Pastors read 2 Timothy with different eyes than the typical church member. In Paul’s exhortations to Timothy the preacher, we can’t help but think about how they apply to us.
This is especially true of 2 Timothy 4, which begins with something of a check-list for sermon preparation and sermon development.
Here’s a summary I made while I was working on the Finish Strong series a couple of years ago, with some follow-up questions.
Preach the Word. This is why most of our messages are expository. This doesn’t mean you have to go through the text verse-by-verse, like an audio commentary. I would say, however, that the best sermons are the ones that begin with an idea developed from a Biblical text, whose major points are drawn from that text.
Be prepared in season and out of season. KJV says “be instant.” Barclay translates the word “urgent.” This meaning of the word, along with Paul’s use of the phrase kairos akairos (“in season, out of season”) seems to indicate that Paul is challenging us to preach in the now, the message that our listeners need to hear today, whether it’s fashionable or not.
Correct, rebuke and encourage — with great patience and careful instruction. When we say things that are uncomfortable to hear, we need to say it as softly as possible.
And don’t overlook the keyword instruction. It’s not enough to preach about how bad things are, or how good they ought to be. We need to instruct our hearers how to get there.
Beware of the itching ears. There are those in every congregation who want to hear what they like to hear, not what they need to hear. I’m sure that each one of us has been asked, “Pastor, why don’t you preach more often about…”
Some want a steady diet of sermons about prophecy, or word studies, or politics, or family values, or world missions, or how bad the world is, or how wrong other religions are, and on and on.
We respond to itching ears with a challenge: Be doers of the word, not just hearers who delude themselves. Each message should be a call to action — specific action, with careful instruction on how to apply God’s Word to their daily lives.
As we prepare each message, we should ask ourselves:
• Is the foundation of this message a Biblical text?
• Is this message urgent? Is it timely? Is it what they need to hear today?
• Are the most confrontational aspects of this message being offered in a spirit of patience, grace, and humility?
• Is this message a call to action? Does it challenge the listener to “do” the Word?
• Does this message contain careful instruction on how to follow through in obedience?
Let these questions drive your sermon preparation as you build each message on the foundation of a Biblical text, and challenge your listeners to apply its truth to their lives.