Sermon Preparation


Written Resources - Sermon Preparation

Present The Law And The Gospel



Sermon Preparation

Do Your Best Work

"Heaven is ashamed of preachers who do less than their best in the sacred desk.--Heaven is ashamed of many who are engaged in all branches of the work, and especially is Heaven ashamed of those who are called to the sacred desk, and yet who do not try to do their best. Many read newspapers and periodicals and books, and neglect the study of their Bibles. They do not wrestle with God in the closet, for the help which He alone can give. They go forth to their work spiritless and without Christ. Ministers go before their congregations, presenting fragments of a long-used discourse, instead of a fresh portion of meat in due season for the people. They drift into dry, controverted subjects, and the flock of God is unfed." Ellen White, Review and Herald, May 20, 1890.

Avoid Sensationalism

Zechariah 9:12 "Turn you to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope: even to day do I declare that I will render double unto thee;"

Isaiah 11:6 "and a little child shall lead them."

"Those who have the out pouring of the gospel of Christ which comes from the heart imbued by His Holy Spirit will give light and comfort and hope to hearts that are hungering and thirsting for righteousness. It is not excitement we wish to create, but deep, earnest consideration, that those who hear shall do solid work, real, sound, genuine work that will be enduring as eternity. We hunger not for excitement, for the sensational; the less we have of this, the better. The calm, earnest reasoning from the scriptures is precious and fruitful. Here is the secret of success, in preaching a living, personal Saviour in so simple and earnest a manner that the people may be able to lay hold by faith of the power of the word of life. [Preach] ... the truth, substantiated by the authority of the living word, which is the power of God unto salvation." Ellen G. White, Paulson Collection, 101.3 


Delivery Of Sermon

Speak Simply

"In our efforts to make known the truth for this time, we have no need to stretch ourselves beyond ourselves. We do not need powers of oratory in order to be successful workers. Our teachings should be so simple that even the children can understand them. Let us tell in simple language the reasons for our observance of the seventh day. Let us point men and women to the Word of God and the instruction that He gave His ancient people regarding His requirements." {Lt198-1908.5}

"When Christ said to the disciples, Go forth in My name to gather into the church all who believe, He plainly set before them the necessity of maintaining simplicity. The less ostentation and show, the greater would be their influence for good. The disciples were to speak with the same simplicity with which Christ had spoken. They were to impress upon their hearers the lessons He had taught them." {AA 28.3}

"It is not flowery discourses that are needed, not a flood of words without meaning. Our ministers are to preach in a way that will help people to grasp vital truth. My brethren, do not soar where the common people cannot follow you, and if they could, would be neither benefited nor blessed. Teach the simple lessons given by Christ. Tell the story of His life of self-denial and sacrifice, His humiliation and death, His resurrection and ascension, His intercession for sinners in the courts above. In every congregation there are souls upon whom the Spirit of the Lord is moving. Help them to understand what is truth; break the bread of life to them; call their attention to vital questions." {GW 154.1}

Look To The Holy Spirit, Not Eloquence

"Unless ministers are guarded, they will hide the truth under human ornamentation. Let no minister suppose that he can convert souls by eloquent sermons. Those who teach others should plead with God to imbue them with His Spirit, and enable them to lift up Christ as the sinner’s only hope. Flowery speeches, pleasing tales, or inappropriate anecdotes do not convict the sinner. Men listen to such words as they would to a pleasant song. The message that the sinner should hear is, “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” [John 3:16.] The reception of the gospel does not depend on learned testimonies, eloquent speeches, or deep arguments, but upon its simplicity, and its adaptation to those who are hungering for the bread of life. {GW 155.1}
It is the efficiency of the Holy Spirit that makes the ministry of the word effective. When Christ speaks through the minister, the Holy Spirit prepares the hearts of the listeners to receive the word. The Holy Spirit is not a servant, but a controlling power. He causes the truth to shine into minds, and speaks through every discourse where the minister surrenders himself to the divine working. It is the Spirit that surrounds the soul with a holy atmosphere, and speaks to the impenitent through words of warning, pointing them to Him who takes away the sin of the world." {GW 155.2}

