I was having breakfast with a pastor friend the other day. We were discussing his next sermon. He was struggling, trying to come up with answers to the four questions I say are helpful to work on early in the sermon-preparation process:
- What’s my subject?
- What’s my desired response?
- What are the “how-to’s”?
- What’s the “how long”?
“This is hard work,” he said in his frustration.
My not-so-kind response was, “And how hard do you think it is for your listeners when they can’t figure out the answers? I mean, you sit there patiently for 30 minutes and can’t even figure out what the subject is that’s being talked about. After a while, you just stop listening!”
My point was made, and he agreed to it. So we went back to work again. As far as I was concerned, the subject of his text was easy. But because he had never been trained to think this way, it was excruciatingly difficult for him.
His text was Matthew 13—the parable of the sower.
The conclusions he eventually came to were that:
- His subject was “responses to Jesus’ Kingdom message.”
- His desired response was that people would hear the word, understand it and produce a crop that yielded 30, 60 and 100 times what was sown (verse 23).
- How to do this was to understand and act on the basic conversion message and/or, with the help of the Holy Spirit, put into practice time-honored Christian descriptions.
- The “how long” would depend on where a listener was in the process. If he or she was not a believer, conversion could take place that very day. For those who were already Christian, it might be good to choose one discipline to work on from a short list of helpful suggestions. That decision could be initiated in the coming week.
I told him that his conclusions were fine in my thinking. Did he have enough to say? His response was that he didn’t know how he was going to get everything in.
As far as I was concerned, it was a good conversation.
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