“3 Therefore, preparing your minds for action,[a] and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13)
“Pastors, cut your preaching preparation by Half”. This was the lead in to an ad that was on one of my social media pages the other day. You know how advertising like this works. They scan what you like, your interests, occupation etc. In short, most of your information is scanned so they can place, on your feed, ads they believe will interest you. Like a move and you’ll likely see ads for t-shirts, mugs etc. that pertain to that movie. If you have a job, you’ll see ads that would be of interest to others in your profession.
So I get a lot of ads for seminaries, Christian books, clergy robes etc. Most of which I don’t pay any attention to. It’s what you deal with to get your social media for “free”. But this one came across offering me a chance to cut my preaching preparation down and I thought, Boy you are barking up the wrong tree.” But I clicked on it anyway.
It turns out it really wasn’t about the sermon preparation at all. It was all the stuff that goes with it in a modern worship service. Ready made slides so you can list all of those pertinent bullet points the sermon will have. Slides that easily transfer the lyrics to the praise songs sung during worship. How to quickly add video content so you can use a clip to drive the point home. And software to live stream or podcast the message. It actually looked like a pretty good program.
But it had nothing to do with the sermon preparation. One could argue it helps cut down the sermon presentation preparation a lot. And that’s not a bad thing at all. But it really doesn’t affect the time it takes to prepare the sermon. The real preparation is not in the slides or visuals or video. All of which, in full disclosure, I use.
The real preparation for a sermon being son one’s knees as a preacher prays for God to prepare them for the message and give that message to the pastor. After all, I never want to preach “my sermon” I want to preach what God wants to say, from His word, to this congregation. The preparation comes from the study of the scripture for that Sunday the pouring over how the church has explained this passage of Scripture as well as bring one’s own thoughts and experiences to the table. Yes, the Wesleyan Quadrilateral of Scripture being supported by tradition, reason and experience applies to the preparation of a sermon. Even the pouring over stories and examples to help people grasps the message of the scripture is important.
Sermon preparation is important and shouldn’t be cut down for convenience sake. Not just because we want to give that great, eloquent sermon. Frankly, there are a lot of resources out there that will give you everything you need to cut and paste a biblical, eloquent sermon. and you can do it in half the time. That’s not the point of preparation. Preparation of the sermon is only a small a part of the process. What’s just as crucial is the preparation of the preacher. Wrestling over the word of God, study, prayer immerses our souls with the presence of God and changes us. We need that preparation time before we ever enter the pulpit. God wants us to be prepared, to struggle over his word because it is forming our spirits to become like His spirit.
That’s true for all of us though, isn’t it? Spiritual formation isn’t just for the”prfessional Christians” Jesus constantly calls us into a deeper, life changing, person alerting relationship with Him. Our preparation time is crucial to that process.
How is God preparing you to become more like Him? Certainly he calls you to worship, partake of the Means of Grace, participate in the sacraments. He invites you to study His word and wrestle with it live in it. I believe God wants to marinate our souls in the Word of God. You know the more a piece of meat marinates the more tender it becomes and the more flavorful. We have a lot of tough, tasteless souls in the church today because we aren’t allowing God to prepare us. But the more we allow God’s word to soften our hearts, give flavor to our souls, the better.
In some ways life itself is a place of preparation. God may be preparing you through a tie of disappointment. There may have been a hope or a dream in your life that isn’t going to come to pass. God may be using that experience to prepare you for something more. It may be a time where you are struggling in a relationship, or struggling because of the lack of one. It could be an illness. It could be a moment of great joy and success.
No, I don’t believe God causes everything to happen to us. Some happen simply because of life itself. Some are because of our own choices, or the choices of others. While I don’t believe God causes all of it, I do believe that life happens. It happens to all of us. And I believe God asks us to use all of life as a time or preparation that we might become more like Him. The challenge, of course, is not to cut the preparation time short. We all want results. We all want answers. But sometimes, the preparation is as important as the presentation. What is God preparing you for?
Rev. Dr. Brian Jones <><