EPISODE #98 – Sermon Prep
In this episode, the guys discuss the latest news in JAX and STL as well as the importance of good sermon prep.
- Don’t be legalistic about your style or process
- Start with God’s Word and let that inform the whole sermon
- Don’t try to be impressive
- Get feedback on your preaching – keep growing
- Listen to others
- Make specific application
[00:00:00] JimBo Stewart: Hey, man, here we are back at the boot camp yet again, getting real close to episode 100, which we’re super excited about the fact that we’ve been doing this together for this long and having a blast doing it. We hope to have maybe a couple of things up our sleeve for episode 100. We don’t know who knows what we might even come up with, in the meantime, but here’s the deal.
As, as you’re hearing this, we’re getting ready for that. We’re also getting ready for the replant summit at the end of that. And we’d love to see you there. You can find firstname.lastname@example.org register, come see us in person so that you can be a part of that. but Hey, here’s, here’s something I was thinking about the other day or just a minute ago.
what are all the different phrases you’ve heard of when it comes to preaching? So if you come to my mind, like your sugar stick, right? Your sugar stick is the, is the, these many just be Southern euphemisms. I don’t know. you know, what’s the sugar sticks that one sermon you got in your back pocket that you can preach at any given moment.
If I said, Hey, Bob, I need you to preach a sermon. You could pull your sugar stick out. And then when a guy does real [00:01:00] good, will you say, man, that boy can shuck some corn? Yeah, I’ve heard that a few times where that boy can lay down some wood. He can chop the wood. what are some other things that you’ve heard, Bob?
Bob Bickford: well, the one that comes to my mind is if that don’t light your fire, your wood is wet, right? So if you, you know, Uh, another one I used to hear is, you know, that really rang the bell. just the sense of like you made some good points or you had a really good sermon overall that rang the bell. I have the first pastor I served with.
He would say is, you know, and that rang the bell. Like you rang the bell. That was really good. Right? So, those are some someones I’ve heard, you know, but the only thing that’s coming to my mind is when Matt Chandler wrote into elevation church and, uh, and I guess, Furtick had been preaching on it.
You weren’t, you know, his congregation was David and facing your giants and all that kind of stuff. And Chandler just sit screamed. You’re not David.
[00:02:00] JimBo Stewart: Yeah, that is a meme that gets used a lot in, kind of pre-treat groups and, all those sorts of things. So, man, today on this episode, I want to talk about. How do you, Bob Bickford, the brilliant and beautiful butterfly kisses, singing guru of replanting. How, how do you prepare to deliver great sermons?
And then I’ll share a little bit of how I deliver, mediocre sermons and, and we can learn from each other and, and talk about. how, how that goes from there. And, you know, there’s been a lot of talk lately about sermon prep and doing sermon prep and sermon teams that help you prep and using illustrations and ideas from other sermons.
And so, uh, I figured, man, this is going to be the one source where everyone’s going to turn, to. To see exactly how they should prepare their summers. This will become [00:03:00] the, the resource on how to prepare a sermon. Right. Once you learn it from Bob Bickford.
Bob Bickford: well, Jimbo, thank you for that inflated introduction there. I’m not sure if this is actually going to turn out to be as grand as you have made it out to be. but Yeah.
I mean, how do you, how do you prepare sometimes, I guess the first thing, one of the things I would want to say jumbo is, is. I would want to make sure that if I’m just starting out in replanting and preaching, that I try to find my voice in preaching and we’ll get to some of the mechanics here, but by way of introduction, you know, we have, we each have our, our favorite preachers that we grew up listening to.
And oftentimes when we’re trying to find our voice we’ll model some of our favorite preachers, you know, we’ll, we’ll take. They’re phrasing, we’ll take their cadence, we’ll take their alliteration or their non alliteration will take their introduction and conclusion. We might even [00:04:00] try to mimic some of their empathy, as well.
But I would just say, as you’re preaching, you got to find your voice and find out who you are as a, as a communicator. and, and really be comfortable with that. Right. And be Okay.
with it. And for awhile, I was trained under a guy, uh, at seminary, Midwestern seminary back in the day that I’ve been Opry.
