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Your Pastor and the NFL

February 11, 2016

The church humorist shakes the pastors hand in the lobby and announces, “I wish I had your job. You only work one day a week.” The quick witted pastor replies, “So do pro football players.” Most church members know their pastor works more than one day a week, but some assume he has a lot of idle time to spend however he wants. In most cases the pastor has very little idle time. A large portion of the pastor’s time is spent preparing to preach and teach. If a pastor only worked forty hours a week he would more than likely spend at least half that time in sermon preparation.

Because most pastors don’t talk about how they study or how much time they spend in study I want to give a behind the scenes look into what my sermon preparation looks like. This is in no way is intended to be a self-aggrandizing or self-serving. I am reluctant to post this article, but because very few readers of this blog attend the church I am currently serving I feel a greater freedom to post this article. I write this so you may better “know them which labour among you” by having a fuller understanding of the labor your pastor invest into the preaching of the Word.

Because nearly all of my preaching during the Sunday morning service is expositional- a section by section study of a book, in sequential order from the first chapter to the last- my sermon prep begins with the determination of which book or section of the Bible to preach. The entire process, from text selection to finished sermon, is punctuated with prayer. Selecting the book of major section to study starts with a consideration of the current needs of the church body. After reviewing the books I have already preached, I evaluate possible texts. Usually I enter this process with several most likely options in the back of my mind. I then consider the purpose and major subject matter of probable texts. After narrowing down the choices I read quickly through the books in question. Hopefully after the read through I am able to bring the choices down to two or three strong possibilities. I then compare the contents of the books to one another and to the current need of the congregation. In the end I settle on one book which seems to be best suited to the church at that time.

Once a book is selected I begin to develop my initial preaching outlines. I first read the book through several times in rapid succession to become more familiar with the content and to get the feel of the overall flow of thought in the book. I then begin to break down the book into its several passages and paragraphs. These paragraphs will become the primary texts around which a sermon, or at times two sermons, is built. At the same time I jot down key ideas, key verses, major themes in the book and various restatements of the purpose of the book. One of the major goals I have in these early stages is to crystalize my understanding of the author’s purpose for writing the book and to work out a succinct way to communicate that purpose. For example, I summarized the recent study of 1 Thessalonians with the phrase, “Gospel living: How the gospel changes your life.” During this stage I try to read several brief commentaries that give a general overview of the book to make sure I am on target in my understanding. The last part of this process is jotting down a rough outline of each major passage. Typically this stage is finished several weeks to several months before I begin preaching through the book.

The week before I preach I review the specific passage I will be preaching that coming Sunday. I pray for God’s wisdom and power as I review and edit the rough outline from my previous study through the book. I read through the passage again. I attempt to summarize the main truth of the passage and specify one or two applications to the church. Once I feel comfortable with my basic understanding of the section I begin to read several commentaries on the passage. As I read, I jot down ideas and quotes that I find particularly clear or powerful. After I have read all my study material I try to let everything sit for at least a day so I can brood on what I have read. I preach from a full manuscript so the last step of my sermon preparation is the typing and editing of the manuscript.

This is my method for the Sunday morning service. The other services are more interactive and serve different functions so my preparation for them is different. Every pastor has a method that works well for him. Most will continually tweak their process in an effort to improve their understanding and communication of the Word of God. Whatever system your pastor uses, he needs your prayers for Him as he prepares for the preaching of the Word. Pray for your pastor’s diligence, understanding, wisdom, clarity and power in the Word. Pray for yourself as you prepare to hear the Word. Plan on being there Sunday with your Bible open, your heart open and ready to receive the truths of Scripture.

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