In the cloak of e-darkness I’ve been asked to provide my approach to sermon preparation. Like Abraham, I fell on my face and laughed (Gen 17.17). And like a true daughter of Sarah (1 Pt 3.1-6), my wife also laughed to herself (Gen 18.12). I can think of fewer things more comical than me providing any edifying material on sermon preparation. But, I did promise and so I’ll give you about 3 minutes to read this post before I delete it forever.
I hate to provide too many specifics because God has wired his servants in different ways. Some guys are extremely sharp and can study quite methodically and creatively. The rest of us hang around the fringes of Christ’s garment, scrambling for the scraps that fall from the Master’s table. So, I’ll address this issue in three parts. First, the intangibles of sermon preparation. Second, the specifics. And last, those things I don’t do well and from which you will probably benefit the most.
First, a few intangibles. 1. I have a wife who understands her service to Christ and his church. Therefore, she supports the preaching ministry by maintaining a gentle and quiet spirit that spills over into a simple, peaceful home. God be praised that she makes sure our home does not compete with the church. I, however, tend to mess things up from time(s) to time(s).
2. We have a congregation who values the preaching ministry. They want the good stuff on Sundays. So they respect and appreciate my study time. They pray often for me and God does more for the preaching ministry through them than through me. They understand that a joyless pastor is unprofitable for them (Heb 13.17)! So, while I try to devote each morning to study, I do have many afternoons/evenings available as well.
3. I have a co-pastor who helps process and plan through the texts. This is invaluable! We try to get together weekly and let our imaginations squeeze any implications/applications from the text. He is also the “first responder” on Mondays with encouragement and reflection.
4. God’s Word is not a cute, fuzzy puppy that you can pet in its kennel. It is an unchained lion. Trying to confine how we will approach Scripture is dangerous. So, I would warn against trying to define so sharply how and when you will hear from God. If you need to deal with your sin from 8-11:30am on Tuesday then you do it. The word study can wait until your family goes to bed.
5. One thing against which I must constantly guard is an academic approach to preaching. I am so fearful of getting the Bible wrong, that I get God wrong. We do not bring our congregations to a text, we bring them to God in and through the text. We do not leave them with words rattling around in their heads. We leave them with the voice of God roaring in their souls. The word of God is what is living and we’re the ones who are dead. Therefore, we preachers do not bring life to the Bible, the Bible brings life to us.
6. Faith. Preaching is nothing without faith. We really must believe that Almighty God does a mysterious, unseen work through the preached word. Otherwise, we think the church rises or falls on our ability, language and personality. Here is what pride looks like: fearing more what people will say about me at lunch than what they will say about God. That’s faithless preaching.
Well, I’m sneaking toward Part 3 already. I’ll stop now and give you time to catch your breath after the hilarity.