And he used John MacArthur’s book on preaching, depository preaching. And so man, we had to that’s that was, if we were going to get a good grade in the class, we had to be exactly like John MacArthur. So a bunch of little John MacArthur’s, stylistically, that’s not I am, but what it did for me Jimbo, and I think I would stress this to some guys.
Is, you need to have a pattern of preparation that helps you understand the text and helps you think about it, pray about it and make application for your congregation. So, I’m grateful for my training at Midwestern that taught me how to be an expository preacher and [00:05:00] taught me how to structure and to plan and to study.
But I really don’t do that so much anymore. but it was a good process for me. Two to go through. So submit yourself to some, you know, teaching on how to prepare sermon and in how to, how to do that and understand that you’re probably not just going to be able to wake up on Sunday morning early or feel it Saturday night and write it out for me.
If it’s an all through the week process to, to really kind of think through what I’m preaching. And even before then, I think planning in a series or planning, preaching through a book isn’t been important for me because it gets me rooted into, uh, a path into a book or to, you know, material that, that I need otherwise I’m, you know what the question in my mind is, well, what am I going to preach about?
Well, that’s for me, that’s the worst question to ask, even at the beginning of the week, right? Just like I want to, I want to know, I want to go to the [00:06:00] plan. I think by way of introduction, those are some things I just throw out there and we can kind of get into some, maybe more like mechanics of preparation and some resourcing and that sort of thing.
But I guess that’s why I’d say by way of introduction,
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. I think one of the things that I learned over time was to not be rigid and legalistics about my process. And, and I guess what I mean about that is there are a lot of different guys you can read on preaching and how to do it. And at times this may not be their intention, but it seems to come across as if.
This is the way to do it, and you have to do it this way. and you know, you have to prep this way and you have to use this many commentaries and this kind of commentary. You have to write a manuscript or you should never write a manuscript, or it has to be expositive very, or it has to be whatever. One day, I was struggling with that and I just started reading all the sermons I could find in the Bible. [00:07:00]
and I realized, man, there are some great ways to prepare sermons and I think you should figure out what your pattern is that fits the way that God has uniquely wired and designed you as an individual. but don’t make the mistake of assuming that there’s, there’s just like the specific way now a sermon does have to point people to Jesus Christ.
Uh, I love the, uh, and I have no idea. I can’t reference this I’m fully plagiarizing, cause I don’t know who to give credit to. Uh, but the, but there’s a question I’ve heard of, Hey, could this sermon be preached in a synagogue? Right. Like the idea of does this just have some loose biblical principles or does it actually point to the gospel?
Oh, Charles Spurgeon, the guy that everybody loves to quote, if you don’t know who said it, it was probably Martin Lloyd Jones or Charles Spurgeon or you’re probably safe just saying it was right. and Charles Spurgeon. Yeah. [00:08:00] at least according to the internet, Charles Spurgeon once said a sermon without Christ in it is like a loaf of bread without any flour in it.
No Christ in your sermon, sir, then go home and never preach again until you have something worth preaching. and, and so I don’t know if that really is legitimately from him, but the internet says that it is and the internet, I mean, almost never wrong. Right. but. I have, I’ve been guilty of that. Of there are certain preachers that I’ve listened to so much that impacted me so much that I started to, I started to hear their cadence come out in the way that I was preaching or their way.
And so one of the things I started doing was intentionally finding some, a little more under the radar guys to listen to. local guys aren’t nationally known, uh, that are good at preaching. There’s a few of those here in Jacksonville. I can point you to, uh, they’re just really good. Uh, two of my friends, uh, in Jacksonville are some of [00:09:00] my favorite preachers, Paul White at faith bridge church, Gary Weber at south side Baptist church.
One of my good friends in Picayune, Mississippi, uh, Walt bond. Is a phenomenal expositor of God’s word. And I love listening to those guys and learning from them and the way that they preach some more well-known, but not as famous as a lot that I like David helm, uh, out of Chicago. I love listening to him.