Speak So A Child Can Understand

"Christ came to our world to live out the law of God, to be our pattern in all things. He placed himself between the mercy-seat and the vast number of heartless worshipers who were full of ostentation, pride, and vanity, and by his lessons of truth, which were eloquent with simplicity, he impressed the people with the necessity of spiritual worship. His lessons were impressive, beautiful, and weighty with importance, and yet so simple that a child could understand them. The truth he presented was so deep that the wisest and most accomplished teacher could never exhaust it. Those who work as seeing the invisible, will always preserve simplicity, charging the simplest words with the power of the grandest truths. It was with this kind of teaching that the Lord Jesus exposed the weakness and brought to confusion the theories of the most learned. The spotlessness of his character, untainted with sin, unmarred by a wrinkle, revealed the marked contrast there was between his religion and the pious pretensions of the Pharisees. They could not tolerate Jesus." {RH December 25, 1894, par. 4} Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, December 25, 1894

Remember, Simplicity Is Everything

"I recall that at one time I was in a congregation, and a child of twelve years came to me and said, “Sister White are you going to speak today?” I replied, I spoke this forenoon, and will speak again tomorrow. With a look of disappointment she replied, “I thought you were going to speak this afternoon, and I told a lot of other children that you would, and that they could understand you, and how disappointed they will be.” How do you think I felt? I felt glad and sorry. I was so sorry that anyone should speak in such a way that children could not understand them. Simplicity is everything to us." {Ms 114, 1909, par. 13}

Speak Slowly

"I ought to have answered your letter before this, but travelling from place to place and attending meetings has taken all my strength. The camp-meeting at Omaha was a very large one, and one Sabbath afternoon I spoke to over fifteen hundred people, among them many Germans and Scandinavians. I found that in order to make my words heard in all parts of the tent, I must breathe deeply and speak slowly. Were I to speak quickly, my throat and lungs would suffer. And when I speak slowly, the hearers are given an opportunity to take in sentence after sentence and to gather up ideas that would otherwise be lost." {Lt287-1904.1} Ellen G. White in letter to Kellogg

Speak Distinctly

"I asked a Methodist minister, “Tell me where you obtained the voice that you have that reaches and makes a reality of everything you try to explain in the Scriptures?” I never shall forget it, never. I was then quite young. “Well,” said he, “I will tell you if you will come outside.” He was in my father’s house. He showed me the trees; he showed me the things all around. I knew what was there before he said, but I went out of the house. “They said you never can preach a discourse, you have not a good tone of voice, and you will just as surely miss it if you attempt to be a preacher,” said he. “I preached to the stumps, to the trees, and there nobody was to find fault with me, and there I educated myself from point to point, until I made an acceptable minister.” I never forgot that. I did not have to do that preach, but I never forgot it. {Ms184-1907.12}  I thought if he could wrestle with difficulties like that, then those that think that they have not a right speech: learn it, learn it. It is just as large an education as you can obtain to learn to speak correctly. Every word in a sentence or every sentence is to be pronounced correctly. And if you do that, let me tell you, you will be in a place where you can communicate intelligently. I was listening to a minister, one that we highly esteemed, but he never seemed, or seldom seemed, to ripen off the work. Said I, What is the matter? {Ms184-1907.13}  The answer came to me: He lets the last sentence run down, right into a hole. You cannot tell what he says. Now, the very last sentence and word is to stand right out clear and distinct, and so is every sentence. Now I want to tell you this, because you may gain a great deal by educating yourself, and we want to do this, and we want you to do it. We want every scholar to educate himself, that if they are called to minister or to read a chapter in the Word, they will put the right emphasis on every word and they will bring it out in such a way that it will touch hearts. Now, you are improving your talent in doing that. You are improving your talent of speech. I have heard so many essays read when I could hear words, but I could not distinguish them. They would run it together so I could not distinguish clearly. It lost its force—one-half of it lost its force. Now, that was not as it should be." {Ms184-1907.14} Ellen G. White, Manuscript 184, 1907

Speak In A Sympathetic Tone Of Voice

"Another thing that you can educate is—here are younger ones all around you—you want to speak to them just as tenderly and kindly and sympathetically so that, if you should speak in the pulpit, you will have a sympathetic tone, that you can speak tenderly, and that your heart will be so that you can reach out for souls." {Ms184-1907.16} Ellen G. White, Manuscript 184, 1907

