I often get asked for help or feedback about preaching, teaching and general public speaking. In the next few posts I will pass on some of the things that are useful for me. Obviously they will reflect my particular field of communication – but I am sure that some skills are transferable.
Let’s start with the research that is needed prior to the delivery.
Prayer is your first step in preparation. That way you acknowledge your dependence and humble submission to serve Him and His people. Ask God for guidance/clarity with regards to your message. He might guide you through a passage, an idea or sometimes just speak on what you are passionate about or what you have been asked to.
Read the passage(s) at least 10 times in different versions of the Bible (see http://www.biblegateway.com). Read slowly and carefully, underlining or circling words that catch your attention. Make sure that you are familiar with it. Take time to tell to yourself what the passage is about – in your own words.
Look at the context of the passage carefully – make sure you understand it. The danger is that your text might become a pretext. (If you are not careful you can make the text say what you want; it should be the other way around). Get a feel of why that is where it is. What is related to? Is it just randomly placed there in isolation?
Make sure that you understand what the main ideas are. Ask questions of the text (imagining you are part of your listeners) – and make sure that you understand the ideas, words & principles that you are trying to convey. Don’t be afraid to ‘wrestle’ with the text – as that very often will bring the most rewarding results.
Read a commentary on the passage/verses (if you can) to see what other thinkers understood from the passage. Try to avoid teh temptation to skip the previous steps. You might buy yourself some time but you are less likely to develop your understnading and be original.