Homiletics – What is it?

Homiletics is from the Old English word "homily" that refers to a sermon. Homiletics refers to the practice of preparing and preaching messages. In academic studies, homiletics fits within the area of practical theology or pastoral studies. As such, homiletics has historically been closely connected with church pastors and trainers of pastors.

Homiletics consists of three main areas. The first area consists of biblical interpretation. Study of a particular passage or theme is required to develop the material necessary to effectively preach to an audience.

The second area consists of the structure of a sermon. Books on homiletics usually focus primarily on this aspect. The structure includes developing a main theme for a sermon, an outline, supporting material, illustrations, introduction, conclusion, applications, and any visual aids or props involved in preparing for a message.

The third area focuses on presentation or communication of the sermon. Once a biblical message has been studied and developed, it must also be effectively communicated to a particular audience. Communication can include a study of the particular audience, non-verbal communication such as clothing or gestures, and actual methods of verbal communication, even including one's accent, rate of speech, or enunciation.

A fourth important and often-neglected area should also be included in homiletics. This is the area of spiritual preparation. Unlike other speeches, a sermon's goal is to impact the spiritual life of its hearers. Good homiletics should also include much prayer for the sermon, the preacher, and its audience. In addition, the preacher must be spiritually prepared through how he lives his own life. The spiritual maturity of the audience must also be considered. Preaching to an audience of new believers, for example, is a much different dynamic than preaching to an audience of seminary students.

Some people have falsely accused homiletics of being a negative area of study that emphasizes human effort rather than the leading of the Spirit. However, the Bible does not teach against preparing to preach. Instead, Scripture says to study to show yourself approved (2 Timothy 2:15). Paul told Timothy, "Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching" (1 Timothy 4:13). Both spiritual and physical preparation are important parts of communicating God's Word.

Homiletics can be studied to better one's efforts as a Christian communicator. However, God is the greatest communicator. We must be completely dependent upon His work in our teaching in addition to our diligent studies to effectively communicate the Word of God.

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