Let’s suppose you’re a pastor and you’re preaching this Sunday. That’s six days away. To the man or woman in the pew, that seems like a long time, but it’s not. Perhaps you’ve heard of the Preacher’s Calendar. It goes like this . . .
That’s the way it feels to those who preach every week. You routinely come to Saturday wondering what happened to the last five days. And where is that sermon you have to preach tomorrow morning? Speaking as one who spent 27 years getting ready to preach every Sunday, I know that feeling of utter end-of-the-week desperation, and I’ve done my share of late-Saturday night sermonizing. Someone told me that sermon illustration websites have their highest visitor rates very early on Sunday morning. Been there, done that, too.
But today is Monday. Yesterday is gone forever. If you preached well, you’re probably feeling good today. If you struggled, you’re probably still trying to shake it off. Doesn’t matter. Either way you’ve got to get up and do it again in just six days. That’s both the joy and the burden of local church ministry. The Sundays keep rolling around whether you’re ready or not.
So what should you do today to get ready for next Sunday? I have a very good friend in Chicago who writes his next sermon on Monday. He generally doesn’t stop until he has the big idea and the main points on paper. Strength to that man. I was never very good at sermonizing on Monday. But still you need to do something on Monday because Sunday comes in just two days (remember the Preacher’s Calendar). You lose three days every week taking care of church affairs and Saturday blends into Sunday so they really become one long day.
If you are preaching this Sunday, take 30 minutes and do this today:
1) Read your text out loud.
2) Stand up and walk around while reading your text out loud.
3) Read your text in at least five different translations.
4) Take three minutes and jot down five questions about your text.
5) Pick a hymn or a chorus that reminds you of your text and sing it out loud.
6) Think of three preachers you admire and ask yourself, “How would they preach this text?”
7) Find a sermon on the Internet on your text and read it.
8) Give yourself ten minutes (but no more than that) to write a sermon skeleton.
9) Listen to the first five minutes of any sermon by a preacher you admire.
10) Pray that God would open the eyes of your heart (Ephesians 1:18).
Remember that preaching is about thinking, and thinking is very hard work, which is why most of us would rather watch ESPN. As a matter of fact, I encourage pastors to watch Monday Night Football. It’s good for the soul to root for a team you don’t really care about. I’ve always favored watching football as an integral part of sermon preparation, but if Peyton Manning doesn’t float you boat, then watch “Flip This House” or “Ice Road Truckers” or “Iron Chef America.” But personally, I favor football.
Someone told me recently that I get easily distracted, a fact conclusively proved by the preceding paragraph. But it’s not really off point. Preaching is very hard work because preaching is about thinking. So do those ten things today. Your main preaching task on Monday is to get the juices flowing early in the week because Sunday comes in just two more days. By the way, don’t worry about that sermon skeleton. It’s just a place to begin. It won’t be your final version (unless you are my friend in Chicago). Anything that gets you started on Monday is better than nothing at all.
Do these ten things on Monday and you’ll be better off when Sunday rolls around. And if you do these ten things, you can watch Monday Night Football with a clear conscience.
Tomorrow I’ll mention the only unique sermon preparation idea I’ve ever come up with. That’s enough for today.