Over the next couple of weeks I want to share some things specifically for pastors and preachers of the Gospel. Today we are looking at part 1 of how a sermon is written. These are things that I have learned over two decades of ministry. What I share is what I wish someone had taught me when I was starting out.
Few things seem more intimidating than a blank page. Whether it is writing a poem, a book or a sermon. The blank page speaks of ideas that have yet to be formulated. This is where pastors begin weekly as they prepare for the coming Sunday and for those of us who prepare twice a week, the blank page comes as double intimidation.
I am in my 25th year of preaching and the blank page no longer intimidates me like it once did. Now it excites me more than ever. Because I love to preach, I know that this page will be filled with what the Spirit leads me to preach.
Again, the blank page is where we begin our message and this should cause us to seek the Lord for what He would have us fill it with. The words or the ideas that He wants to formulate in us so that we can effectively communicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The blank page is not a blank heart. What fills the page should always come from the heart!
Our role as a communicator is not to impress with our words or our style but to preach what the Spirit has impressed on us. To communicate what Heaven wants the people to hear. Far removed from our mere opinion, the Word of God is to be interpreted and communicated only by what we believe the Spirit is saying through us.
The sermon is never to be taken lightly nor should our role as a preacher be taken for granted. It is a privilege to stand behind the sacred desk, called the pulpit, and the blank page should not be filled with words that are our own. They should be the outflow of our relationship with Christ and His Word. Words that rightly interpret God’s Word and how to apply them to our daily lives.
There is nothing wrong with borrowing ideas or commentary from others, however, what we preach should be borne out of our experience with God and what He is doing in our lives. We should be sharing what He is speaking to us and communicating what He wants to speak to His church.
To fill the blank page, there are some things that I have learned from preparing 2 sermons a week for the last 9 years, and 3 sermons a week for the 12 years before that:
1. Keep up your devotional life.
A preacher that fails to read his/her Bible devotionally will not be able to burn with passion for the topic or verses they preach. There are seasons where we might read only to find sermons, but we must make sure that we are reading for more than sermon material. We must read to consume the Words of Life so that we may be alive. I often journal and highlight Scriptures that speak to me or arrest my attention. I refer back to many of these for sermons or sermon series ideas. When I read devotionally, I never cease to have sermon material. My devotional reading always leads to having sermons.
2. Pray about what you will preach.
I preach mostly in series. Some say that you cannot be led by the Spirit if you preach in series, but I believe the Spirit can give series ideas just as He can weekly sermon ideas. I have found that people learn better through the series and so I pray about every sermon and every series. I may not know exactly what I am going to preach 6 weeks in advance but God does give me ideas for series and helps me map them out in advance, even if the sermons are not written until the week of. He does this because of prayer. As preachers, if we fail to pray we will not be led by the Spirit. If we are not led by the Spirit then we will preach of our own will and ideas. Prayer and Devotional Life are the 2 most critical components of sermon preparation and how to fill the blank page.
3. Keep a journal or a place to log your sermon and series ideas.
As God speaks through prayer and Bible reading, write down those ideas and put them somewhere. I have a whiteboard in my office that I stick sermon series ideas until I can get to them or feel like it is time to preach them. I write my ideas on a post-it note and stick it to the whiteboard. I also keep a Bible reading journal that I log Scriptures and sometimes brief sermon ideas.
For the preacher, the blank page can be intimidating because the blank page comes so often. Non-preachers would never understand the pressure of the sermon deadline that comes 1-3 times a week for all pastors. The heat is on come Monday morning, because it is just 6 days till the next Sunday. There is no time to dwell on the success of the last sermon because another one is coming so quickly. For those who preach Wednesday evenings, it is just 2 days from your next message. But when we keep the devotional life going it is easier, yet there is still the challenge of having time to study. Pastoral life is busy and many things pull for attention. We have many hats that we must wear, but the greatest calling of the pastor is that of a preacher of the Gospel. I encourage you to take that blank page and fill it with what the Spirit speaks.
Next week, we will watch how the blank page is transformed with ideas from God’s Word.