About Paul W. Martin

Paul W. Martin is the pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Canada. He is married to Susan and they have four children.

Preacher School #7 – Opening and Closing the Door: Thoughts on Conclusions and Introductions

It may be the most non-intuitive aspect of preparing sermons to learn that the best introductions are generally written once the sermon itself is finished.  Young preachers tend to think they know where a text is going to go and what the thrust of the sermon message is going to be even before they have done their exegesis. But this is a major tactical error.

You cannot introduce a person you have not yet met, nor can you accurately present a sermon that has not yet been birthed. In fact, starting with your introduction may lead you to veer away from the intention of the text to simply match your introduction. I think that is a preaching sin! You are called to preach “the Word,” not your interesting ideas.

Another advantage of waiting until the sermon is written in order to write your introduction is that it helps you to re-think your entire preaching outline (does this sermon have one clear big point, can I see it in all of its parts, is there a link running through the whole, etc.).

The best introductions tend to grab the interest of the listener, regardless if he has come to hear God’s Word or not.  You may consider this to be very pragmatic and that people should know better, but I like to think of it as a way of serving folks. A good introduction will also help to expose the ruthless relevance of the text. Read some of Jesus’ sermons in the Gospels to observe how he interacted with and grabbed the attention of His listeners.

In my opinion one of the best sermon-introducers is Mark Dever. He brings in his wide reading and sharp understanding to great use here. I would suggest listening to 5 or 6 of his recent sermons and observing how he begins from an aerial view of a particular topic and touches on the ways the sermon is going to impact the listener as he circles down closer to the text.  Dever speaks of starting the sermon with something of a taste of the implications it is going to have on the listener or what presuppositions might be challenged. You will also notice that he always speaks to the non-Christians and seeks to inform them that their concerns and objections should also be addressed.  Read the Dever/Gilbert book, Preach: Theology Meets Practice, for a fuller description of this. (See page 102 and following.)

By this point you have likely already written your conclusion, but now is the time to go back and see if your introduction and conclusion match one another. It is no victory to have told everyone you were driving to New York only to end up in Cincinnati. Does your sermon go where you promised it was going to go?

I like to look for ways to bookend the sermon. What I mean is linking the outro with the intro so that the sermon “feels” complete and done.  That also helps to guarantee you have stayed on track with the one big point. If your intro is saying something entirely different from your outro, you have a problem. So, if you used a story in your introduction, you may find that a final chapter to that same story serves to conclude the sermon. That ties everything together in a neat mental package that offers a kind of intellectual satisfaction to your hearer. It is not always possible to do this and ought never to be forced, but it is helpful when it works.

Previous Preacher School Posts

Part One – Preacher School Intro

Part Two – Read the Text, the Whole Text, and Nothing But the Text

Part 3 – Have One Big Point

Part 4 – Sermons Should be Interesting

Part 5 – Outline the Passage

Part 6 – Open the Windows! Thoughts on Illustrations

Preacher School #6: Open the Windows! Thoughts on Illustrations.

Some preachers are offended when they think the only parts of their sermon that are remembered are their illustrations. But this should serve as a great compliment if those stories did what all good illustrations should do.

The purpose of an illustration is to clarify and help explain the truth of the text.  Illustrations are like an LED flashlight into a dark corner of your attic – you knew something was there but now you see it. They function like oil on the stiff gears of your push-mower – helping the listener to move smoothly through a text. They are windows that let in the light of meaning and the fresh air of understanding. They are like outlooks along the sermonic highway that allow the listener to pause and consider and enjoy the ground he has already travelled.

In that sense, the best illustrations (whether similes or stories or something else) will be so tied to the text that one will not be able to recall them without recalling the Truth they illuminate.

This means illustrations are not time-fillers, or a tool to “warm up the crowd.” Nor are they a means to draw attention to the world or the preacher! Instead they “colourize” the text and add flavours and layers that build the listener’s understanding and deepen his experience of the truth. Good illustrations are remembered because they are felt, they engage more of our senses than pure lecture. And if you illustrate Truth, then people are actually remembering Truth in the form of your illustration.

