Preaching, like any other calling and skill, requires much preparation and continual training/learning. Preachers are life-long students of the Word, of Christ, of homiletics, of people, of grammar/syntax, of stories, and so forth. One book I recently read – and recommend – on the topic of sermon preparation is Unashamed Workmen edited by Rhett Dodson.
This book is a collection of articles and sermons written by experienced pastors who give an insight into their week in the study. While there is some overlap, it was helpful to see the different ways these pastors study for and write their sermons during the week. Since there is no one perfect way to study for and write sermons, I’ve always found it helpful to hear various ways men have done this.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book:
“Too many words, too many ideas, too little structure, and too little purpose make sermons difficult to listen to” (Peter Adam, p. 31).
“I know some pastors who use a dozen or more commentaries each week in studying every passage. I don’t personally find that profitable, since after the first three or four the amount of benefit gained typically drops off sharply” (Iain Duguid, p. 78).
“A very common fault with poor preachers is an obsession with the manuscript as opposed to double engagement with the text and the congregation. My aim ought to be that my congregation is not even aware that I have an outline in front of me” (David Meredith, p. 179).
“The key to a good introduction is constant change: no two introductions should sound the same. In a typical month, for example, the first sermon might start with a personal story, the second with a famous line from great literature, the third with a list of probing questions, and the fourth with a one-liner about how there is no need for an introduction when Jesus tells stories like this (!)… and off we jump right into the parable of the prodigal son” (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, p. 213).
“Preachers must not fall in love with their own writing but must subject their material to rigorous cutting. My own approach is this: if it even occurs to me to remove material, then I always remove it” (Richard Phillips, 240).
If you’re a pastor (or studying to be a pastor) and you’re looking for a conversational book that gives wise advice on sermon preparation, this is one I recommend: Unashamed Workmen: How Expositors Prepare and Preach, ed. Rhett Dodson (Ross-Shire: Mentor, 2014).