Preaching: Behind the Scenes
A look into the sermon preparation of Daniel Fusco.
Average Rating: [see ratings/reviews]
Like most of you, I am always asking fellow preachers about how they prepare a message. That means that over my fifteen years of preaching, I have tried many different ways to prepare. I constantly would hear how someone prepared and I would immediately try it. Lots of trial and error ensued. Probably more error than I would care to admit. Ultimately I have found a way that works for me. Don't miss that either—God's Word, mediated by the Spirit, through a preacher, happens in deeply personal ways. Each one of us is unique, although united in Christ. What works for one of us might not work for another. So as I share what works for me, I don't mean to sound like it is the only way. It is just the way that helps me get prepared week in and week out to enter the pulpit.
Begin with Jesus
First and foremost, preaching begins with Jesus. He is the living Word. So we must focus on the Bible and prayer. Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his classic book, Preachers and Preaching, said you need to prepare the preacher before you prepare the message to preach. So our daily rhythms of Bible reading and prayer are absolutely essential to our ability to proclaim the truths of God in the pulpit. We can never lead people where we haven't gone. We need to be driven to the text by the Spirit and be continually prayerful.
Once a text is determined, and I personally preach almost exclusively expositional series through books of the Bible (verse by verse, line by line), I open up a new document on my computer and begin. I always begin by reading the entire passage that I will be preaching over and over again—usually ten to fifteen times. As I read, I am jotting down notes. With each successive reading, more and more information finds its way into the document. I usually find myself outlining the text, focusing on emerging themes, adding relevant Scriptures, and often asking lots and lots of questions of the text.
I call my reading the text many times and making notes my "brain dump." Everything, no matter how seemingly inconsequential, makes it into that document. I allow my thoughts, concerns, and imagination to run wild without any judgment. After many read-throughs and copious note taking, even on an area of Scripture that I already feel comfortable with, I find that the text is getting in me and I am getting into the text.
Crafting the message
At that point, I begin crafting the message. After allowing the text to permeate my heart and mind, I decide how I want to get at the content by breaking the whole down into more manageable sections. Each section is usually given a heading that will come up on the screens for people to remember. I want people to remember the points so I purposely make them simple, profound, and memorable. I think of these points as take-aways for people to bring to the Lord in prayer and reflection after they have left the church. It's kind of like leftovers from a restaurant that they get to enjoy again later at home.