Jesus the Master Story-Teller

Jesus barely spoke without illustration. Our Lord was quick to engage all the aspects common to that culture. Consider just a quick glance through Mark 1-11:

  • Weddings and fasting 2:19
  • Patch on clothes 2:20
  • Wineskins 2:21
  • David and Abiathar 2:25
  • Naming people (like the Boanerges) 3:17
  • Civil war 3:25
  • Robbing a strong man 3:27
  • Family relations 3:35
  • Sower 4:1 (including soil types, growth patterns, weeds, etc)
  • Lamp under basket 4:21
  • Scatter seed then harvest grain 4:29
  • Mustard seed 4:30
  • Calms storm 4:39 (and all of His miracles!)
  • Hypocritical pot washing of Pharisees 7:1
  • Consumption and digestion (including excretion!) 7:14
  • Dogs eating under table 7:24
  • Leaven’s corrupting influence 8:14
  • Carry a cross 8:34
  • Servants and children 9:33
  • Amputation 9:43
  • Camels and eye of needle 10:24

Notice that Jesus left many of the conclusions to his stories unspoken. He expected the listener to work it out in his mind. His allusions always helped to make clear the main point he was getting across. He also spoke from a wide variety of experiences and vantage points, thus drawing in all types of listeners.

Jesus’ Prioritization of Story

Chronologically, he often told the story first, then followed it with an explanation and/or expected behavioral change/response. Think of the Four Soils or this event from Luke 14:7-11:

 Story –

Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you.

Explanation / Moral reform –

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Consider how more of Jesus’ stories and parables are recorded than his actual didactic teaching. People remembered the stories and what they intended to communicate.  Also consider that there has never been a better preacher than Jesus.

Where to Find Illustrations

The best illustrations are from your own experiences, observations and reading.

Personal Experience –

“Trust , again, is selected as the instrument of salvation because it has wonderful power over the heart of God. Marvelous is the influence of trust . I have aforetime illustrated this to you by the power which faith has over us, mortal men. I will venture to tell you an old story, which you have heard from me before. I cannot recollect anything better, and you must bear with a repetition. I once lived where my neighbour’s garden was only divided from me by a very imperfect hedge. He kept a dog, and his dog was a shockingly bad gardener, and did not improve my beds. So one evening, while I walked alone, I saw this dog doing mischief, and being a long way off I threw a stick at him, with some earnest advice as to his going home. This dog, instead of going home, picked up my stick and came to me with it in his mouth, wagging his tail. He dropped the stick at my feet, and looked up to me most kindly. What could I do but pat him and call him a good dog, and regret that I had ever spoken roughly to him? Why, it brings tears into my eyes as I talk about it! The dog mastered me by his trust in me. The illustration is to the point. If thou wilt trust God as that dog trusted me, thou wilt overcome. God will be held by thy trust in such a way that He could not smite thee, but must accept thee for Jesus’ sake. If thou dost trust Him, thou hast the key of His heart, the key of His house, the key of His heaven. If thou canst trust thy God in Jesus Christ, thou hast become a son of God. I see a philosophy in the choice of faith: do you not?[1]

A good rule here to guard your humility and help your sheep is to make sure that 90% of your stories about your own life highlight your failings or in some way expose your frailty.

Observations –

What does nature teach you? David compared the HSD of God to height of the heavens. Look at the flowers in summer, so beautiful, but soon to disappear under the weight of snow. Why do stars twinkle? How far away is our moon? Why do certain people act certain ways? Learn to ask questions of everything that is happening around you and then try to relate it to some Biblical idea. This is a rather fun exercise at any time!

Reading –

There are plenteous illustrations found in books. Mark them as you read them. Leave markings in the margins or front cover to identify them later on. Don’t read the news only to fill your brain with triviality, learn to look for stories that display what the Bible teaches.

Variety in Illustration

Illustrations may be long or short, at best they will be varied through the sermon.

  • Long – see dog story
  • Short – simile and such (as quick as a rabbit, deeper than the ocean, yelled like an angry auctioneer, etc)

We must also avoid illustrating from the same old area of personal interest. I could illustrate almost anything from the Toronto Maple Leafs, but this would get very old very fast. This requires us to be constantly learning about new things. Read the news. Check out books from the library on topics you have no interest in. Read fiction. Try to learn about people’s jobs when you are out and about. Listen to their life stories. Ask old people to tell you about their lives. Journal your life.


The best way to know if your illustrations work is to try them in advance on someone. Talk it out in fellowship with a brother and see if it helps him to understand. What good is a window that does not open? It does not let in the air! What good is a window if it is cracked? It distorts the view!

Work hard at your illustrations to ensure they accomplish what they set out to do; build clean windows.

