Preparing to Preach: Five Keys for the Preacher’s Long-Range Planning
As with any craft, preaching requires intentional disciplines which help form both the sermon as well as the preacher. The following practices, from Prof. John Pless’ Pastoral Theology class at Concordia Theological Seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, will prove to be beneficial for a preacher’s regular long-range planning.
1) Block out two days each quarter to plan the Services so that you are always three months ahead. Study the lectionary. Decide on a preaching text. Select hymns. Write a one paragraph summary of the theme of each Sunday that can be used in the service folder. This exercise will also help you to begin thinking about upcoming sermons. Knowing what is coming up will make you more alert to gathering material and crafting thoughts which you may want to use in the sermon.
2) Coordinate your personal reading/study with your preaching. For example, read a biography of Luther during October in preparation for Reformation Sunday or a book on the crucifixion in Lent (for example, Martin Hengel, Crucifixion). Read the sermons of others (Luther, Sasse, Thielicke, Giertz, Nagel, Bonhoeffer etc).
3) To help you keep your own approach to preaching fresh, read a different book on homiletics each summer. (*Suggested titles are listed below.)
4) An ongoing devotional life rich in Scripture and geared by the movement of the Church Year will be a source of personal refreshment. This discipline will inevitably flow over into preaching. John Doberstein’s The Minister’s Prayer Book remains unsurpassed in this regard.
5) Read “good”, non-theological literature (novels, short stories, poetry) as a window into the excellence of what writing can be and do. This will not only shape your own power of expression and use of language, but also deepen your insights into the realities of human existence.
Birkholz, M., Corzine, J., and Mumme, J (editors). Feasting in a Famine of the
Word. Pickwick, 2015
Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Collected Sermons f Dietrich Bonhoeffer, edited by Isabel Best.
Fortress Press, 2012.
Buttrick, David. Homiletic: Moves and Structures. Fortress, 1987
Caemmerer, Richard. Preaching for the Church. Concordia, 1959
Collver, Albert B.; Nestingen, James; Pless, John T. (editors). The Necessary Distinction:
Continuing Conversations on Law and Gospel. Concordia, 2017
Davis, H. Grady. Design for Preaching. Fortress, 1958
Fant, Clyde. Bonhoeffer: Worldly Preaching. Thomas Nelson, 1975
Forde, Gerhard. The Captivation of the Will. Eerdmans, 2005
Forde, Gerhard. The Preached God. Eerdmans, 2007
Giertz, Bo. Then Fell the Lord’s Fire. Magdeburg Press, 2012
Hendrix, Scott (editor/translator). Preaching the Reformation: The Homiletical Handbook of
Urbanus Rhegius. Marquette, 2003
Koch, John D. Jr. The Distinction Between Law and Gospel as the Basis and Boundary of
Theological Reflection. Mohr Siebeck, 2017
Kolb, Robert. Martin Luther and the Enduring Word of God: The Wittenberg School and its
Scripture Centered Proclamation. Baker Academic, 2016
Linebaugh, Jonathan (editor). God’s Two Words: Law and Gospel in the Lutheran and
Reformed Traditions. Eerdmans, 2018
Lischer, Richard (ed). The Company of Preachers: Wisdom on Preaching Augustine to the
Present. Eerdmans, 2002
Lischer, Richard. Theories of Preaching. Labyrinth, 1987
Long, Thomas. The Witness of Preaching. Westminster/John Knox, 2005
Lose, David J. Confessing Jesus Christ: Preaching in a Postmodern World. Eerdmans, 2003
Maxfield John (ed.). Preaching Through the Ages: Pieper Lectures 2003. Luther Academy, 2004
Meuser, Fred. Luther the Preacher. Augsburg, 1983
Ngien, Dennis. Luther’s Theology of the Cross: Christ in Luther’s Sermons on John. Pickwick, 2018
Paulson, Steven. Luther’s Outlaw God. Fortress, 2018
Reu. J. Michel. Homiletics. Wartburg, 1922
Reuter, Alvin C. Making Good Preaching Better. The Liturgical Press, 1997
Sasse, Hermann. Witness: Erlangen Sermons and Essays for the Church 1933-
1944, trans. Bror Erickson. Magdeburg, 2013
Stott, John R.W. Between Two Worlds. Eerdmans, 1982
Stuempfle, Herman. Preaching Law and Gospel. Fortress, 1978
Thielicke, Helmut. The Trouble with the Church. Harper and Row, 1965
Thompson, Virgil (ed). Justification is for Preaching. Pickwick, 2012
Tostengard, Shelton A. The Spoken Word. Fortress, 1989