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In 2010 LifeWay Research found that Protestant pastors devote more time to sermon preparation than anything else they do—and that's good news.
Only 7% dedicate less than 5 hours a week, which is a smaller number than the 9% who dedicate more than 25 hours per week to sermon preparation.
That's a lot of time out of a pastor's work-week. With 65% of pastors working at least 50 hours a week, that indicates to us that the average pastor is dedicating a significant amount of time in sermon preparation.
I want to affirm their energies and effort. The preaching of God's Word matters greatly. It is difficult to underestimate the importance of the pulpit ministry.
Hebrews 4:12 reminds us, "For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart." Beyond that, Romans 10:17 points out, "faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ." This is extremely important.
What we say in the pulpit is used by the Holy Spirit to transform people's lives, and lead them to be like Jesus.
It is because of this important priority that I think sermon research tools are invaluable assets to assisting a pastor to teach and preach well. Language tools, commentaries, Bible dictionaries, software, and so many other options are excellent resources and should be taken advantage by the busy pastor. I know a little bit about this pressure because I serve as a volunteer, unpaid pastor at Grace Church. I use them regularly, but want to use them efficiently.
In my role as volunteer pastor, I have three primary responsibilities. I preach most Sundays, I lead a small group, and I lead the staff of Grace Church. This is in addition to my job—my primary work responsibility—at LifeWay, which occupies most of my time. So, as I prepare to preach each week, I use a variety of these tools to help insure that I am preaching the word of God with accuracy and confidence.
One tool that I have used for quite a while now is a sermon researcher.
On occasion, using a sermon researcher has been given a bad name, which is unfortunate as a good sermon researcher can be an incredibly helpful part of the process, when used with integrity. If you have a bad impression of sermon researchers, it may be due to a wrong impression of what they do.
Right up front it needs to be said that a good sermon researcher does not write sermons. I think some have a perception that lazy pastors who do not want to write their own messages are "cheating" by getting others to do it for them. The truth is, this is almost never the case with a real sermon researcher (downloads off the Internet are another story).
A good sermon researcher is more like a living, breathing language resource, commentary, Bible dictionary, and so much more, and even better, they are able to customize and personalize this research-help package it in a way that is most easily used to each person. When used correctly, a sermon researcher is like the use of any other sermon research tool that you can acquire and which almost every pastor uses on a weekly basis. The researcher just gathers it all in one place, in a helpful brief.
At LifeWay Research we are relentlessly trying to create tools that serve the church and help advance the gospel. Recognizing that sermon research is a vital element of the pastor's responsibilities, and understanding just how precious the pastor's time also is, we have decided to create a sermon research tool to help serve pastors.
We set out to develop a tool that is trustworthy, customizable and one that serves them in their pursuit of faithful preaching. Out of this desire has come PROtheo. PROtheo is a sermon research tool that is powered by LifeWay Research. We provide personalized, customizable sermon research, delivered when you want it, to come alongside you and assist you as you prepare to preach.
The researcher team will provide a briefing of commentary, theology, linguistics, illustrations, and even an occasional statistic to help you prepare the message God is calling you to prepare.
If you are interested in sermon research assistance, we would love to talk to you about it. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.