Some Pitfalls to Avoid in Illustrating

  • Liking an illustration and using it even though it does not fit the text thus making the text say something it does not.
  • Repeating the same old “ringer”
  • Exaggerating to make the story better than reality
  • Spending more time illustrating than actually explaining the text
  • Telling a story that has no specific connection to the text
  • Assuming parts of the illustration are commonly understood and thus leaving out the key to the whole thing
  • Not doing enough or having too many
  • Speaking with authority about something you do not understand – FACT CHECK!
  • Speaking in the first person about something that did not happen to you – that is called lying, not illustrating.


Preacher School #5: Outline the Passage

In an earlier lesson I said that your sermon outline would come directly out of the text. Rather than assembling what you want to say and trying to fit that into a text, your job is to let the text form your preaching outline. Banish the idea of “three points and a poem!”  Unless, of course, the original text contains three points and a certain poem wonderfully encapsulates its message.

But how do you get to that outline? What do you look for?

The best way to start doing this is to buy a book on grammatical diagramming. There are many available and I am so retro that I am holding out hope it is making a comeback. Kitty Burns Florey wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times recently that suggested the same! http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/26/a-picture-of-language/

If you didn’t get this stuff figured out in Grade 8 English, don’t fret. Neither did I. But lots of practice and lots of humility can take you a long way in the right way. The beauty of it all is that it forces you to consider every single word and how it relates to all the others.

A Test Run

To help you get the gist of this, we will look at the grammatically simple Ezra 7:10. The first thing to do is read Ezra (all of it and hopefully in at least two English translations). Then figure out where you are in the Biblical storyline. If you understand Hebrew, your next step is to start considering what each word means and how it connects to all the others. This can be done in English as well, as long as you recall that translations never give an exact word-for-word rendering of the original text.

So, Ezra 7:10 says this: “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.”

Start by looking for the main verb of the sentence. Once you have located it, arrange every word of the verse as follows.

Subject | Verb / indirect or direct object of verb

In our example, these words are: Ezra, had set his heart, to study the Law of the LORD, to do it, to teach his statutes and rules.)

What you will have left are primarily a bunch of conjunctions and modifying words. They need to be attached (like stems) to the words they connect or modify. (In our example, these words are: for, his, and, in Israel.)

Altogether, the diagram for the verse will look something like this:


In this diagram, you will notice two things right away. The main verb of the passage concerns Ezra choosing to set his heart on something. Actually, diagramming makes it clear that he was setting his heart on three parallel things.  So, in this sermon, we are actually going to get three points!

Move From Diagram to Preaching Outline

Next you must move your visual representation closer to a preaching outline. It is helpful at this point to write out what your diagram visually represents.

 Main Verb: For Ezra had set his heart

Point 1: To study the Law of the Lord

Conjunction: And

Point 2: To do it

Conjunction: And

Point 3: To teach his statutes and rules in Israel

But this is just assembling the pieces of the puzzle. Now, the fun begins. You are going to preach this passage, not just repeat back its words. So you have got to take these points and put them into your own words. Since we are sermonizing here so I am picturing myself preaching this text to a group of preachers. I want to call these men to something based on this text.  So, I might re-phrase the outline to an imperative like this:

Commit to being a man of the Truth, Preacher!

1.         Absorb the Truth

2.         Practise the Truth

3.         Speak the Truth

Notice how the three points all substantiate and explain the main point.  These are not three unrelated thoughts – they all drive to the one big point. Once the main points are settled, begin to fill in the outline with explanations.

Title: Commit to being a man of the Truth, Preacher!

  • Ezra is a model to all of us of a faithful preacher
  • He lived a life committed to God’s Word
  • His actions are timeless and instructive to all preachers

         1.         Absorb the Truth          

  • Ezra had settled in his mind a commitment to three actions
  • there is a chronological order to these actions
  • the first was “to study” – this meant to ponder over and fully understand the words of the text before him
  • A man cannot teach what he does not know
  • etc…

Now you are off to the races. Do the same thing for all three points and by the end you will have a kind of first draft to a really good sermon. It is no where near ready to preach yet, but when the time for delivery arrives you will be able to stand and deliver with conviction and love since you really know what this text means.

Two final notes

In my experience, this outline will go through 3 or 4 major revisions. As you continue to study the text your understanding of its message will sharpen and hopefully improve the outline. Secondly, parallelism in an outline is a nice feature, but accurately expressing the message of the text is more important. Get the message across. That is the matter of first importance.

Preacher School #4: Sermons Should be Interesting!

(This part of a series I have called Preacher School based on a training regimen we ran over the summer at our local church.)

