When Are You Finished Preparing Your Sermon?
This is another one of the most popular questions. Whenever I have a seminar or receive questions through the mail, someone asks, “How do I know my sermon is ready for preaching.”
This is a very important question, but often our own misunderstandings of what “ready to preach” means can cause issues. For example, “Ready to preach” does not mean that the sermon can not be made better with more thought, study, and prayer.
Faulty Methods For Determining Ready To Preach
Some people think that they can get their sermon to the point where there can be no more improvements on it. That is not the case. If that is your standard of “ready to preach” then you will never preach your sermon. I don’t care how many times I read over my manuscript or work through my outline, I always find ways to improve or make it better.
Even in the preaching moment, you will find ways to improve the sermon. Be open to the Spirit’s leading. And then make note of your changes so that you can incorporate these insights later.
Another standard for “ready to preach” that can be helpful at times and not so helpful at other times is the “feeling that it is ready.” As we preach more and more we develop this “feel” for a sermon that is ready, but sometimes the “feel” can be simply our desires to complete the sermon telling us that the sermon is ready. Some preachers might allow “sloth” to tell them that the sermon is ready, when they have not done the basic steps in exegesis yet. Your sermon is not ready to preach if you don’t even know what the text truly says yet.
Sloth is not the only enemy. Sometimes fear can have us continuing to tinker with a sermon that is ready instead of moving on to other important tasks.
In addition, the feel can be problematic for new preachers who have not developed the “feel” yet. New preachers need some guidelines. And those of us who are not new preachers, but have many responsibilities, need something to keep us honest about the hard task of putting together sermons. So the feel is not necessarily wrong, but can lead us astray at times.
Another issue that can stand in the way of great preaching is the idea of waiting on perfection. Note I didn’t say “striving” for perfection. We should strive to be the best we can be, but don’t fall into the trap of waiting for your sermon to be perfect to preach it, or to feel ready to preach it. If you are human, then you will not reach perfection. Don’t allow that to rob you of preaching that sermon.
How To Know It Is Ready
OK, how can we know that our sermon is ready to preach? We need to balance a number of different things to come to that conclusion.
First, bathe your sermon in prayer. Ask for God’s leading. We must remember that the task we are engaged in is greater than our ability. So request help from the Most High before, during, and after the planning, preparing, and preaching of that sermon.
Second, verify that you have followed some plan that requires an in-depth look at the text from a number of different angles. Look at the text from the historical, narrative, and other angles. Following a methodology whether it is your own, or a modified one from others, following the steps will force you to look at the text closely.
Third, verify that you have structured the sermon well. Don’t fall into the trap of spending all of your time in Exegesis and never get to the moment of construction and ordering the sermon.
Dr. Brad Braxton, one of my homiletics professors, is a Bible scholar and a homiletitian. He said that the preachers job is more involved than the Bible scholar’s job. Because the preacher must not only “rightly divide the word of truth,” (2 Timothy 2:15) but the preacher also must order and present those insights to help and aid the folks in the pew. Spend time making sure that you have structured the insights of your exegesis well.
Finally, verify that the sermon addresses an important and needed theme in your congregation. God has a word for the issues that are going on in your congregation.
If after considering those issues, you still have the “feel” that it is ready, then go ahead and preach it. And preach it with power. God will bless you. And always remember the reality that even when we fail, God’s word will not come back void. (Isaiah 55:12)