I used to be a sermon-writing machine! At Cornerstone, I preached 45+ weeks per year in well-crafted sermon series. My sermons were biblical, interesting, relevant, balanced, and Christ-centered. Sometimes I might have an off week, but in general, my sermons were awesome!
But over the last 6 years, I have preached very little by comparison. At Renew, I preached for the monthly "preview" services. But after we launched and went to weekly services, I hardly preached at all. I played guitar and piano and led worship and taught classes. But Adam was full time, so he did the vast majority of preaching.
So over the last year, as I've preached more, I reached back into my files and dug out the sermons that I preached at Cornerstone years and years and years ago. And I would just kind of recycle them. And it seemed to work well enough.
But now I'm a preaching pastor again in my new church district.
So I've been struggling with getting back into the flow of sermon preparation and writing and delivery. I feel like someone with atrophied legs trying to run. It feels awkward and I feel like I'm not able to think as clearly as I once did and OMG! have I totally lost the ability to write biblical, interesting, relevant, balanced, Christ-centered sermons???
Today as I was praying about this issue, I realized that I've been neglecting some "best practices" that I used to do regularly.
1. Read the pericope! And I don't just mean read it a couple times in the version I'm going to preach from. I mean read the pericope over and over and over again in every version of the Bible I own. The different versions translate the words differently, bringing out different nuances. The different versions chunk the thoughts differently, emphasizing varied thought patterns. I used to read it until I knew it and it filled my mind until everything I thought about was colored by the lens of that pericope.
2. Watch great preachers! I used to consume a couple of series by Craig Groeschel or John Ortberg or Wayne Cordiero or Ted Haggard or Andy Stanley or Ed Young in any given month. I watched how they crafted a series to hang together. I watched how they made the Bible relevant and how they brought biblical authority to bear on the lives of everyone listening. I watched to see how they presented Christ so that people would fall in love with him.
3. Pray for divine revelation! I used to spend a very large portion of my sermon preparation praying for wisdom and understanding. I used to go into the sanctuary and pray for the people who would be sitting in the pews the next weekend and ask God how he wanted to speak to them through the sermon. I would imagine non-Christians coming in and I would ask God how he wanted me to preach to an unbeliever or an outsider.
4. Watch great preachers! I know I said that one before. But this time I mean get your soul fed. It is easy to be so caught up with producing sermons and leading and being up front and feeding others, that you end up starving your own soul. So there are times when you need to be blessed by a sermon - not to pick it apart and see why it's good or what devices they were using or how the illustrations pressed the application home - but just to be filled with the word of God and let your soul be renewed and refreshed by the bread of life and the living water of Christ.
Time to dust off some of these best practices and put them back to work!
Welcome to Juggling Sheep, Jay Perry's blog about time management and personal productivity for pastors. Learn to balance work, life, family, and personal spirituality.
Share your best practices, tips and tricks, processes, sermon planning ideas, and resources. Feel free to email me: jaylperry[at]gmail[dot]com.