The Process and Arrogance of Preaching

The Process and Arrogance of Preaching

Mar 22, 2013

The Process and Arrogance of Preaching

by Rod Henry


       “So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

So declares the Lord in Isaiah 55:11


For me, preaching is the arrogance of taking a text or story from the inspired (“God-breathed”) Bible, and discovering God’s desire and purpose for that text.

It is arrogant to presume that a preacher knows God’s desires and purposes. But if the preacher does not set as a goal, the desire and purpose of God for the text, the preacher is aiming too low.

The Next Step Christian Church is a growing and healthy Seventh Day Baptist Church in Thornton, Colo. We have two part-time pastors: Pastor Dustin Mackintosh and me, Pastor Rod Henry.

Beginning this year, we are sharing the preaching responsibilities in a new series from the letter of James. I preach the first two or three sermons of the month from James, and Pastor Dusty preaches the last two Sabbaths of the month from James.


Monday, Monday

It is Monday, and I will be preaching from the next text, James 1:16-18, this coming Sabbath. I was asked by the editor to describe my process of sermon preparation. So, I will do that on this text and sermon.  Join me in this process.

It is my habit to begin preparation early in the week because a sermon takes me a minimum of 20 hours to prepare. To make this kind of time for a sermon requires a desire to preach messages that are the best I know how to preach and the ability to manage my time. Every sermon I preach is the best I know how to preach. No excuses.

0413 p06 preaching podium CLR

Context of the book and passage

Every text has a context. James 1:1 tells us this letter was written by James (probably the James who was the brother of Jesus and a leader in the Jerusalem church). James was writing to “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations.” At the time of the writing of this letter (probably between 64-66 AD), Christians were being persecuted throughout the Roman Empire.

So, James launched into the issue of dealing with trials that produce Christian maturity in verses 2-4. In verses 5-8, we are encouraged to seek wisdom from God.

Then in the immediate context, James spoke about temptation. Temptation has its own process. But James’ main point in verses 13-15 is that God does not tempt us. Pastor Dusty’s point of the sermon on this text was, “You can trust God because He never tempts, tricks, or traps you into failure.” That was his summary sentence for the text.


Meaning of the text

The meaning of our text of study will become the heart of the sermon. I want to ask, “What is this text about?” (Subject) Then I will ask, “What does this text say about what the text is about? (Predicate)

I want to work until I can state the meaning of the text in a single, short statement. I call this the summary sentence. I don’t start crafting the sermon until I have my summary sentence. The passage from James 1:16-18 says,

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers.
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. H
e chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.


Here are some notes I made showing subordination of the ideas with indentation:


v. 16 – Suggests that the church scattered is being deceived about what is to follow in the next two verses.

v. 17 – All God’s gifts are good and perfect

They are from above

They come down from the Father

He is the Father of heavenly lights

The Father does not change

v. 18 – Example of gift from Father is (new) birth

Through the word of truth

So we are the first fruits of His creation


What is this text about? The answer is “God’s gifts.” That is the subject of this text.

What does the text say about God’s gifts? It says that God’s gifts are good and perfect because they come from God, Who is good and perfect. An example of a good and perfect gift is the gift of our new birth.

After some changes and massaging, here is what I came up with as a summary sentence that I want the congregation to take home with them:

God gives good and perfect gifts (like the new birth) because God is good and perfect, all the time.



Pastor Dusty and I always prepare sermons by writing manuscripts. Preaching from the manuscripts is optional, but writing a manuscript is not. Manuscripts clarify the preacher’s thinking because my experience teaches that thinking and writing are inseparably linked. Manuscripts take time, but time is necessary if you are going to pursue excellence in sermon preparation.


In the Introduction, I want to make sure that the previous texts and sermons in James give us a “running start.” In the first few paragraphs we have context (and immediate context) as well as the introduction to the meaning of this passage.

I like to introduce the subject of the sermon so people know where we are going. I also want to focus on the passage preceding this text. Again, Dusty’s summary sentence said, “You can trust God because he never tempts, tricks, or traps you into failure.” This will be part of my sermon introduction.


In the Body of the sermon, I want to go verse-by-verse explaining all the points that James makes. I want to look at the important words. I want to look at the relationship that the phrases have to each other.

With examples and explanations, I want to help the congregation understand what James is trying to say, and the purpose of God in the text. It is at this point that I consult commentaries, dictionaries, and other helps.


The Explanations in the body of the sermon are not to share everything the Bible teaches about God’s good and perfect gifts. In this sermon, the goal is to teach what James is saying about good and perfect gifts in the context of trials and temptations. So this is the only text I will refer to. (Having a string of texts all saying the same thing does not make James 1:16-18 more inspired. It is already inspired.)

Now for the Conclusion, I want to tie together the points of the sermon. I also want to have an application. The application is don’t be deceived about the nature of God and His gifts. Then, I will focus on the good and perfect gift of the new birth as the main application.


0413 p08 look over Bible CLR


Wall staring

Camille was home for several weeks after a surgery. Since my office is just off of the living room, she would watch me work on my sermon, day after day.

About the middle of the second week, she said, “You spend a lot of time staring at the wall.” I like to think of it as “Waiting on the Lord.

By waiting on the Lord, I include God in each step of my sermon preparation. I want God to reveal His desire and purpose for this and every sermon, because I don’t want His Word to return to Him “empty.”

Finally, I wait on the Lord because week after week He gives me wisdom beyond myself, to spiritually feed a congregation I love.



       So, how did the sermon turn out? Read the text (beginning on the next page), or listen to the message at the church’s website:

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