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One question that often comes up is “When is my sermon ready to preach?” This question comes from many types of preachers. Some are those who allow the demands of ministry to overcome their need to preach an effective sermon. So this type of preacher is looking for the minimum.

Other preachers, however, make the opposite mistake and never think the sermon is ready for preaching. They could study and prepare for 100 hours and still find something wrong with the sermon.They go into the pulpit timidly and without the confidence that should come from adequate preparation.

So how do you know? Well, you should know a few things if you are going to be a prepared preacher. The first thing you need to realize is that the sermon is never done. In fact, as Dr. Brad Braxton noted, a sermon is not the manuscript, but a sermon happens in the preaching moment. And I am sure you have gone in the pulpit with a prepared message and had the Spirit change that message in the preaching moment—maybe the Spirit altered word choice and even gave you a better illustration.

Yes, we must realize that the Spirit often shows up with the editing pen and makes alterations as we preach. It is important to be open to that leading and to follow it.

Another thing we need to remember is that no matter how much effort we put into preparation, when we preach that sermon again, we will more than likely make alterations to the sermon manuscript (or outline). So again, the sermon is never done…

Follow a Comprehensive Sermon Preparation Method

OK, the sermon is never done, but when can we as preachers know that we are ready to preach it? I would make a few recommendations.

First, follow a full sermon construction method. There is not simply one way to put a sermon together, but find a comprehensive method that seems to work for you. Remember, don’t be afraid to make alterations to the method as you become a better preacher.

In your method, I would encourage you to capture your initial interaction with the text before delving into the depths of study. Yes, you need to study deeply, but only after you capture your initial thoughts and observations. Those will be refined and fixed and cleaned up as time goes on. That initial interaction provides pointers to illustrations, questions, points, titles and other points.

Then go deep into the text to understand what God wants the people to hear.

Edit and Practice

After you have completed a comprehensive sermon preparation method, next edit your sermon manuscript or outline at least three times. Edit for theology one time. Edit for verbiage and word choice one time. And finally, edit for grammar. These will help you make sure you say what you intend to say.

Practice your sermon out loud. How does it sound? Does it feel ready? What is missing? Do this a few times, but don’t overdo it; as I noted before, you can always make changes to a sermon manuscript.

Bathe your preparation in prayer. Ask for God’s help all the way through the process of sermon preparation.

If you have done those things, then stand up and preach the message with power, knowing that you have done what you needed to do to get your sermon ready for preaching. Go ahead and make alterations for next time, but know that God will use your sermon to make positive changes in the lives of your people.

Sherman Haywood Cox II is the director of Soul Preaching. He holds the M.Div with an emphasis in Homiletics and a M.S. in Computer Science.

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Phillip Holbrook

commented on Sep 25, 2014

Great article! There's a tremendous amount of homiletical training in this one short article.

Jonathan Mbuna

commented on Sep 26, 2014

A balanced article and I love it since it combines spiritual approach and adds in human effort. Most important is the 'bathing of sermon in prayer!!!'

John Peterson

commented on Sep 26, 2014

My homiletics professor does a great job teaching basic sermon construction, but doesn't include this information or anything related to delivery. This article should be mandatory for anyone who is called to preach God's word. Thank you.

Buddy Sipe

commented on Sep 26, 2014

I have been preaching for 60 years. Called to pastor my first congregation at age 21. In those early days, I would go to the pulpit (next door to our home) and "practice" my sermon. I realized the Saturday night practice was always better in delivery and content than the Sunday morning live. So, after a year of that, I stopped the practicing my sermon. After the Spirit has ceased in the construction of the sermon, I put it aside until Sunday morning. According to my wife of 53 years, they seem fresh.

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