In 2013, I had the amazing opportunity to preach 10 times for my church, Community Bible Church of Ocala. I was able to take the pulpit 1 out of every 5 Sunday mornings throughout the year to feed the flock of God and I have learned a few things over the past year. I wanted to share those and be a little transparent in some honest feedback over my first year of preaching.
Preparation is the key to being a great athlete. Studying the playbook, watching film, going over defenses, and overall being prepared helps to make you ready to do your best. In the same way, the preacher needs to put the time into preparing. I have heard before, “If you are not sure what the text says, put your backside down into the seat until you do.”
I have heard that Mark Driscoll uses about 1-2 hours to prepare a sermon. That is easy if you are buying your sermon that someone else prepared, but I believe that is not sufficient to properly handle the Word of God. If you are really pouring over the Scripture, it will take time. The job of the preacher is to understand God’s Word as to speak and exposit God’s Word to the people. And this takes time.
For the most part, in order to preach a 45-50 minute sermon, I took about 20-30 hours of serious preparation.
Stay True to the Text
I preach at a church that does expositional preaching, which means that we preach verse by verse, word for word and we do not pick and choose what sermon series’ to talk about. This is the only way to preach. And however, you can easily go off on rabbit trails and turn the text in a direction that you want to turn it as to speak on whatever is on your heart.
I made it a point not to do this. I wanted to stay true to the text and explain what God means by what He says. In other words, let God speak through His Word, not my word. In doing this my sermon outline (which always came after my sermon was complete, not before) was an outline that anyone could get from the text if they just sat down and studied it themselves.
I am an energetic guy who loves God’s Word and is passionate about the topic that I am preaching on (you have to be when you put in a lot of hours of preparation). And therefore, I let my emotion and passion and personality come through in my preaching. I can’t be someone else.
And I have to be honest with myself that I won’t reach every single person I preach to. I want to; I want to have everyone as excited and gain the abundance of information and have the life change that I have experienced after going through the passage, but not everyone will. I have to trust the Holy Spirit that He will never return God’s Word void and He will do a work in people’s heart, not me. Therefore, I must just be faithful and preach the Word while being myself.
Present the Truth in Love
I faced many tough passages with tough truths. And many people do not like tough truths. And before I preach, I have been beat up by these tough truths and had to wrestle with them myself. And I decided very early that I would not gloss over or water down the tough truths in Scripture. They are meant to exhort or rebuke or encourage or convict. I simply had to be faithful to declare those tough truths.
But I also had to declare them in love. I made this a point in my prayer life before preaching – to pray for God to bring about the truth in Scripture with a heart of love and compassion for the sheep, and specifically to individual sheep. Honestly, I love the tough truths and doctrines, I love the hard things in Scripture, and so I am inclined to be a tough, hard preacher. But I had to balance this with love for the sheep. This is still something that God is growing me in within my preaching.
Expect the Glory Be Given To God
So many times a young preacher will want and desire people to come up and say, “Wow, that was an amazing sermon” or “That sermon really touched my life.” If you secretly want and desire that, the focus is now on you. My pride can easily creep up in this area and want the accolades to go to me, but the glory should all be directed to God alone.
This is something that I will continually deal with and must make decidedly a hallmark of my ministry. In doing so, I will deal more graciously with criticism, humbly with success, and make Jesus the focus of every sermon and not me.
1 Timothy 4:13-16
Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.