"A Preacher with His Bible" (originally posted over at the Acts 29 Network site; by Big Bad Darrin Patrick - a man of god)
A lot of preachers I coach want answers to these questions:
Why is my preaching not improving?
Why am I struggling to develop my preaching "voice?"
Why are people falling asleep when I preach?
One of the answers to these questions might have to do with how often they preach—they need more preaching "reps." But what do you do until then? You need preaching "preps." You need to be preached to every day from your Bible.
Peyton Manning does not just love to throw a football. He loves the football. When he was young he slept with the football under his arm. He knows how his fingers fit around the seams. He knows every contour of the ball. A preacher can't just love to preach, he has to love the Bible.
Good preparation that leads to effective preaching begins with letting Scripture examine, speak, and preach to us.
Steep in Scripture
My sermon prep begins with me, a cup of coffee, and my Bible. Only the coffee is optional. While I know my Bible well enough to have an opinion on a given text's meaning and how it fits into the overall story of the Bible, I like to focus and pray through specific words and phrases in the passage. This helps me "steep," or soak in the text so I can encounter God through the text.
This "steeping" or soaking does a couple of other things as well. It enables me to see the context of the passage clearly. Think of a juicy hamburger. The beef is the word, phrase, or verse you have chosen to meditate upon. All around the beef is the context—ketchup, pickles, cheese, and bun. Unless you are on the Atkins diet, you don't consume the cow without the bun and condiments. Likewise you don't take the word, phrase, or verse apart from its context.
Meditate on the Text
Meditating on the text allows me to bring the little story of the passage into the larger story of the Scripture. It helps me preach the specific verse or passage with a view into the larger context of Scripture. Here are some questions I think through to help me accomplish this:
What chapter is the passage in? What is the immediate context surrounding this passage that makes it unique in Scripture? Many times a passage is a reiteration of a previous argument, but look for why the author chose to stress this particular message again in your passage.
What book is the passage in? Recall the theme of the book you are studying, and if you don’t know the main themes or purpose of the book, do some research.
Who is the author? Think about the uniqueness this particular author brings to the Bible. Who was this author communicating to? What was unique about the audience—religious perspective, social standing, felt needs, etc…
Where does this passage fit in the overall story arc of the Bible? Does the passage function primarily as revelation of who God is, about God’s ability to create or about his creation, about the reality and depth of human sin and rebellion, about God’s redemptive power in Christ, or about the restoration of God’s creation and his children?
Where is Jesus in the text? What does the passage communicate about the person and purposes of Jesus? How does this passage expose the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world?
Get to know your Bible and be preached to, preacher man.