My Sister and Brother preachers, preparation will help the preacher weather the storm of standing behind the sacred desk. It is our hope that this series of simple suggestions lifts your spirits and increases your confidence. Reverend Harris and Elder Cox believe that these suggestions will help you be heard. Links to all of the articles in this series is found follow:
To preach in the African American Tradition one must understand and feel the culture. This comes from being a part of the community and really feeling the dual consciousness that makes the African American Tradition work. One of the best ways to feel the culture is to be reminded of the experiences of our past. Often these experiences can be tapped by referring to the music. The African American Heritage Hymnal provides a number of hymns, spirituals, and Gospel Songs that you remember if you have been in the African American church. I would encourage all preachers to add this volume to their own denominational hymnal.
Whenever you preach a sermon, always use the Scripture Passage Index of the hymnal in your preparation. Look up all of your texts to determine if there is a song that directly addresses your main text or even one of the other texts. Then keep those hymns in mind as you prepare the sermon.
You may quote the hymn, you may find questions in the song that can guide exegesis. You may structure a sermon around a hymn or song. Allow the authors of the song to help you understand the text. Allow the authors of the the text to help you understand the culture you are addressing. And finally, go ahead and sing them. I just couldn’t help myself when my African American Heritage Hymnal came in the mail. I sang the songs of my youth and was transported back to all of those services where God showed up and touched the congregation. In short, obtain as many hymnals you can find and then use them in your preparation.
Get as many hymnals that you can gain insights and understandings of the text that may inform your sermonic presentations.
Another way to be prepared is to practice properly established protocol. One should have rehearsed citing:
I can recall with dread being asked to preach for a pastor in a surrounding city. This pastor was the president of the state convention, and so I addressed him accordingly, however, I mispronounced his name! I felt like a clown when the congregation communally corrected me. It was like a public chastisement. Previously, only he and I knew that I was a novice preacher, but after that moment everyone knew. It was an uphill battle trying to deliver the message because my lack of preparation ushered in an extreme sense of nervousness.
OK, we all know that we should prepare, but how do you prepare? Many put forth much effort into creating a strong manuscript, and then step into the pulpit having spent little time reading the document.
In contrast, great preacher’s review their sermon several times before arriving at the appointed place. My mentor, the Rev. G.L. Parks, has suggested that one reads their manuscript no less than 10 times prior to preaching it. The preacher should especially pay attention to details like spelling and grammatical concerns. Such efforts will help to ensure that the preacher doesnâ€™t stumble over or mispronounce words.
For those who opt to preach without a script, familiarizing oneâ€™s self with the introduction, major points transitions, and the close is helpful. Regardless of how one presents the material, a good way to be prepared is to be familiar with the text. Many seasoned pastors suggest that one knows their text well enough to cite it from memory. This is a good idea, and one should be familiar with the text enough to put emphasis where necessary in the text. Also having the proper pronunciation for difficult proper names is also a good way of demonstrating competence through preparation.
Thus preparing a strong manuscript is just the beginning, preparation includes knowing the Biblical text as well as one’s manuscript very well.
We cannot say enough about preparation. Some sage once said that proper preparation prevents poor performance. This is especially true in the preaching moment.
My fellow preachers, I have observed a few advantages of being prepared and will delineate some of them in this article. First, being prepared helps to ease nervousness. For the associate minister and the visiting minister alike preaching in a foreign pulpit can be a terror-filled experience. However, being prepared will help the preacher lesson this “terror.”
Let’s be real, most of the time people come to church expecting to hear a word through their pastor. Many have joined the church because they appreciate the ministry of their pastor. Often these people are taken aback when they see another where the pastor “should be.” Being prepared helps the preacher by allowing the preacher to become a willing and energetic participant in all of the service. The preacher can read the text, sing the congregational hymn and participate in other visible ways. This participation can help the preacher get a feel for the congregation and help to lower the apprehension of the people.
Thus preparation helps both the preacher and the congregation. If you have an especially horror filled moment, remember you prepared and say a quick prayer to God as you participate in the praise of the worship service. Perhaps your fear will be overtaken by your praise.
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