The more I preach, the more I realize how much I need a sermon preparation wall. Here’s how it works.
Every Monday, I sit down and begin the sermon preparation process all over again. Even on Monday I can feel the pressure of the coming Sunday breathing down my neck. I get into the text and I’m immediately tempted to think of how I can preach that text in just six days.
And that’s just the problem.
I’ve become convinced that before I can work on how to preach the text, I need to make sure I understand the text. That means that I’ve erected a wall in my mind. Here’s how it works for me.
Monday and Tuesday (The Textual Side)
- read and re-read the text
- meditate on the text
- ask questions of the text
- work on understanding authorial intent
- come up with exegetical idea and supporting ideas in the text
- consult commentaries
- begin to apply the text to my own life
This is where I build my imaginary wall. I’m not allowed to cross it until I’ve completed the work listed above. Once I have, I then begin to think of how I’m going to preach the text. Here’s what it looks like on the other side of the wall.
Wednesday and Thursday (The Homiletical Side)
- work on homiletical idea and general outline
- decide on the sermon form
- develop the sermon
- prepare to preach the sermon
If I move right from the text to homiletics, I short-circuit the process. I don’t have a message to preach until I’ve spent some time respecting the text, allowing it to speak. Until the text wrestles me to the ground on Monday and Tuesday, I have no way to communicate that text faithfully to the congregation so it can wrestle them to the ground as well.
One of the best pieces of advice I would give to any preacher is to erect a wall in the process of sermon preparation. Spend some time in the text without worrying how you’re going to preach it. That comes later. By doing this, you’ll have a much better message to preach when that part of the preparation process comes.