Control Checkpoints

During the sermon preparation process there are several control checkpoints.  These are points at which we get to check the text yet again and make sure our grasp of the text is accurate.  Here are some of them:

1.    Writing the summaries of the sections within the passage. 

When you force yourself to distill the details in a section of the text into a single complete sentence, it forces you to check that your summary is actually reflecting the details in the text.

2.    Distilling all the study into a summary of the whole passage.

When you force yourself to distill the details of the whole text into a single complete sentence, it forces you to check that your summary is reflecting the important content discovered in the outlining of the passage structure.  Are the key details showing in your summary? (Your statement of the passage idea)

3.    Checking the commentaries

Once you have thoroughly studied the passage for yourself, it is good to check with a learned conversation partner or two.  If I’m preaching Romans I’d like to interact with Doug Moo, Tom Schreiner, brother Cranfield.  If I’m studying Hebrews I’d like to interact with George Guthrie, Paul Ellingworth, Craig Koester, etc.  That’s why commentaries exist.

4.    Testing the sermon idea

When I start planning the message and shape the main idea of the text into the main idea of the message, then I need to test that I’ve built the bridge effectively.  Part of that includes a look back toward the text to see if the message idea still reflects the uniqueness of the text.  I sometimes talk about the Bible Expert test.  That is, if I phoned someone who really knew their Bible, and quoted my message idea, would they be able to identify the passage based on my message idea?  If not, maybe my message idea has grown too generic and lost the specificity needed to really preach this passage.

5.    Listening to the message pre-preached

Sometimes it is not until you stand and preach through the message that you hear with your own ears that it actually doesn’t convey the meaning of the text effectively.  That is why it is better to preach it through ahead of preaching it publically (better to discover a weakness before Sunday morning).

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