10 Questions I Ask before Preaching or Teaching

I’ve been preaching and teaching a long time, and I certainly don’t claim to be an expert. In fact, my failures in the past have led me to ask these 10 questions before I stand before a congregation: 

  1. Do I have any shame in standing before God’s people? Obviously, we’re all sinners, so that’s not my point. My question here is whether I’m walking in holiness and spending sufficient time with God beyond the preaching or teaching event.
  2. Am I operating in my power or God’s power? We usually know the difference. We know when it’s just us, and when it’s God all over us.
  3. Will my listeners know more about the Word of God after listening to me? I do want them to learn something – to gain some knowledge – as I help them understand the Word. Proper understanding aids in accurate application.
  4. Will my listeners know what to do after listening to me? If my listeners don’t know how to specifically and intentionally apply my teachings, I haven’t gone far enough in my sermon or lesson. Knowledge that’s only in the head doesn’t lead to much life change.
  5. Will my listeners love God and His Word better after listening to me? If they do, that will likely occur because of my passion as well as my content – so, the prior question for me is, “Do I love God and His Word more after preparing?”
  6. How much have I prayed before, during, and after my preparation? Too often, it feels like I pray briefly as I start, sometimes when I get stuck, and briefly again as I make my way to the platform. That’s far too little prayer for the task of teaching or preaching God’s Word.
  7. Will my hearers see a clear connection between the Bible text and my points? If not – or if I have to spend significant time trying to explain the connection – I probably need to re-think my points. Listeners shouldn’t have to struggle connecting the dots.
  8. If my hearers remember only my major points, what will they remember? I prefer that points be clearly stated action steps because of this very question. If my listeners remember only one word per point, I’m not convinced they remember enough to act on the truths taught and proclaimed.
  9. Am I claiming anything in this lesson or sermon that no one else in the history of the church has claimed? If I’m the first one ever to come up with an idea about God’s Word, I’d be careful about making a big deal of it. It’s quite possible I might be wrong.
  10. Are my insides shaking a bit as I think about preaching or teaching? If not, I may be taking this task too lightly . . . or, I might be thinking of myself too highly.

What questions would you add to this list?

10 Comments

  • Rev. Joel M McDuffie Jr. says:

    1. Do I really understand it, thoroughly, comprehensively, in addition to how it fits into the larger picture of all of Scripture?…Many times preachers talking points turn out to be inconsistent with other passages and the Bible as a whole.
    2. As it relates to “am I the first to come up with this?”, certainly in such cases it is important to move cautiously, however much of what has been perpetuated over the last 500 years and in some cases from the times of the patristic fathers is erroneous, so it may seem as though you are the only one who has seen it this way. I would not be afraid to speak on a matter even if contemporary voices disagree!

  • Ken says:

    Regarding #7, I think it helps to do a “mechanical breakdown” of the text like my Greek professor in seminary taught me. It’s similar to diagramming sentences, but you diagram by clauses instead of individual words (for the sake of honesty, I’ll admit I cheat a little: I do it in English instead of Greek!). Still, it helps me determine the basic structure of the text, and that way the structure of my sermon reflects the structure of the text.

  • Chuck Lawless says:

    Thanks, Ken, for your work.

  • Benjamin M. Foxworth says:

    I absolutely agree with your 10 questions. Two comments I would offer:
    1. On number ten, the more I preach the more I am acutely aware of the awesome responsibility and privilege I have been given to preach the Word of God. It is a scary reality to handle the Word of God! A pastor should never lose the incredible opportunity and ability God has given him to preach the living word!

    2. On number six, along with prayer I ask myself, ‘have I thought about God’s Word’? Prayer and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit should drive us to think seriously about God’s Word, asking questions and contemplating what the Scripture is saying. Praise the Lord for those who have written and who write commentaries, they are very useful. But before I read what someone else has written I need to make sure I have thought about what God has spoken! It is God’s Word that transforms lives, not a commentary. Too often pastors may want to short-circuit their sermon development and study by consulting commentaries before they have seriously thought about the scripture to be preached. Yes it slows us down and makes us take pause, but this is not just a book, it is the very breath of God that we have been called and equipped to proclaim to others

  • Sam Fitts says:

    I think it is ver important that we ask ourself these questions to be sure we are preaching, teaching God’s Word. I would add one question, who gets the pat on the back as a result of what I said, the one speaking, or the One I spoke about?

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