I ask myself these questions as I’m preparing a message.
Emotionally Healthy Discipleship impacts preaching in multiple ways. Over a 24-year period, I organized these learnings around ten questions that I ask myself, and others, when preaching a message.
1. Am I Preaching for Jesus Out of a Life of Being With Jesus?
We are men and women who bring the living God to our people out of our relationship with him. But I cannot bring him deeply if I don’t know him deeply. I cannot bring people in the spiritual journey beyond where I have traveled with Jesus myself. Good exegesis and structuring a message well are important. But perhaps, a more important question is: Do I have enough contemplative time around my text? Do I have time for this truth to sink into my soul and become a part of me? Why? It’s easy for us to be busily preparing sermons for Jesus without enjoying loving union with him in the process.
2. Am I Present to Myself and to the People in the Room?
It is easy to be thinking about a sermon (e.g., introductions, the flow of content, illustrations) and lose touch with what is happening inside us, i.e., listening to God for ourselves. At the same time, because of our own preoccupation with how we are doing, it is easy to not see the people in front of us. To be present with people, seeing them with the eyes and love of Jesus, is one of the greatest gifts we offer as we preach.
3. Am I Allowing the Text to Intersect With My Family of Origin and Culture?
As leaders and preachers, it is imperative we are profoundly aware of the way our family of origin, and culture, make it difficult for us to live out Scripture in the present. Without significant levels of insight into ourselves, our application of many texts will remain superficial—both to ourselves and to the people we aim to serve.
4. Am I Preaching Out of My Vulnerability and Weakness?
In my early years as a communicator, I preached primarily out of my strengths and successes. Sharing weakness or vulnerability was more of a rhetorical strategy to connect with people than a core way to lead for Jesus. I was scared that people wouldn’t listen to a “weak” preacher. But of course, I was wrong, discovering as Paul did that sharing from weakness truly is a place of power (2 Cor. 12:7).
5. Am I Allowing the Text to Transform Me?
This sounds simple, but it isn’t. If we’re preaching sermons without being transformed by them, we shouldn’t expect a lot to happen in our people either.
6. Am I Surrendering to Christ’s Process of Birth, Death and Resurrection?
The sermon preparation process follows, I find, the life of Jesus. We get a birth, i.e., an initial excitement about a revelation from Scripture. This is incredible! we may say to ourselves. As we work on the message, however, we enter a death stage where we find ourselves lost in content and possible directions to go. We then think, Oh, no! This is a disaster. As we stay with God, however, prayerfully listening and waiting, he brings the message together in type of resurrection (hopefully before we stand up and preach).
7. Am I Making Time to Think Through Clear, Specific Applications?
It is easy to spend a great deal of time in study, prayer, the structure of the message, etc. and fail to dedicate a sufficient amount of time to make clear, pointed applications. This is hard work and not something that can be done in a few minutes on the evening prior to delivery. Different age groups, life situations, generations, levels of maturity—to name a few—need to be carefully considered.
8. Am I Thinking Through the Complexities and Nuances of My Topic and Audience?
It is easy to be flippant about the complexities and nuances of real life when preaching because of the time it takes to think about them. For example, how do we preach forgiveness to an audience that includes people abused as children? How do you preach joy to people carrying traumatic grief? How do two full-time working parents with small children practice silence and the Daily Office? How do retirees do Sabbath?
9. Am I Doing Exegesis in Community?
My perspective, experience in life, and even my understanding of a particular text all come bound up with all of my limitations. Thus, whenever possible, I need the input of at least one or two other people in my process to give me other perspectives.
10. Am I Connecting the Message to People’s Long-Term Formation?
Preaching is an enormous gift in the church. But it also has limits. Crafting related spiritual formation experiences for your people (e.g., offering a day alone with God, workshops to introduce a relationship skill when preaching on love) are as critical as the message itself as we labor for the long-term transformation in our people (Gal. 4:19).
This article originally appeared on EmotionallyHealthy.org and is reposted here by permission.