I was asked this week how I prepare a sermon. I am constantly learning and gleaning from others on how to improve on my sermon preparation, but for the most part I have a pattern that I follow. This entire process is bathed in the prayer from start to finish.
1) Advanced Notice - Several years ago we felt God leading us to create a spiritual life calendar for our church that allows us to know way in advance (most of the time) when I’m going to speak and the general topic and text I’m going to speak on. Each month has a designated theme and represents a topic we will focus on as a teaching team. Some think that planning is ahead means not being ”led by the Spirit,” but I’m a huge believer the Holy Spirit is an organizer and a planner (John 16:12). Whether you are primarily a topical, textual or expository preacher, forecasting your future preaching calendar will free you up in more ways that one. Because I know what’s coming I always have it in the back of my mind, thinking, praying and writing down ideas.
2) Creative Team – Having creative people around you assists you in the initial brainstorming process in obtaining illustrations, stories, videos, songs, etc. As a member of the creative team, because I know what’s coming I can be looking for “creative ideas” to give away or use for my own sermons. While I’m praying, reading, watching online services, visiting other churches or doing my own personal study I can bring a plethora of creativity to the table to be used or not to be used.
3) Ask the Right Question- After the creative team process, I will filter through my personal notes, do more brainstorming on my own, and explore some of the ideas that have been suggested. I write down everything, even if it doesn’t seem to fit. After I have exhausted this part of the process I ask God, “What do you want say to your church through me?” There have been times when I didn’t use any creative material that I’ve received, but many times I see a divine thread of what I sense God is wanting to say and begin to hone in on through the Holy Spirit’s leading.
4) Write My Message- I like to write out my messages word for word. That doesn’t mean I will read it word for word, but it helps me to digest it and get it in my spirit. During this time it also helps me to organize my thoughts, inspect the flow of the message and make changes if necessary. This is when I begin to rehearse my message and think it all the way through.
5) Invest in the Conclusion- I learned a few years ago that most speakers will “wing” the conclusion of their messages. I confess that I was a part of the “most” who get to the end of preparing my sermon and say, “I’ll figure it out. As the old saying goes, “it’s not how you start, but how you finish.“ It was suggested to me that one should spend a good amount of time on the conclusion of their message. For me it’s been worth it!
6) Early Sunday Morning - I read my sermon before I go to bed on Saturday night and then I wake up early and head to the church office. I read my sermon out loud couple of times, have a personal prayer & worship time and then head to the church.
7) Pre-Service Prayer- I love to be prayed for before I preach so I head into the prayer room about 15 minutes before service begins. Our prayer team lays hands on me and prays over me. I’m now ready to preach what God may have began to give me months earlier. I am empowered, confident and bold as I step up to deliver what God has put in my heart.
What are some “steps” that have worked well for you in preparing your messages?