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.

Suggested Books:

  • Birkholz, M., Corzine, J., and Mumme, J (editors). Feasting in a Famine of the Word. Pickwick, 2015
  • Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Collected Sermons of 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.