Preach HB. Charles is a Jacksonville guy, and a lot more, a lot more people know him, but he’s very good. He has a great preaching conference every year called cutting it straight. I’ve heard some just enough. Preaching at. And so I would just start out with man learn from a lot of different styles in order to figure out what your voice is.
And I think it helps you find your voice to listen to a lot of different other styles.
Bob Bickford: Yeah.
and appreciate what guys do. So, I mean, I love the way he does an introduction, right. And the way he, captures [00:10:00] interest. And I think, you know, if I could stress the components, I mean, we could just kind of break it down into mechanics here. You’ve got to make the point of why you believe, what you’re about to say is worth listening to, right.
And you can do that by an illustration. You can do that by a question, you can do that, uh, by a story and in then segwaying to the text and saying, well, what does this have to do with today’s passage? Well, here let’s make the connection, but I think you’ve got to help people understand why is this important that I give you the next several minutes of my time to listen?
and so, I think that’s important then obviously we want to preach Christ in the text. We want to find Jesus in the text. We want to find the gospel. We want to make that clearly known. And then we want to explain the passage. So one of the things I like to do, I mean, I’ve done this both ways. I’ve, I’ve read the entire passage upfront or had somebody read it at a different time in the service, like prior to the message or.
[00:11:00] Unpack all of the passage in the, in the points of the message. Right? So that the entire passage is broken down into two easy to understand sections for points. So, um, I think those are some things that are really key, in, in thinking about mechanics. And so I guess, how do you get, how do you start working?
All of them. Well Jimbo, like the first, the first day of the week, when I start preparing to preach, I’ll just copy the passage into a word doc, and then I’ll just make observations and notes. I used to do this by hand, but the older I get and the FA and the more time. Devote to many things. I can’t go back. Yeah.
I can read my writing very clearly. So for me, it’s helpful to post a bunch of docs in and then I’ll, I will try to outline it as best as I can ask questions. What is the root word I need to understand? Is there a phrase, is, is there a cross-reference, is there another passage that you can solve? Is there anywhere else in scripture where this theme of his ideas, you [00:12:00] know, Written about, you know, I’m preaching through mark, so I’ll consult the other gospels, you know, are there other gospel accounts of this and how do they differ those sorts of things.
And so I’ll kind of do that at the first of the week when I’m tired, like I preach on Sundays. And so I’ll do that on Monday because I, I want to get a jumpstart to, to keep that in my mind. And then I’ll go back and touch it a little bit here and there throughout the week. And then like many guys Jimbo, I’m by vocational.
Cause my full-time job is. And so I can’t just spend 40 hours on a sermon. Right? Most, most of my time is devoted to doing a number of other things. And so on average, I’ll spend about eight, eight hours to 10 hours on a message. So, and that’s throughout the week. And that includes Saturday night, kind of the final edit.
And then Sunday morning, kind of the final Polish. There’s a really good book called eight hours or less by getting Ryan Higley. And I think we’ve recommended [00:13:00] that to guys before. And that that’s just a really solid book that has, basically the tagline is how to preach biblically, faithful sermons in eight hours of, or less of preparation.
So we’ll put that in the show notes, but I think those are some of the mechanics that helped me. And then, I’m just all, all the time Jimbo when I’m, when I’m preaching on a particular topic like this week it’s it’s mark chapter nine and it’s on, if, if anyone wants to be first among you, the greatest among you must be the servant of all must be beliefs, right?
So I’m thinking about leadership. I’m thinking about greatness. I’m thinking about all those sorts of things. So when I fixed that in my mind at the first part of the week, I’m able to see things and things come to me all through the week. That might be helpful, illustrations and applications. For that text, right.
To explain it in a particular way. So those are some just, I guess, mechanic type things. I w what are some of the mechanic things that you might share that would be helpful for guys
JimBo Stewart: I would say, regardless of your style, You and you said this, you have to [00:14:00] start with the word. I think one of the mistakes we can make is starting with. The point we want to make as a pastor or the idea we want to get across as a pastor and then finding scriptures that seem on the surface to back that idea up.
