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Homiletics Training: Content

Homiletics.  By definition, “homiletic” is the art of preaching or writing sermons.  I think we would all agree that our pastors study the Bible thoroughly to deliver sermons every Sunday to their congregations.  The beautiful news is that every child of God can use this discipline to study the Bible for themselves.

As a member of Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) Leadership, part of my required preparation each week is to prepare homiletics for the passage we are studying.  BSF offers an engaging seminar on how to use this method to study the Scriptures.  I’ve taken the seminar several times under two different leaders and I’ve learned something new every time I’ve attended.  I’ve also been doing the process of homiletics for over ten years and I can say that there is no better teacher than the Holy Spirit in this process!  So keep practicing.  Keep sharing and discussing.  I’ve been posting my homiletics on this blog for quite a while, now.  And I would like to share with you some things I’ve learned about how to go about studying God’s Word using this method.

Let’s start with the absolute basics.  Homiletics is a five step process: Content, Divisions, Subject Sentence, Aim, Applications.  We will discuss one step in each post so it’s not too overwhelming, but I will post the steps daily so there’s not too much of a gap before proceeding.  I welcome your comments and questions and any tips you may have regarding how you do your homiletics.  If you’re new to homiletics, you may ask: “why would I do this?”  If you notice your pastor’s sermon title, that could be his Aim or maybe his Subject Sentence.  If he outlines two or three or four points in his sermon, these are his Divisions.  Some of the things he says that challenge you are probably Application Questions or Principles.

When you do homiletics, you are digging in the Bible for treasure.  Treasure that will speak to you right where you are.  Treasure that will also speak to your audience, whether it’s a Sunday School Class, Youth Group, Family dinner…

Are you ready to get started?  Before you begin, pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal to you what He wants to teach you.  Then, you’re going to read the text.  Honestly, you’re going to read the text A LOT.  When I first began doing homiletics, I would write my content the first time I read through the passage.  I did this for years, to be honest.  I don’t recommend this.  Reading and re-reading the Scriptures is transformational.  God will reveal so much.  Stay in those Scriptures and you’ll know God and the Scriptures better than you ever have before.

Content.  It is not a complete sentence.  It is verbiage direct from Scripture, not a paraphrase of the text because we don’t want to interpret the text, we want to record what the text says.  It must be short and sweet because one piece of content must not exceed one line on the page.  You must have between 10 and 20 lines of content.  So, the first thing I do when preparing homiletics is count how many verses there are in the assignment.  For example, this week I am preparing homiletics for Luke 4:14-44.  That means there are 30 verses in the assignment.  So I divide 30 (verses) by 20 (pieces of content) to figure out how many verses should be included in each piece of content so I can complete the assignment.  In this case, the answer is 1.5.  I’m not going to try to break every other verse in half.  Some pieces of content will contain one verse, some will contain two or more, some may contain half a verse.  It depends on what I believe the Holy Spirit is revealing to me to write down.  I will group verses that flow together.  Group together events or ideas.

So let’s do this.  Take a minute to pray.  Yes, right now.  OK.  Now read Luke 4:14-44.  I’m using the NIV translation.  Do you have a feel for the flow of this passage?  I read the verses a few times – until I can identify natural breaks in the passage and I’m familiar with the story.  I look for repeated words.  I look for unusual words.  Now, let’s write our first line of content:

4:14-15 J retd Gal pwr Sprt,news sprd abt Hm thru whole ctrysd;He tchg syngog,evry1 praisd Hm

I could’ve fit more on the line, but I didn’t want to move to verse 16 because it’s pretty long.  Maybe I’ll adjust later.  I also used a personal shorthand that I continue to develop.  It includes foreign words (“ou” below is French for “where”), symbols, numbers, etc. that remind me what the word in Scripture is.  You will develop your own shorthand to maximize the number of words and ideas you can include in each piece of content.  Let’s try another:

16 He went Naz,ou He brt up,Sabbat He went syngog,as was His custom,stood2read

17-18a scroll Isa hnd2Hm,unrollng,He found ou wrtn:Spirt L on me,He anoint me2proclm gd news2poor

18b-19 snt me prclm freedm4prisnrs,recvry of sight4blind,2set opprssd free;2prclm yr L’s favor

Imagine you are standing before a Sunday School class and all you have is your homiletics to teach the class.  Your Content acts as your reminder of how to tell the story without reading it directly from your Bible.  Can you use my Content above to tell someone else what is happening in those five verses?  Better still, can you tell someone what those verses say from your own Content?

Ok, that’s all for today.  I challenge you to do your own Content for Luke 4:14-44 to use tomorrow as we discuss Divisions.  See you tomorrow.


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