It’s Not Just About Preaching.
Have you ever sat listening to a sermon and wondered, “How did he come up with all that?” or “What happened this week to lead him to this topic?”
Pastors often have a unique twist on this thought process. Too often while travelling, I’ve sat listening to preachers and whispered to my wife, “I would have included…” or “I would have gone with the __________ angle.”
Rightly, she scolds me, reminding me, “You’re not preaching. That’s not what God wants him to say today.” She’s right. Even as a preacher, too often I forget that each preacher asks the Lord to provide insight into what their current congregation needs.
Today I’d like to unpack that process.
Every sermon begins with a large study component.
- Meditating on the key passage.
- Praying for guidance.
- Unpacking key words.
- Cross-referencing with other passages.
- Reading commentaries.
- Researching other sermons.
For me, if I were to parallel this process with vehicle maintenance, it’s the work before the work. Removing all the necessary components, wiping the grease from everything so that I can clearly see the problem that needs to be solved.
It’s the work that needs to be done before any forward motion is achieved.
I always know when I’m nearing the end of my study because my mind begins to wander. It’s kind of like looking into the future. I envision myself on the platform, looking out at the congregation.
Here’s what goes through my mind as I envision our congregation:
- “I could go this way…“
- “I should include this….“
- “I could include this….“
- “What about this…“
- “…or this…”
Then reality hits. Too often with a bit of anxiety, I remember that I only have 25 minutes to preach this sermon. And I can’t include all of this content.
Full disclosure, in my experience, this is the point where I feel the greatest struggle in sermon preparation. The realization that comes every week: “There’s just not enough time to explain everything!”
‘Cutting the fat’ (content) out of sermons is absolutely the most difficult component of the preaching process. After all, it’s the Bible! Everything is so good! I usually pause for a simple prayer at this point. “Lord, what do I cut?”
Yup, sometimes the prayer is as short as that. I have a lot of work to do and He knows that. So, I’m trusting that His Spirit will lead me. I have to trust that one day I’ll use those portions of content but not this time.
“How do I know what to keep?”
- A 5 Step Method For Delivering A Talk Without Using Notes by Carey Nieuwhof
- 5 Mistakes Most Preachers Make by Carey Nieuwhof
- 7 Benefits Of Preaching Without Notes by Brandon Hilgemann
After working through Carey and Brandon’s material, I’ve come to the conclusion that great sermons can only have 1 big idea. Not 2 and definitely not 3, 1 big idea. Everything needs to flow from that idea.
The writing process used to be a lot more difficult. But understanding what needs to be cut made all the difference to my writing. I’ve witnessed the impact of sermons that are written around one central theme.
- People remember those sermons.
- They leave the church building thinking about that theme all week-long.
- It comes up in random ways as they interact with people.
- And best of all, they come back wanting more!
It’s not me, it’s not Carey, it’s not Brandon. It’s a few average guys, who have figured out that 25 minutes of focused Biblical preaching out-shines an hour of Biblical content time and time again.
Join the Conversation, Leave Your Thoughts
What’s your pastor’s sermon preparation process? Have you ever asked? What difficulties has he shared?