This week officially begins preaching season for me. I am very much looking forward to the opportunities that have come up so far, particularly being able to get back to see my friends out at Brussels Community Bible Chapel this Sunday and at Poplar Hill Christian Church at the end of the week (both were kind enough to have me take the pulpit multiple times last summer). As I began to move from the pew (or high school auditorium seat in our case) to the lectern, one of the things that I was completely unprepared for before I started preaching was what it takes to put together a “good” sermon.
What does it take—How much time, study and prayer? Can a guy holding down a full-time job with a lovely wife and two young kids who require my attention (which I love to give), serving in his local church, maintaining a daily blog and writing a book even do it without losing his dang mind?!? (Jury’s still out on that last one, by the way.)
Perhaps the most helpful thing you can know based on my experience is there is no magic bullet to crafting a “good” sermon. Sometimes it feels like you’re Forrest Gump; you just happen to be in the right place, at the right time to be a part of something really cool that God is doing. That said, in an effort to remind myself as I prepare a message for this Sunday, I thought I’d share a little of what sermon prep looks like for a guy like me. I’ve broken it up by day of the week. I hope it’s helpful:
Monday. Pray. Search for passage from which to preach. Pray more.
Tuesday. Settle on text. Read repeatedly, work out “big idea” for message & sub-points. Pray.
Wednesday. Toss everything from Tuesday, possibly choose new text and start again. (This happens probably 2 out of every 3 messages I give). Pray a LOT.
Thursday. Work on the flow of the message—transitions, illustrations, etc. Check commentaries to ensure no heresy. Pray, pray and pray some more. Allow wife to read. Consider starting over again.
Friday. Wrap up any changes that wife suggests or that show up as I read over the manuscript. Keep praying.
Saturday. Fret and realize my complete inadequacy for the task. Pray more. Read notes again. Try to get to bed early (but most likely stay up too late).
Sunday. Pray. Eat breakfast. Pray while driving to the church. Pray with leadership at church. Preach. Nap.
That’s typically what my sermon prep “schedule” looks like. I’m pretty odd though in how I work. Often I find myself working out everything all at the same time—so I’m studying the text, writing the manuscript, and frequently praying “Lord, don’t let me say something completely stupid or inadvertently wicked.” I’m sure that’s not the best way to do it, but this is what life allows at this point. What my prep schedule has taught me is that “good” preaching relies on the Holy Spirit and on God’s Word far more than anything else, because at the end of the day, it’s only the Word and the Spirit that are going to transform hearts and renew minds.
Question for discussion: Preachers, what advice would you give to aspiring preachers?