It is a daunting task for a preacher to find the right resources for a sermon.
At the onset of a sermon series, I strive to find a few “Friends” to join me along the way. By this I mean that I look for commentators and authors who have invested their lives in the passage I will be studying, and I buy their books so that I can walk the journey with them through the Scriptures.
I am currently embarking on the longest sermon series I’ve ever preached. I will be spending over 30 weeks in the Gospel of John. Certainly I will tap all sorts of sources that deal with specific passages or theologies. However, I have found a few commentators I can trust to be with me for the majority of the book. I will read their writings weekly and use their footnotes and works cited to find more resources. This handful of commentaries will truly become “Friends” as they lend advice and lead me to more writings worth reading.
One Pastor told me when he studies a text he reads 4 commentaries within his study of a passage; 2 of them will be textual, educational or academic and 2 will be pastoral. For the most part, I have followed his example.
For the John series I have chosen 2 commentaries that deal mostly with exegesis from the textual and mechanical aspect. I’ve chosen 1 commentary that is very pastoral (or practical), 2 books that are purely devotional (I am using these mostly in my own personal quiet time), and 1 book that is somewhere between pastoral and mechanical. All of the authors are living, except for one; thus, I have acquired a total of 6 “Friends” that I will be walking with weekly through the Gospel of John.
In addition to the Pastor’s suggestion, I am also listening to 2-4 sermons by trusted men of God on the passage I will be preaching. In essence, this is the same as reading a pastoral commentary. However, by listening to sermons I am allowed the luxury of being able to do so in the car or at the gym, and it allows me to hear it and commit it to memory more efficiently. Also, I believe there is power in the preached Word (Romans 10:14-15).
When I hear a sermon preached, I believe I am partaking in the spiritual act of God speaking through the gifts of a man’s proclamation. It is not that writing is less than preaching, this is just what seems to best embed the Scripture passage and its application within my heart (though I know this is not true for everyone – some people get more out of reading). Often, listening to the applications and illustrations of a sermon can be more memorable to me than if I read the same content.
So any given week, if I have truly studied the way I desire, I will have read from 6 books that deal with the passage as well as listen to 4 sermons on the same passage. This allows for at least 10 resources to feed the backbone of my sermon. Then I may research and use on average 4-10 other resources to clarify a word, passage, context, etc. All this best prepares me with the knowledge I need to preach a well-prepared sermon.
Then it is my responsibility before God to ensure that all this is not just knowledge. The truth has to transform me first so that I can convey it authentically and convincingly in the pulpit. Thank God for the power of the Holy Spirit to help me with this task that is far more weighted than all the books I read.
How do you prep for your sermon? What kinds of things do you read or listen to?