And I think this is where we both lean towards expository, preaching through books of the Bible for this reason and other reasons as well. But I think even if you do, I think you can do topical sermons expositorily I either, I think it just takes a lot more work, in planning ahead to make sure that cause you have to, in order to do that well, you’ve got to study the texts and make sure it’s making the point that you’re trying to make in the topic.
And I don’t have. With people who do that, I’ve done that from time to time as well. I’m done decided I want to do a topic and I have texts that I’m sure make that point of that topic. but I would say the biggest thing, regardless of your [00:15:00] style of delivery or even study, it does need to start with the word.
And what I mean by that is, is understand the passage well enough. Before you ever open a commentary that opening a commentary feels like a conversation. I had a seminary professor that said that to me and he said, he said, you wanna, you wanna, you want to wrestle with the text on your own enough so that when you open a commentary and the commentary says.
In verse five, you already can recall. Not that you’ve memorized it word for word, but you’ve studied enough that based off of the context of that sentence, you know, where he’s coming from, you’ve already wrestled with that question and you’re, it’s like you’re having a conversation. Yeah. With the commentary.
Um, what you don’t want to do is just start with the commentary, uh, and then, and then go to the text. And so, I mean, start with a [00:16:00] text. Uh, and then after, after the text, I like to get into some commentaries. and so HB Charles, uh, was asked once I heard I was at a conference and somebody asked him what if I’m Bubba bi-vocational and I don’t have much time to put in like, towards the sermon.
And he said, Pick one really good commentary series and make it your best friend. it’s like just, just become really good friends with one commentary set, uh, in that relational way. And so, I’ll tell you that the commentary series that I started. Every sermon prep process with believe it or not is free Bible commentary.org.
by Bob Utley, I have a lot of, uh, important bops in my life and, uh, and you’re one of them, uh, and then Bob Bumgarner and then Baba Lee. and so, uh, Bob Lee has done a miraculous work of effort, just a heroic amount of effort and putting together free Bible commentary.org. [00:17:00] And they are very concise.
Bullet pointed, gets into some of the original language stuff. And point some of that stuff out, and it’s just a really great starting point in my opinion. And so that’s almost always, my second step after wrestling with the text is printing out or pulling out on my iPad, a free Bible commentary.org, and kind of working through some of the stuff that he points out and some of the discussion questions.
And then I’ll go into some other commentaries from there as I begin to prepare, but just remembering. What we’re trying to do is communicate what the original author intended to say to the original audience and how that applies to us. And so we just have to be careful and make sure we’re wrestling with the text well enough and letting the holy spirit speak to us through the text so that we are communicating what the holy spirit intends to come here.
Bob Bickford: Yeah.
I love that. And [00:18:00] thank you for that resource. There’s a similarly, I use, a guy named Thomas Constable, constables notes. He’s a retired. Bible teacher from Dallas theological. And so he has a particular theological lens, which he looks through, which is different from mine in some regards. But, he’s, he’s written in, he’s written commentary on the entire Bible and, uh, we can put these links, we’ll put at least links and we’ll put constables notes up as well.
And I think you made the case, study the texts, then go to the commentary second or third, uh, after you’ve wrestled with it to try to understand. you know what I’m saying? So the commentaries that typically help me are in confirming or clarifying or challenging my assumptions about a particular passage.
And so, are some times Jimbo when I approach a text and I’ve been preaching for a long time where I’m like, As long as I’ve been preaching. And even though I have a seminary degree, I’m not quite sure how this, what to say here and how like I’m [00:19:00] still struggling to get at the root of this. Right. And so that’s when I’ll look at the commentary specifically, and not just one, but a couple of them from a variety of streams to try to understand, things.
One of the things I think is a challenge in preaching. Love to have your thoughts on this is we’re not just downloading a Bible class. Seminary level theological outline of a factual, you know, discussion on the text. Preaching is not pre classroom presentation. Preaching is different from teaching, but we also teach while we preach.
