Any good book you read about sermon preparation is going to say something like this: the point of the sermon should be the point of the text. You could say it backwards too: the point of the text should be the point of the sermon.
The Biblical text is not there to be used as a jumping off point for us to share our ideas. A fellow pastor was talking the other week about a sermon he heard based on Luke’s account of what we call The Prodigal Son. The speaker used that passage to share tips on handling money. That’s awful. The point of the sermon had nothing to do with the point of the text.
When I was preaching regularly, it would bother me when I did not feel I preached well. It probably bothers you a bit too when you have those days. I could live with that. But I never wanted to look back on a sermon and know that I had not handled the text properly.
When I use that expression – handle the text properly – I mean that the points of the sermon could be clearly seen in the passage I was preaching. I didn’t want my people to wonder, “Where on earth did he get that?” I wanted them to see that what they were hearing was a representation of what the text actually said.
When we are at the point where we’re writing our sermons, before it reaches its final form, we need to ask ourselves if we have taken each of our points from the text. If we can’t answer in the affirmative, our job is not done.
One reason (and there are many) why this step is essential is that when we preach, we are teaching our people how to read the Bible. If we are not careful, they will learn not to be careful. If we come up with something obscure, they will be more likely to come up with obscure meanings and applications.
Sometimes a point I was making in my sermon lent itself to a few moments of explaining how I got there. In other words, I would say, in effect, “Let me show you where I got this from.” It was an opportunity to give a brief lesson in reading the Bible well.
If you have been in a small group Bible study, you know that people can make exegetical blunders. Every small group leader has had that uncomfortable moment when someone has come up with something that’s a bit “out there.” As pastors, we can’t do that. Yet we’ve all probably heard a well-meaning preacher come up with an obscure or out-of-left-field point.
You do not want to be that guy.
One of the best ways to be sure we are staying on target is sequential expositional preaching. Topical preaching has its place. But if our preaching follows the pattern of choosing a subject and then finding a passage to support it, it is very possible to press a meaning into the text that is not there.
Before you close down your study for this coming weekend’s sermon, the Sunday School class you are teaching, or the small group you are leading, ask yourself: Can I draw straight lines from the points I am making to the biblical text?