Interest Derives from Exegesis

It ought go without saying that preaching, of all things, should be interesting! A “boring sermon” is an oxymoron. There is essentially only one cause of dull preaching – you have not exegeted the text.  Here is what I mean.

God is infinitely interesting. We will never, in three billion eternities, finish discovering new things about God or enjoying the things we already know about Him. That is why we can read the same Bible passage 50, 100 times in our life and find new things there – these words on the page are spoken by God! The Infinite has communicated about Himself through finite words in order to allow us to know Him. If you do the work of a good exegete, you will always, without exception, find something interesting to say because God is interesting. The text always funnels up and out to Him.

So, when I say that preaching must be interesting, I am thinking first of all of its content, not its presentation. The most fruitful garden had the most work in the early spring and hot summer. The best doctor is not the best-looking, best bedside-mannered one, but the most studied and skilled at his practice. The most interesting preachers will say more than what a plain reading of the text says; they will give clarity and colour to its meaning and application to its demands.

That is why a somewhat banal presentation can still be very interesting.

There Are No Trophies for Boring

That said, we ought to do all in our power to avoid banal presentations and I have a reason why. If these things we are learning are truly interesting (stimulating, remarkable, attractive, attention-grabbing, life-altering, value-shifting, etc.) then we must allow ourselves to present them in a manner that matches. You would think me an odd fan indeed if I mumbled, “I can hardly contain myself at the fact the Leafs just won their 14th Stanley Cup.” There is a manner of expression that ought to match that glorious announcement! And it is not quiet.

So, interesting preaching allows the tone and tenor and truth of the text to take over the presentation of its truth. This presentation will vary based on personality, culture, ethnicity, age, and a host of other factors, but the goal when preaching is to find “your voice” and let the truth come through.

“I am disturbed therefore when I am often told by members of churches that many of the younger Reformed men are very good men, who have no doubt read a great deal, and are very learned men, but they are very dull and boring preachers; and I am told this by people who themselves hold the Reformed position. This is to me a very serious matter; there is something radically wrong with dull and boring preachers. How can a man be dull when he is handling such themes? I would say that a ‘dull preacher’ is a contradiction in terms; if he is dull he is not a preacher. He may stand in a pulpit and talk, but he is certainly not a preacher. With the grand theme and message of the Bible dullness is impossible.”    – Martyn Lloyd-Jones

How do you preach interesting sermons? You dig deep into God’s Word and find Him there. How do you do that? I hope to start and tell you next time.

Preacher School #3: Have One Big Point

A ship without a bow has no point, and hence no direction. A sermon without a point is as useful as a bowless ship… it is going nowhere. The distinctive feature of a sermon as opposed to a lecture or other talk is that it aims to bring about change in response to one major point. A Bible study may meander through various verses and draw out excellent application from each, but a sermon looks to bring about change in response to the Truth.

This is where most preachers go wrong from the start. There is a tendency to want to say everything about many things as opposed to saying the most important things about one thing. The contractor starts with footings, and then builds up and out. The cook assembles his ingredients then mixes in proper order. Both are aiming to build something – one a house and the other a cake. There is one big point to it all.

Say What it Says

Every sermon ought to be explained by one sentence. That statement should (mostly) be in the form of an imperative (a command or call to action), since preaching is more than the distribution of information – it is a call to transformation. When you are finished the preparation of your sermon you should be able to quickly answer the question, “In one sentence or less, what is your sermon about?” If you cannot do that, you do not know what your one big point is and you need to do more preparation and study.

The human mind resists confusion and jumbled thoughts – it frustrates the listener if he has to try and hold together many disparate ideas that do not lead to an end. This is like being told a list of 15 chores that do not seem to connect to the overall goal of the work – difficult to remember and hard to stay excited about. But if I show you how each chore helps to complete the one big goal, it is easier to stay motivated. If there is one clearly defined big point to the sermon, then all the other points along the way should be directly related to and supporting that one big point.

Have an Outline

Thus, you should have some form of an outline. The big point, followed by several supporting points of the big point, and under each supporting point, several sub-points that also establish and back the supporting point they are under.

Think of it something like this:

Sermon: One Big Point (preferably an imperative)

1. Supporting Point: This point supports the big point
A. This point explains, defends, expounds the supporting point (and hence, the Big Point)
B. This point explains, defends, expounds the supporting point (and hence, the Big Point)
2. Supporting Point: This point supports the big point
A. This point explains, defends, expounds the supporting point (and hence, the Big Point)
B. This point explains, defends, expounds the supporting point (and hence, the Big Point)

This type of outline does not need to be alliterated. Of far more value is its making sense! You need to fight for simple English that an 8 year old could comprehend. Nor does the outline always have to be stated in the actual delivery of the sermon. Its main purpose is to organize your presentation. I will try to show you next time how the outline comes from the text.

