One of the biggest challenges in preaching is to keep your preaching fresh. Every pastor lives with a relentless phrase that never leaves him… “Sunday’s coming”. Sundays keep coming with amazing consistency.
These days there is a tidal wave of sermon content and it is very tempting to “download and deliver” without doing the hard work of studying, researching, praying, and making the message our own. The truth is, we all borrow from other sources…whether it be books, online research or somebody else’s sermon. But that is different than simply taking the shortcut of totally preaching somebody else’s message.
There is a godly discipline to standing before your people week after week with a fresh word from God. It requires diligence, consistency, and tenacity to really prepare a message that flows out of your heart and life. When you preach 40 weekends a year, you are not going to have a power-packed, life-changing message every week. But what we can do is be faithful to the preparation process.
It makes me think of Paul’s challenge in 2 Timothy 4:
I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;
2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. -2 Timothy 4:1 (KJV)
In order to keep your preaching fresh and be faithful to the weekly preparation process, you must have an eternal perspective. Paul’s challenge to Timothy was anchored in light of the fact that everything we do is lived out in the “presence of God and of Christ Jesus.” Also, it is the same God that will judge the living and the dead. In other words, we are to live and carry out our ministries with a sense of sober responsibility. Preaching is not just a job. Pastoring is not just a career. It is a calling that has eternal consequences, and that reality should be part of the motivation to make sure we faithfully preach the word of God.
But then in verse 2 of 2 Timothy 4, Paul charges Timothy to preach the word. And Timothy is to be prepared in season and out of season. He doesn’t talk about Timothy’s gifting or communication style. He doesn’t mention the style or length of Timothy’s sermons. What he focuses on is Timothy’s faithfulness to be prepared.
And being prepared is hard work. I remember once hearing John Maxwell say that “Everything worthwhile is uphill. Everything that is valuable, you have to work for. No one ever coasted their way to success. Most people have uphill hopes but have downhill habits.”
No pastor ever coasted their way to great preaching.
Let’s imagine that you and I sit down and have a cup of coffee together. And during our conversation we start talking about preaching and how to keep your preaching fresh. If I could give you one piece of advice for keeping your preaching fresh it would be this… Be an aggressive and curious learning.
Have an inquisitive mind. Ask lots of questions. Learn something every single day. Take lots of notes. Find lessons from every circumstance and situation.
I recently had a friend mention to me that preaching was a lot like cooking. He went on to say that he had the mindset of constantly stocking the pantry. Every day he was filling his mind and heart with Scripture, insights from what he was reading, and illustrations from daily experience. He is constantly stocking the shelves of his preaching pantry.
Then, when he sit down to craft his message, he simply cooks from what is in the pantry. The problem with a lot of pastors is that they aren’t putting anything in the pantry. And, so when it comes time to write a message, they don’t have anything in the pantry to draw from.
So, I’m not sure where you are when it comes to your passion and preparation for preaching. But if you are coasting, let me challenge you to become a curious learner once again. The sermons you cook up will be richer. So, start stocking the pantry. You’ll be glad you did… and so will your people.