I spend half my preparation time working on the Bible passage, finding out what it is trying to achieve, how it tries to achieve that purpose, the ingredients, meaning, emotions, motivations, key words,, key verses, and central theme, etc: then I spend the second half of my preparation time praying for those who will hear the sermon, thinking of the different kinds of people who will hear it, reflecting on how they will respond when they hear the Bible reading; and then thinking how I can communicate effectively with them, and bring God’s words to them.
Here are the questions I use in the second half of my preparation time.
How can I use the literary style of the passage to communicate to the heads, hearts, and hands, of my hearers what God communicated to the heads, hearts, and hands of those to whom it was written?
How will they respond when they hear this passage read before I preach or teach it? What will they already understand, what might they misunderstand, what will they already know, what do they need to learn, what will they like, what will they dislike, how can I help them process difficult issues, how can I help them to receive God’s words, meditate on them, and respond with faith and obedience?
How will I communicate with enquirers, people who don’t know the Bible, new believers, mature believers, believers who are wandering, or disobedient, or falling away?
How will I communicate with young people adults, and old people, males and females, and people of different social or cultural backgrounds?
If in the Bible passage God addresses his people as a body, how will I communicate this with the body of Christ present to hear the sermon? How will I encourage, teach, correct, or rebuke the corporate life of the congregation?
How will I preach God’s grace without giving permission for laxity: how will I preach costly obedience without preaching legalism?
How can I address issues which people are concerned with in their ordinary human lives, as well as in their Christian lives?
How can I use words that everyone will understand? How can I preach simply, challenging the cleverest people, and communicating with the simplest people?
How can I communicate that this passage impacts my life?
How can I communicate my accepting love for the people, and also my desire that they be converted, grow in Christ, and become mature in Christ?
How can I show that what I am saying comes from the Bible?
How can I train people to read the Bible for themselves, to share what they have learnt with others, and train them for every good work, and train them to share their faith with unbelievers?
How can I preach my sermon remembering that they will hear it, not read it? How can I make it accessible to hearers?
How can I communicate that these are God’s ideas, God’s words, and bring glory to God alone in my teaching and preaching?