The outline may feel very foreign and rigid, since we typically do not talk to each other in this detailed manner. But you are not just talking, you are preaching. You are aiming to explain to other people what a text means and trying to convince other people to respond to it. It is not conversation, it is persuasion.

So, while you are reading and studying for your sermon, you must keep asking yourself, “What is the point?” Often there are so many great things being said we are tempted to emphasize them all, but if you read the text carefully I think you will observe that the author generally has one main goal. Your job is to find that, then express it in words to your people in a way they will understand.

To do this I think you need a thesaurus. It is helpful to say what the text says without simply parroting the vocabulary of the text. There will be time to explain words and draw out connections, but tell your listeners what the text means in your own words. Sometimes this is one of the most difficult components to sermon preparation. But if a teacher can explain addition to a 5 year old without using advanced mathematical vocabulary, why can’t we explain the Truth of God’s Word in one big point in words that everyone under our charge can comprehend?

Read the Text, the Whole Text and Nothing but the Text!

Note: Preacher School is a series we run in our local church (you can read about it here). It is aimed at men who have a desire to preach God’s Word, but have no formal theological training. This past summer we had about a dozen guys join us between the ages of 20 and 50, most of whom were preaching for the first time. What I present here are weekly handouts from our meetings. Just so you know, they include Biblical mandates, but they are also overflowing with personal opinions gained after 26 years of preaching. I do not take the time to dissect between Biblical mandate and personal opinion, so my cultural biases and presuppositions will be on full display. I welcome your correction, addition, improvement and collegial interaction!

One of the first and worst errors a new preacher often commits is talking around the text, rather than preaching the message of the text. Thoughts about introductions, illustrations and outlines may so clog his brain that he never gets to explaining what the Bible actually says. Like a plane that never lands, he keeps sputtering along until he drops out of the sky. Or, he may speak about the words of a certain verse or paragraph, but miss their main point entirely. Both errors have a common cause and an easy solution.

The best preachers are Bible readers. It may sound simple, but answer this question, “Have you read the entire Bible?” How many times have you read it? How can you preach with conviction and clarity if you don’t know the text? Don’t wait for tomorrow – if you are not a faithful reader of God’s Word today, become one now.

Read Fully and Frequently
Have you met that old woman? The one in your church who has never been to Bible School or Seminary, yet seems to have a profoundly sensitive theological radar. She is one of those dear saints who has been reading her Bible thoughtfully for years and years and knows who you mean when you say, “Balaam.” May you be like her!

The first rule of preaching is to read your Bible, a lot. And to read it from cover to cover. A good rule of thumb is to try and read the entire Bible at least once every year. I have often thought that Bible reading is a little like dying a white cloth. The more the cloth is dipped into the dye the more it takes on its colour. In like fashion, the more you read your Bible, the more you become like the Truth it teaches.

Read Closely
A good preacher lives with a settled indignation against ignorance. When you come across situations you do not grasp, commands that seem obscure, or words you do not understand, you must discipline yourself to dig up answers. This is really the heart of all good preaching – seeking to understand what the text says.

So a close reader will notice connecting words, repeated words and theologically-loaded words. He will observe patterns and repetition. He will anchor himself in the plot-line of redemptive history and avoid reading into one text what does not belong. He has learned that “a text without a context is a pretext for a proof text” and he will read with a mind to never commit this sin! Most of all, he will work at catching the flow of thought of the sentence, then paragraph, then book, then testament and finally, his whole Bible.

Read Interactively
Martin Lloyd-Jones insisted that good Bible reading included keeping an open notebook beside you. Learn to write down your observations and to track ideas. It is amazing how many you will get as you read and even more amazing how many you will forget by the time you are done!

Sometimes an entire preaching outline will pop into your mind as you read the text. Write it down. It may look like gibberish one week from now and be of no use, but often it reflects at least the beginning of some key thoughts toward understanding the passage. I am often amused by how much my personal reading relates to whatever text of the Bible I happen to be preaching. So, even if I am not preaching the other text, it may serve as a wonderful illustration to the passage I am preaching. But I will forget it completely if I do not jot it down. If you are really on your game you will store all this electronically with some means of searching for future reference.