So there’s this challenge that we have in. You know, some of us are going to be more preachers, right? We’re going to, we’re going to whip out those, you know, sayings and kind of be more emotional and kind of make more of a. For people to respond to what we’re reading while teaching it, the texts, but teaching it [00:20:00] less, some of us might have a bent towards being like a guy that’s just going to go verse by verse and pars all the Greek burbs and, you know, talk about the tenses and do the cross-references and do all those sorts of, and be real teaching in that.
And so I think it’s important. My, my recommendation is you have to strike a balance. Of equality and arrive at kind of this point of synthesis where you’re preaching and teaching at the same time, you’re preaching with, with a conviction and the power of the holy spirit and passion, but you’re also teaching.
Cause I I’ve, I’ve walked away from some sermons, Jimbo, and I’d be interested if you’ve had the same experience where I’m like that guy got me all fired up about a lot of things. And I laughed a lot and I was convicted a lot, but I’m not really sure. Exactly what he said. And then I don’t know that he really taught me the text and, and I’ve struggled in that and I don’t want to be that guy, but I also don’t want to be the guy that’s running the junior seminary class, where people are just taking note notes full of, you know, [00:21:00] Bible info.
And so I think you’ve got to have both. And then, I think you also have to move to. Application. And so one of the things that, um, I’ll let the bootcampers in on this, this, uh, episode is I asked you and another guy to listen to some of my sermons and cause I’m always trying to improve and I want to get some feedback and that sort of thing.
And so you gave me a point of feedback that I think would be great for you to, to share. by, by way of how you view it, but you said, Hey, Bob did a really good job of explaining the text and breaking it down. And the tone was good illustrations, all that kind of stuff. There’s one area that I think you could really put some effort into improving.
It was Okay.
The pointed applications. So what, right. Okay.
So here’s the truth now. So what, so unpack that a little bit in terms of how you approach the application of the test. in specific ways that help people take next steps.
JimBo Stewart: So one of my mentors, one of the other [00:22:00] bobs in my life, Bob Bumgarner, taught me this. And I don’t know where he got it from, but essentially the idea of the large percentage. And I don’t remember what percentage he gave me, the large percentage of people.
Do not have the ability to take abstract thoughts and turn them into concrete steps. Most people like a large majority of people just don’t have the cognitive ability to do that with ease. and so, a challenge in preaching is, is. That point of application of, so what do I do with this? Like what, how does this truth impact my daily life?
And what does it look like for me to live this out and. Find it can be really helpful for people. If you can give them some specific action, steps, specific questions to wrestle with for points of application, uh, and things like that. That really, it takes it from up here in the abstract and brings it into [00:23:00] their world because ideally that’s what we want to see happen.
We want to see the holy spirit use scripture to invade their world and bring them into transformation, and to becoming more like Christ, whether that’d be through salvation or sanctification or both. And I believe every sermon should. Create the opportunity for salvation and sanctification. I believe every sermon should speak to both of those ideas.
and so I think application is one of those things that’s, that’s hard to do well. and it, really takes some wrestling with the holy spirit and, introspection and knowing your people well, and here’s, here’s what I’d say about application to application is where. Application in a local church is where you quit being a conference speaker or a teacher, or even a preacher.
And you become their pastor. Because at that moment, you you’re pastoring. You’re shepherding, you’re taking these beautiful teres out of scripture and you’re shepherding those truths into their lives and you’re guiding them as [00:24:00] sheep. at that point, It requires knowing your context, knowing your congregation well, being in their lives, a pastor friend of mine here in Jacksonville, Bruce Hickson, said, to the answer to the question, how long does it take for you to prepare a sermon every week?
And he said 60 hours. and the young man that asked him the question, it was like 60 hours. When do you ever pastor? And he said, and he said, that’s what I mean. As he said, some of my sermon prep happens as I’m visiting church members and I’m hearing and I’m discipling and I’m hearing what’s going on in their lives.
