When God calls a man to pastor he should be very intentional with his responsibility to preach the Word and feed the flock of God. Last minute sermons that are thrown together can negatively affect the overall spiritual health of the church. Far too often sermon planning and preparation are near the bottom of a pastor’s to-do list. We must examine our pastoral priorities in light of our biblical responsibility to lead, feed, and protect the church. I am incredibly grateful to our staff, leadership, and church family that clearly understands that my primary focus is to be given to the ministry of prayer and the Word. It is my goal to steward that care to the best of my ability.
I believe our church family, largely, knows that the sermon begins a lot earlier than 8:45 on Sunday morning. So, here are some things that I regularly do in planning my preaching schedule at Laurel Baptist Church:
SET ASIDE TIME AWAY FOR THE PURPOSE OF PLANNING YOUR PREACHING.
It’s important that I have the mind of God in relation to my sermon planning. After all, that’s the purpose of preaching: to declare the mind of God to the people.
Preaching is not a chat about some interesting ideas. No! This is God speaking through the stammering lips of the preacher. When the preacher’s mind is on the text of Scripture, his heart is in the presence of God. This is what great preaching does. It brings us into the presence of God. – D Wells
I do my best every year to, literally, get-a-way from the regular routine of the office so I can focus my undivided attention on God’s Word and spend time praying over the books of the Bible He desires our church to study that coming year. I pray, “God, what do you want us to know this coming year and what do you want us to do?” He always answers! My goals during this time away:
- Determine the next books of the Bible we will study through.
- Establish the overall theme and emphasis of my focus in the books (i.e. As I am currently doing a verse by verse study of Ecclesiastes on Sunday mornings I felt led of the Lord to focus on slowing down to enjoy the true meaning and fulfillment of life. Therefore, the title of the series is “Slowing Down.”).
- Breakdown the passage divisions that we will study during each sermon (i.e. some sermons consists of 4 to 5 verses, while some will consists of 25 verses).
- Attempt to outline these passages with a pending theme.
Usually, I’ll find a location a few hours from Charlotte where all I do from the moment I get up in the morning to the moment I go to bed at night is plan, pray, and outline…plan, pray, and outline. It’s important to me to find a place of refuge where the everyday demands of the normal schedule will not interfere with this important time with God.
USE BALANCE IN SELECTING BOOKS TO PREACH THROUGH.
Sometimes the direction of your weekly services can run hand in hand with the series of messages. For example, I recently preached through the Corinthian Letters on Sunday morning while simultaneously preaching through the Pastoral Letters on Sunday night. The reason? – Corinth was a church of chaos and the pastoral letters emphasize a church of order. So, together in our morning and evening services we studied “Chaos In The Church” (1 Corinthians) verses “Order In The Church” (1 & 2 Timothy). This balance was extremely helpful in our church’s understanding of church purity and structure.
At other times, it’s good to not overload the morning and evening services with similar content. For example, I’m not sure if it’s best that I preach through Daniel on Sunday morning and Revelation on Sunday night. It would be good for the growth of our church to spread out the books that major on end times and cover these separately.
Of course, another good rule of thumb is to be careful not to overload in one section. If you preach the 4 gospels back to back then you’ve quickly knocked them out. If your goal is to preach every book of the Bible then it would certainly be a very long time before you hit the gospels again. Balance is important.
CONSIDER THE LENGTH OF BOOKS WHEN PLANNING THE SERMONS.
If you love to break down every single word of the verse when you’re preaching then it’s quite possible that when you begin Revelation you will probably finish it by the time my 5 year old graduates from college. So, here are two suggestions I have that help me when approaching larger books (Acts, Revelation, Psalms, etc.):
- Consider preaching through the book sequentially during both the morning and evening services. I did this with Revelation back in 2013. What would’ve taken me over a year to preach through in one service, took me less than six months. Plus, my evening service grew because they didn’t want to miss that next big revelation! 🙂
- If that’s not a likable approach, then try to discipline yourself to cover larger portions of Scripture when preaching through the book. Doing this with the book of Exodus in 2014 helped me keep our church focused through the lengthy passages.
Sometimes you don’t have a choice. I’m teaching through Psalms on Wednesday nights during our prayer service right now. I take a psalm a night. So, it’s going to take me three years to do it (I’m currently 1/3 of the way through). There’s no way around it, but the book of Psalms is so encouraging and strengthening…it’s prefect for a mid-week prayer service even if it’s longer.
DO YOUR BEST TO PREPARE THE FINAL NOTES A FEW WEEKS PRIOR TO DELIVERY.
If you have already taken the time to pick the book and outline it (months in advance) then at this point your simply studying, reading, and putting it on paper. The very first thing I do on Monday morning as I come into the office is open my Bible and my documents that contain the next passage and theme, and begin putting it all down. This creates margin in your overall schedule and calm in your preparation. You know where you’re going next, and you’re people know where you’re going next.
Depending on how you promote and execute each sermon series will determine how important this point is. We use banners/publications with the sermon series on them, graphics for social media/screens, promo videos at times, and weekly outlines for every sermon preached with blanks to fill in along the way. All of this takes time to produce and you or your team will appreciate as much advance preparation as possible.
BE FLEXIBLE AS THE SPIRIT LEADS YOU INTO HIS WORD.
I am a firm believer that God can work in my heart about what book to preach to our church a year in advance as much as He can a week in advance, but we must not be so tied to our schedule that we cannot hear the “audibles” that God throws our way. So, plan. Prepare. Do your best to schedule up to a year in advance where you will be preaching and what you will be preaching. But remain flexible. For if the Lord lead us to a different book and theme, we must follow Him. It His church. We are His messengers. We must deliver the message He desires, when He desires.