Yesterday was Sunday. Tomorrow is Sunday. That means today must be Wednesday. That is how my thinking seems to go each week. Sermons and Bible studies come around very quickly when you are a pastor. Over the years I have the discovered a sermon preparation routine that seems to work for me. Under girding it all is a continuous reading plan of Scripture and diverse books followed by a time of reflection and prayer.
I prefer to have a tentative three-month plan for future sermons. Lately I have been about six weeks ahead. On Sunday afternoons I try to take a nap. After church on Sunday nights we laugh watching the British TV comedies we have seen now a hundred times. Then I ask myself, “What is next Sunday’s sermon about?” Dorothy always asks me that same question on Tuesday night as she begins preparing the organ music for the morning service.
On Monday I review the passage, give the message a title and seek to write the main idea in one sentence. A wise person once said, “If you ever get near a point, make it.” So three questions have to be answered: What is the point of the sermon? Does it speak to my heart? and So what—will it really matter to someone else?
By Tuesday I usually have the general outline of the passage and the conclusion of the sermon completed. On Thursday I review any materials I have gathered about the passage, jot down any leftover thoughts and ideas, and write out a one-page speaking outline. In ministry Sundays always begin on Saturday night. Just before bed I review all of the materials and finalize my opening illustration or metaphor. Then I go to sleep and let the sermon “cook” over night. I have discovered over the years that I cannot go to a Saturday night movie or watch an emotional TV program or else my mind will process the movie rather than the sermon. On Sunday morning I rewrite my speaking outline on one index card or, if I have some exact quotes, a larger sheet of paper. When it is time to preach, I try to get out of the way of the preparation and let the Holy Spirit speak to the spirit within the people. Somehow God uses the foolishness of this preaching to change us.
Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Pray for the preacher. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.