray Before I Preach: I enjoyed this piece from H.B Charles Jr. I especially like the idea of praying for liberty in the pulpit.
Top 500+ Preaching Resources: A massive list compiled from David Murray that can benefit any preacher.
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