Read Prayerfully
The wisest Bible readers know that God is the One who grants understanding, so they will interact with Him as they read. By this I do not mean praying before you read (an excellent habit!) but praying as you read. This is God’s Word, so communicate with Him as you hear from Him. Tell Him what you do not understand, beg His enlightening work through His Spirit, delight in His grace and truth personally – there are a hundred ways to commune with Him as you read. Remember, the end goal is just to understand His Word as much as it is to understand Him. He is the grand object of our attention and affections.

You would think me an odd husband indeed if I told you the way I get to know and understand my wife (1 Peter 3:7) is by silently watching her every day. How can I truly know her if I am not asking questions, clarifying misunderstandings, expressing praise and gratitude, and fact-checking my observations? The Lord is no less relational. Your study ought to be something of a noisy place, full of pleadings and praises.

Read Exclusively
“Why read to understand when there is a commentary just over there to tell me what it means?” An excellent question. May I suggest the answer forms around the concepts of integrity and authenticity? A man always cherishes more that which he built with his own hands. In like fashion, a preacher more fully owns, believes in and is changed by Truth that he has had to dig up by his own mental sweat and effort. That process of digging has helped to make it his own.

Too much preaching is commentary-reflux. There is a place for the commentaries, but it comes much later. Learn to go to them last, to check to see if you are a heretic. But do not lean on them first. I try to keep it a rule that I will not consult a commentary until I have at least fashioned one idea of what a certain text means. I am happy to be corrected on a regular basis.

Read Widely
I am sure you have had that experience of visiting another church and following along in your Bible as the preacher references another translation. We are often surprised at the variances. Simply reading three English translations of your text will likely alert you to all of the major interpretive issues you need to consider. Early in your study you ought to consult these translations and note any discrepancies or difference in emphases.

As a side note, if you know the Hebrew and Greek, then let me encourage you to be reading from your text in the original language. This is obviously not something everyone can do, but if you have even one year of study in the language you can be reading. My old college professor suggested we read from an interlinear with a 3×5 card. Cover the English translation below the word and try to read along, but drop the card when you’re stuck. That way you are moving at a pace fast enough to get the sense of the syntax and flow of thought.

So preacher, if you are not already, then begin today to read your Bible. “Eat” your Bible (Jeremiah 15:16), study your Bible (Ezra 7:10), run your life by your Bible (Psalm 119:9-11) and do not add a thing to your Bible (Revelation 22:18).

Preacher School

God has consistently blessed our church with a steady stream of young men interested in teaching and perhaps pastoring down the road. Knowing that these guys need some experience in order to test the call, we often free up a season in our pulpit to have a bunch of them preach through a series that we design. This year, we felt our church needed a refresher on some of the, “one-anothers” in the New Testament – commands like, Love one another, Encourage one another, etc.

We began by sending out an email to the entire church family inviting any male members to tell us of their interest in what we called, “Preacher School.” We also approached a few brothers privately and encouraged them to sign up. After we had a list of names, we then assigned texts and preaching dates.

We met every Wednesday night after our normal services to do three things. First, I would teach the guys one component of how to craft a sermon. Second, we would critique the sermon of the guy who preached the previous Sunday. Finally, we would listen to the sermon from the brother who was going to preach on the approaching Sunday and follow that up with all the things we found encouraging, plus one or two suggestions for improvement. This would all take about 60 minutes.

The whole process was fun, developed camaraderie amongst these brothers (everybody got applause after the sermon delivery on Wednesday nights – very UnCanadian!) and gave our men some great experiences.

Over the next few weeks I am hoping to post here the basic content of what I taught. My hope is that it will generate further discussion on just how to put a sermon together and help me refine the material for future use. But for today, I have included the “contract” we issued to our men.

Preacher School

What you get:
• Instruction in Bible study and preaching
• Personal accountability with your life as a whole
• The benefit of learning from the success and mistakes of others
• Joy of weekly Christian brotherhood and camaraderie

What you give:
• Meet with the men from 9-10PM each Wednesday night
• Prepare a full manuscript for your sermon, delivered to the pastors 10 days before you preach it to the church
• Preach that sermon to our class on the Wednesday before you preach it to the church
• Receive critique from class on sermon and presentation
• The opportunity to preach your sermon to the church on a Sunday night this summer
• Further encouragement and helpful post-sermon critique

Why you should:
• The Gospel is first proclaimed and the more men who can do that well, the better off the church will be
• You will be challenged in your faith
• You will become a better sermon-listener
• Your Bible study skills will improve