And I’m knowing the context of my people and that informs my sermon and allows me to shepherd and pastor them well. and so that’s where I think application becomes so important. The other thing I would say, I just want to go back to this because I think this is really, really important. I feel like I don’t see this very often.
you said this earlier that sometimes commentaries challenge you, man, and some people may disagree with this. I would encourage you read and listen to people [00:25:00] you don’t agree with on everything. not all the time. You don’t, I’m not saying you need to be reading the heretics.
Bob Bickford: Good.
JimBo Stewart: But listen, there are going to be people who have a different theological perspective than you, and it might benefit you to read them. And then here’s the other thing, I’d say that balance of the last resource. I want to give that balance of teaching preaching, the. Pulling on an influencing emotion as well as intelligence.
man, probably the best book I’ve read on that is doctrine that dances by Robert Smith Jr. and man, if you’ve never seen Robert Smith Jr. Preach that dude blows me away. I went, saw him preach and I mean, he opened the Bible at the. Walked in front of the pulpit quoted the entire passage from memory.
Did the entire sermon from memory in that sermon. He’s quoting other passages, he’s quoting other theologians and philosophers all perfectly citing them giving credit. And he never once went back to the pulpit for [00:26:00] his notes. and that just one impressed me the mechanics of that, but also, his passion.
He has a, he does a very good job of balancing. Teaching doctrine in a way that engages us. And so his book doctrine, that dances is, one of my recommendation.
Bob Bickford: that’s awesome. I love hearing somebody who can deliver like that. And then also, who can take a complex idea or theological teaching? And make sense of it in such a way that you’re like, yes, that’s it. So recently I listened to a message by Tony Evans and he’s one of my favorite preachers, out of Oak cliff, Bible, chapel in Dallas, and he’s preaching on a very hard and controversial subject.
And I felt like he just did a fantastic job of teaching and then preaching. And so one of the things he does, I think typically is he’ll do a lot of teaching. But then when he’s about to wind up and finish that, finish it off, he’ll start just being himself. And he will start, you know, driving towards the [00:27:00] application.
And that application is inspirational because it’s calling you to follow Jesus and it’s calling you to be transformed by the power of Christ. It’s calling you to be more faithful to the gospel and God’s work. And so, one of the things I would just stress by way of conclusion. You got to work on your conclusion.
Right. And oftentimes if we’re just delivering a lot of content, we’re like, well, I think I’m done. You know? And so it’s interesting that the sermon, I just referenced Tony, Tony Evans says that he goes, I think I’m done. I’m tired. But man, he had laid it out before, right before he said that. and, uh, he was done right.
And, I just say guys, don’t just get so much material that you don’t have time to develop your conclusion and your call to commitment and your call to application. So introduction obviously important. Why do I want to listen body the texts, be faithful to scripture, study as much as you can, as widely as you can.
And then conclusion, what does all this mean? And what are you asking [00:28:00] me to do? And what would it look like to be obedient to God if I’m following. The commands and the directives, or I’m believing the truth of scripture here. How does that transform me? I think if you can just pay, pay attention to doing all those things, you don’t have to alliterate, you don’t have to have three points.
You may not have like a real hard structure, but if you can do just generally some of those things that I described there, I think you’re going to get down the road and your people are going to be blessed by your teaching.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah, I don’t try to be impressive. man, don’t ever preach to impress anyone. Be faithful, not only to the text academically, but be faithful to the, to the texts and the heart of it in, in applying it. And there needs to be passion, I believe to it, but not, not.
Fake passion. I mean, it, it ought to light your soul up a little bit. When you see, God’s word come to life and the hope should be that Jesus would be the hero when you’re done and not [00:29:00] you and not your ability to communicate. All right, guys. Thanks for listening. We would love feedback from you. What are some sermon resources, prep, resources that you know of that would be helpful for other bootcamp, listeners, some other questions, anything you’d like us to discuss further or anything like that.
We’d love to hear that. And we’d love to see you in person, replant summit, end of August, as an opportunity to do that, we would hope to see you there, and we’d also love to hear your questions, send them to us, and we’d love to maybe bring you on the podcast to talk.