It’s the weekend of July 4, and I’ve just left the pulpit. I habitually station myself near the exit of the sanctuary when the congregation is singing the doxology, so that I can be available to speak to the congregants who are leaving. Occasionally, I get pulled aside to deal with a tender conscience, or to pray with someone if they so desire. But this particular morning, I got what is probably the most common question I get after preaching.
“How do you do that?”
Usually what they’re asking is, “How do you prepare your sermons?” or “Where did that come from?”
To answer those questions, I’m going to be posting an occasional series on sermon preparation. Let me say at the outset that there is far more involved in preparing a sermon than I can include in a series of posts. There’s a whole lot more being prepared than the sermon; the preacher was prepared to. By this I mean that ever man has gone through a unique process whereby God has been preparing him to preach. That in itself is a huge piece of the preaching puzzle.
I also have another reason for posting a series on sermon prep. We leave in an age of atrocious preaching.
I know that some of you just thought, “Yes, Brother Benjamin, we aren’t living in an age of great preaching.”
While you’re right, and we aren’t living in an age of great preaching (whatever that is), you haven’t understood what I’m saying. I’m not saying that the preaching of our age doesn’t rise to the level of greatness.
I’m telling you that by far the vast majority of the preaching in our age isn’t even mediocre. It’s terrible.
There are some reasons for this that I can’t get into. We certainly seem to have a number of men who are preaching that seem to have no business doing so; I honestly question whether a number of them were ever called to preach the gospel in the first place. However, that’s a problem I can’t fix, beyond telling them to quit. Resign. Step down. Not later, now.
Then there are the pastors whose churches say that they want a well-preached sermon, but then they bury him under a work load that makes diligent sermon preparation a near impossibility. These dear brothers are being worked nearly to death, and are being left with only a few hours per week to prepare to proclaim the Word on the Lord’s Day. If you find yourself in this situation, you need to lead the charge to protect your prep time. At my house, that means that I don’t answer the phone during the morning when I do my sermon prep. I can pause for long enough to listen to a voicemail message without breaking my flow. If someone is dead or dying, that’s a sufficient reason to put my sermon prep on pause. Otherwise, I’ll get back with you after lunch.
Finally, there are pastors out there who are simply lazy. They don’t have an overwhelming burden of work, but they wait until the last second to prepare their sermon—if they prepare one at all, and don’t just steal a sermon from any number of websites that are out there. As far as I’m concerned this is criminal. A pastor who does this is saying, in effect, that Christ’s sheep don’t matter enough to him to do a little hard work so that they might hear the Word of life and be shown the way to Zion.
I’ve said all of this so that I can clear the ground, so to speak, so that I can actually talk about the process of preparation.
Starting next time, we’re going to begin by looking at what I’ll be calling pre-preparation.