The last post on staying ready received more feedback than I anticipated. One reader contacted me through facebook asking for more help in how to stay ready and avoid being rusty when it has been months between preaching engagements. A few other readers contacted me through email wanting to know the same thing.
To answer the question, I would say that there are two sides to being ready. First ,one must have a fully prepared sermon. This sermon may be an outline or a manuscript. The preacher has gone through all the steps of exegesis (which I have termed the four waves of Bible Exegesis) and have turned that exegesis into a preachable sermon. Many do this, but wonder why this is not enough to stay in a state of readiness.
The next step is to practice. You must perform your sermon even if the congregation is just the preacher. This practice should be both out-loud and complete. By complete I mean that you begin at the start of the sermon and preach all the way through the sermon. What you will find is that you will start to get a feel for the sermon. Not only that, you will find that the sermon is affecting you, sometimes I am in there shouting just to myself.
Now when I say practice out-loud. I mean open your mouth and make some noise!! If you are nervous about others hearing your practice preaching out loud, then go in your car and preach there. It is different to preach out loud versus preaching in your mind. In fact, it would be better to go ahead and record yourself and analyze the output. Then you will hear the sermon at least twice.
Yes preparation is important, but don’t forget to practice. Certainly it is not exactly like preaching to a congregation, but it is the next best thing, and it will keep your preaching chops in shape in between preaching opportunities.