Sermons, like anything else are built out of homiletic materials. The materials useful to preaching are actually compounded from their adjacent elemental functions. These materials, problems, points, prayers, and pictures, live in the gaps between the cross-points of the integrative model.
Problems are ubiquitous, which is why they are so useful to preaching. Everybody struggles. It is far healthier to engage those struggles, rather than to ignore them. Problems generate solutions, because people do not like to live with dissonance. They lead us beyond our discomfort toward a more hopeful and helpful outcome.
Know Your Listeners
To understand the implications of this sermon for a particular group of listeners it is important for the preacher to know something about the audience, both of the original text and for this specific sermon. Who were the people reflected in this text and what was their interest? How can we connect on a human level with the people in the text. This is going to require exegesis both of the text and of the contemporary audience. We will actually have to share some time with them.
Locate the Conflict
The preacher needs to understand the setting of the text and what it was that people were struggling with. Even in a non-narrative text there are real human issues at play. Every biblical text presents a fallen condition focus. If the preacher can identify the original conflict, he or she will gain a clearer sense of how the text can speak to current problems.
Find a Perspective
Approach the problem from a variety of perspectives. Different people will experience different kinds of challenges. What will each listener have to overcome in order to fully buy in to this message? Where will it pinch a man or a woman? How will it challenge a rich person or a poor person, a single person or a married person...
Hear the Opposition
Great preachers listen to the heart of those they try to help. Speaking against straw men will only show a preacher as arrogant. What is it that the listener would say against your point if they were given the opportunity and if they were open with their thoughts? How can we help them know they have been heard, while opening their mind to consider something different?
Read the Text
The preacher must choose a relevant passage and read enough to get the full sense of it's expression, taking time to read slowly, appreciating all of the elements and implications. Extending to the broader context will be required. This reading ought to derive from several versions and take multiple forms: silent and aloud, devotional and exegetical...
Exegete the Text
It is important to get the words right, defining the terms and understanding the grammatical relationships. The preacher needs to take time to appreciate the macro and micro structure of the text so as to understand what it intends to say and not what we might wish that it would say. What emphases are repeated in the text? What does the textual genre demand?
Notice the Theology
Great preachers will notice the trajectory of the text - where it is going, what it is intending, and why it matters. He or she will ask what the text is saying about God and his purposes across time. The preacher will look for the gospel, observing what the text has to say about the person of Christ and the redemptive purposes of God. Often the theological element of the text will offer a sense of surprise, taking things to another deeper level.
Do the Research
The preacher who wants to get the point right will track down the references, observing how the text is rooted and connected across the broader landscape of the Bible. The preacher will look for other credible voices that well describe the teaching of the text.
Not every claim we make will have an equal level of authority. Work your way up the "ladder of abstraction" so as to be able to affirm what you can command and what you must commend. To the degree you are able, make sure that what the text teaches is what the sermon preaches.
Recognize the Presence
The prayerful preacher will look to recognize the presence of God in the sermon. What is God doing? What does he intend? Where might we locate the transcendent? What is happening in this encounter beyond anything that could be seen elsewhere?
Confess the Conviction
Having heard the point, the preacher will be lead to conviction, both in terms of deepened belief, but also in terms of accountability to the implications. How might the preacher help the listener deepen in this sense of conviction? Is there something that we need to confess? Do we need to thank God, apologize to God, praise God...?
Clear some Space
We will not meet God by merely motoring through the intellectual material of the text. The preacher will need to make room for this work to happen, letting the message breathe, so the listener has space and opportunity to meet with God. The preacher will need to slow down, to repeat more, and perhaps even to be silent for a time.
Own the Impact
Have we as preachers experienced what God is doing in the moment? What is God doing in me? How is he surprising me? What tone might be appropriate: joyful, reverential, repentant...? How ought I perform the message?
Voice the Listener
The preacher needs to understand that he or she does not need to do all the talking. As first listener, we could remember who we are, speaking as the listener so as to let all who gather in to be part of what God is doing. We don't need to be 'the preacher' all the time.
See the Possibilities
The preacher needs to be able to visualize the effect of the preaching of this message in tangible, concrete, recognizable, and actionable terms. Faith sees further. What does this message look like as it is embodied in the world? How would it change us? Would we know it if we saw it?
Find an Example
Great preachers know how to inspire listeners through offering compelling examples of those who have modelled the message in life. Is there a story that you could tell or a direction to which you could point that will motivate the listener by example?
Remember Your History
Plumb your personal and corporate history to find ways and situations where you have lived out the implications of this message in meaningful ways. How do these past experiences inform the present moment?
Project the Mission
Prophets speak into being an altered future - the Missio Dei. Mission describes the projection of this Kingdom future so that it soon becomes real. The prophet hears from God, motivating others to embrace God's expectation for his people in the world. What is God expecting from us now?
Advance the Hypothetical
Too often preaching is about some other place and some other time. What could we do right now in the space of the sermon to respond significantly to what we are hearing from God? Is there something I need to do or have not yet done, that I know I need to do? Should we pray for someone right here and now? Perhaps we should all take a moment to text someone. This is the moment and this is the time.