How should I invest my limited study time so that I am ready to preach?
How could your sermon preparation process be changed so that you consistently produce higher quality sermons? The following questions can lead your thinking in the possibilities.
Do you (a) look forward to sermon preparation, (b) accept it as a weekly discipline, or (c) dread it?
How satisfied are you with your preparation process? (a) very dissatisfied, (b) dissatisfied, (c) mixed feelings, (d) satisfied, or (e) very satisfied.
If you are dissatisfied with your preparation process, which areas would you identify as problematic?
(a) My sermon method
(b) The logistics of place and schedule
(c) Study resources
(d) The preparation of my heart
(e) My level of gifting or training in preaching
(f) My ability to conceive and develop ideas
Have you read two or more homiletics books that give a step-by-step process for sermon preparation (see further reading below)? Do you use one of the systems, or have you modified it for your personal style of preparation?
Do you have a routine regarding the stages of Bible study, sermonizing, the writing of a manuscript, and so on? Do you have a routine regarding the ratio of time given to each of these stages?
Have you created a personal checklist for the ingredients you consider important in a sermon? Do you continue to develop this checklist as you learn more about preaching?
Are you bored with your own sermons? Are you in a preparation rut? Have you tried another style of preaching?
Logistics of place and schedule
Do you have a consistent time and place for preparation that is conducive to study and prayer?
Are you protected from interruptions during preparation? Have you trained your staff and church to protect your study time?
Do you allow enough time for preparation, or is something in the process usually getting short shrift? Do you typically give enough time to preparing your conclusions (If time is short, this is usually what gets neglected)?
What is your theology of preparation as it relates to how the preacher and the Holy Spirit cooperate in the process? Do you wrestle over what to preach every week? Do you procrastinate? Do you plan a preaching schedule beyond the immediate sermon or series? Do you plan a year of preaching?
How helpful is your library?
Do you have a list of books and resources you plan to purchase to upgrade it?
Do you read reviews of commentaries and other study resources?
Do you have a plan for how to raise money for resources?
Does your church budget for your library purchases? Have you asked the church to do so?
Do you pray throughout preparation, or only as you begin? Do you feel God's presence and inspiration as you prepare?
Do you feel that God is leading you regarding what topics or texts to preach?
How strong is your daily devotional Bible reading?
How strong is your discipline of Bible memorization and meditation?
How strong is your personal prayer life?
How strong are your other spiritual disciplines of fasting, solitude, and so on?
Gifting and training
Have you considered taking more classes in preaching?
Do you attend preaching conferences, or purchase recordings of them?
Have you considered reading a preaching book each year?
Do you read the weekly preaching skills article in PreachingToday.com?
How would you describe your gifting as a preacher: strong, average, weak, nonexistent? Are you confident you are truly called to preach? If you do not have a gift or calling for preaching, in what other roles could you serve the church?
Conceiving and developing ideas
Do you read others' sermons for stimulation and ideas? When you use others' ideas, do you cite sources when necessary?
Do you have a discipline of reading books and magazines (aside from sermon preparation) that feed your mind, spirit, and imagination? Do you read theology, fiction, biography, and history?
Do you have a system for finding and capturing sermon illustrations and ideas?
Have you created a checklist of key questions to ask when developing an idea or Scripture? (For example, what does this teach us about God? What does this teach us about human need? What does this teach us about the gospel?)
Do you know what questions your favorite preachers ask when they develop ideas?
Do you read book, movie, and article titles to stimulate your creativity?
Do you discuss your sermon ideas with others?
Where to go from here
Of the six main areas above, which needs the most attention?
For at least two weeks, pray for wisdom about how to improve in this area. As growth steps come to mind, record them.
Pray too that God will make your sermon preparation not only more fruitful, but also more joyful—that it will be a time in which you draw closer to the Lord and manifest his glory. Think about what would bring that about.
Pray that God will give you the desire to work hard in sermon preparation. Meditate on John 21:15–17.
When you feel that you have the wisdom you need, plan, set goals, and prioritize your to-do list.
Share your plans with trusted friends and family, and ask them to check-in with you over time on how your plans are proceeding.
Pray for grace and strength to pursue your plans.
When you feel that you have made good progress in this area, follow the same process with the second of the six areas above that most needs improvement.