The other day, I heard that Andy Stanley completes his sermons three weeks in advance. Myth or fact—I do not know. I do know for a fact that I felt like a slacker after hearing it. I try to have my messages finished by Sunday morning when I preach them.
Sometimes, I get there … Here is how, if all goes as planned:
Mondays are Sabbath for me, so I wait until the evening to study. I read the Scripture and the surrounding context that I’ll be preaching on three times. I want maximum percolation time.
On Tuesdays, my first three hours in the office are spent reading Scripture and commentaries. I write lots of notes about anything that pops into my head as I read—no matter how random it might seem. Most of the notes I write turn out to be useless, but reading the commentaries helps me know I am not missing anything big. I am always a little suspicious if I think I see something in the text that no one has ever seen before (usually indicates a misreading on my part). Exegesis is a process …
Wednesdays are meeting days, usually from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with a workout break in the middle. I do nothing for the sermon except think and pray about it in the car.
On Thursdays, again, my first three hours in the office are spent studying. I read and listen to anything that might be helpful, and I also write. Usually, I feel as good about the sermon on Thursdays as I do all week. It’s not done by any stretch of the means, but time is still on my side and things are beginning to come together at that point.
On Fridays, I try to spend about an hour and a half writing and thinking of illustrations. Preachers know this: You can preach the same sermon three times in a row and no one will say a word, but tell the same story twice in two years (unless it’s a tribal favorite) and people will tell you they have heard it before.
On Saturdays, I spend time with my family until around noon. After that, I become preoccupied with the message and the weight of Sunday, so I go to the office or to Mosquito Lagoon and work in my truck. By about 3 p.m., I feel inevitably as bad about the sermon as I did good about it on Thursday. No matter how it turns out, it feels like it should be better than it is. I work until I can’t work anymore, and then I pray and go to sleep.
On Sundays, I get up early and pray a lot, print out my sermon and preach it four times. By the fourth time, I feel like I’ve almost got it …
There’s no one right way to prepare for a message. How much time and planning go into your preparation process? What practices work best for you?