Proclaiming the good news of the Gospel each week is one of the most important things you do as a pastor, but preparing a powerful, life-changing sermon 40-50 times a year can be really challenging. We’ve compiled a list of three practices that we think will go a long way to making your sermon prep more productive. Before you ever open your mouth – and before you ever put pen to paper – try these three things.
Read Before You Write
It’s tempting to have an epiphany when driving down the road, watching a tv show, mowing the grass, etc. and then try to reverse engineer a sermon around that. You may pull out your moleskin and scribble your three points out, then spend the next several days searching your Bible for verses to bolster them.
Assuming you’re listening to God’s Spirit, and you’re already fairly familiar with scripture, epiphanies aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but we recommend that you read and re-read your key passage(s) – and dig into commentaries and other study resources – before you ever write a word of your sermon. Let your words be informed by diligent prayer and research. Even if you end up back at the three points from your original flash of inspiration, your sermon will be richer for having done the hard work of listening deeply.
Preach To Yourself First
We all have a tendency to be better at finding specks in others’ eyes than we are at noticing the 2x4s in our own. It’s easy to read the warnings and admonitions in scripture and think about how they apply to all those other people, but harder to look inside ourselves and see where we fall short.
Before I get up to share a biblical text with an audience, I try to always think about my sermon as though it were being preached just to me. I don’t want to go out and decry all the people who are being pharisaical without first examining ways in which I’m a pharisee. This isn’t only important for our own spiritual growth and maturity, but it will help you communicate your message to your congregation in a way that’s truly relatable.
Set Up The Drive Home
Your sermon is less about what’s proclaimed in your church building, and more about what’s processed outside of your walls, inside the hearts of your listeners. In other words, choose words that get your folks thinking and, more importantly, talking. Present your material in such a way that friends and family will want to keep talking about the message when they get in the car to drive home.