Skip Theatrics

"All theatrical performances be left [out] and not encouraged in our meetings. Ministers, do not travel in our meetings from one end of the platform to the other. It confuses the congregation and encourages acts of fanatical performances. Preserve your dignity, and work in a godly manner. There is a great and solemn work to be done, and let no theatrical performance come in, for it will give license to a phase of work which we do not need and which, if once entered, pleases Lucifer, but grieves the Lord Jesus Christ. Let all be done under the Holy Spirit’s influence." {Ms67-1910.31}

Be Wary of Fanciful Eloquence

"The minister may make a high range into the heavens, by poetical descriptions and fanciful presentations which please the senses and feed the imagination, but which do not touch the common life experience, the daily necessities; bringing home to the heart the very truths which are of vital interest. The immediate requirements, the present trials, need present help and strength—the faith that works by love and purifies the soul, not words which have no real influence upon the living daily walk in practical Christianity. {Ms 59, 1900, par. 55}
The minister may think that with his fanciful eloquence he has done great things in feeding the flock of God; the hearers may suppose that they never before heard such beautiful themes, they have never seen the truth dressed up in such beautiful language, and as God was represented before them in His greatness, they felt a glow of emotion. But trace from cause to effect all this ecstasy of feeling caused by these fanciful representations. There may be truths, but too often they are not the food that will fortify them for the daily battles of life." {Ms 59, 1900, par. 56}


"It has often been presented to me that there should be less sermonizing by ministers, acting merely as local pastors of churches, and that greater personal efforts should be put forth. Our people should not be made to think that they need to listen to a sermon every Sabbath. Many who listen frequently to sermons, even though the truth be presented in clear lines, learn but little. Often it would be more profitable if the Sabbath meetings were of the nature of a Bible-class study. Bible truth should be presented in such a simple, interesting manner that all can easily understand and grasp the principles of salvation. {Lt 192, 1906, par. 7}
We should seek to follow more closely the example of Christ, the great Shepherd, as He worked with His little company of disciples, studying with them and with the people the Old Testament Scriptures. His active ministry consisted not merely in sermonizing, but in educating the people. As He passed through villages, He came in personal contact with the people in their homes, teaching and ministering to their necessities. As the crowds that followed Him increased, when He came to a favorable place, He would speak to them, simplifying His discourses by the use of parables and symbols." {Lt 192, 1906, par. 8}


Follow Up The Sermon


"Many love to preach, but they have very little experience in ministering. Search the Scriptures with the families you visit. Christ’s work was to put believers in possession of every essential truth, that by searching, they might discover other precious gems. We need to search in the lessons of Christ for the true meaning of His words; for it remains to be discovered. As we do this, the new aspect of some truths will be seen; we shall see the far-reaching compass of others, and the connection of some with others. Thus we shall find a harmonious whole. We must put our minds to the task of searching, with humble, holy, determined purpose, and with much prayer. The diligent seeker will receive his reward. {Ms7-1891.14}  It is not preaching alone that must be done. Far less preaching is needed. More time should be devoted to patiently educating others, giving the hearers opportunity to express themselves. It is instruction that many need, line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, and there a little. {Ms7-1891.15}  But it is very difficult to impress the minds of our ministering brethren with the idea that sermons alone cannot do the work that is needed for our churches. Personal efforts are wanted; they are essential for the prosperity of individuals and churches. In speaking, we must act intelligently, remembering that the minds of our hearers cannot retain or appropriate one-half of the discourses that are given. Few minds can take in so much matter. Yet without giving the minds of the people time to digest that which they have heard, too often plans are laid for another discourse to follow closely upon the one already given. What time have the people to digest the preceding discourse? If they grasp the ideas of the latter discourse, but a small portion of the former is retained. {Ms7-1891.16}  I have been shown that we lose a large share of the discourses given, because so many are crowded in one after the other. The object for which our camp meetings are appointed is that they may be a spiritual benefit to the people. When a discourse is given, precious seed is sown. But if personal efforts are not made to prepare the soil for that seed, it does not take root in the heart. Unless the heart is softened and subdued by the Spirit of God, much of the discourse is lost." {Ms7-1891.17} Ellen G. White, Manuscript 7, 1891

Class Meetings Should Follow

"Every discourse of any real value needs to be followed by a class meeting (shall I call it?) or a Bible reading. Here the points which have been presented should be applied; questions should be asked, and right ideas inculcated." {Ms7-1891.19} Ellen G. White, Manuscript 7, 1891