Sermon: Great Joy In That City [Audio]

Title: Great Joy In That City
Text: Acts 8:1-8
Main Idea: A city has cause for great joy when the Good News is proclaimed and good deeds are performed in that city.
Notes: This was a message I preached in Bayside, NY and then in Yonkers, NY. The purpose is to show how God sovereignly mobilizes His people to fulfill His Great Commission.

How to Effectively Plan Sermons

I’m currently developing a workflow for my sermon preparation and thought I would share my plan here. I’ve always had a pretty good informal system for sermon preparation but I am wanting to become more effective and consistent. This post is kind of a ‘note to self’ but perhaps others will get something out of it. I would love to hear your ideas as well.

Step #1 Gather Relevant Information [ongoing]

Before even developing a workflow for sermon preparation, it’s important to pray and think about the needs of the congregation and spend time listening to God. Are there specific themes or deficiencies in the body that need to be addressed? Is God giving you a message that has become a “fire burning in your heart” that you can no longer hold in? (See Jeremiah 20:9)

Keep an ongoing journal or a computer file of ideas for series, titles, illustrations, insights, etc.

What topics and books of the Bible have already been preached in recent months/years? It’s good to have some sort of spreadsheet that includes sermon text, topic, main idea and any illustrations used so that you don’t keep preaching the same thing over and over. The idea is to “declare the whole plan of God” (See Acts 20:27)

Are there other resources that could be useful here like a church-wide survey or a discussion with others in leadership?

Does the Holy Spirit Speak Through My NIV?

I recently had an interesting conversation with someone named Dan about the value of exegesis and the role of the Holy Spirit in helping us understand God’s Word. I made the argument that faithfully studying the context, author, purpose, audience, and even the languages can help us to more fully understand a text. This doesn’t negate the role of the Holy Spirit in illuminating the words on the page but I think these language and contextual tools are helpful.

Dan said,

I agree that there is certainly value in studying the original language and historical aspects of a text, but I would lean toward those being nonessential, because ultimately The Bible is nothing but words without God’s Spirit working in the heart of the reader/hearer.”

I wouldn’t say they are nonessential. I would even say that they are essential because without them we wouldn’t even have an English translation. Further, I would say that the more questions we ask of a text and the more we can use cultural and contextual and linguistic tools to help us answer them, the more faithful we are as students of the Word.

When we get a letter in the mail it’s helpful to know the author, the recipient(s), the subject, the purpose, etc. Why wouldn’t we also employ what we know about a biblical text to help us more fully understand the message? Especially since that text is from a culture years removed from ours today. There is a lot of insight that can be gleaned just from doing 5 minutes of research from a commentary or with a word study. Again, no seminary education necessary just a healthy desire to meditate on and study God’s Word.