2. Prayerfully Go Where The Passage Takes You
Over the last few decades I’ve learned to trust God’s Word more.
Here’s what I mean. For too many years, I started my sermon prep time with a pre-set idea of what I wanted to say. Then I’d find supporting passages for that premise. My premise. Not necessarily the passage’s premise.
I wasn't trusting God’s Word to speak to me. I was asking it to speak for me instead. (What Bible scholars call eisegesis, instead of exegesis).
I try not to do that any more. Now what I do is take the next passage in the series and sit with it for a while. I read it, pray over it, study it, meditate on it… and I write down everything that I find in it.
This method accomplishes two goals. First, it puts God’s Word back in charge of the process, not me. Second, it takes the pressure off me to create something new. I’m a discoverer, not an inventor.
Finding what’s already in the Bible passage is so much better than trying to make the passage say what I want it to say.
The best teachers are good learners. This process helps me be better at both.
3. Pre-Announce Next Week’s Passage Or Title
Every week for over 25 years I supplied two things for the bulletin – the title for this Sunday’s message and the title or passage for the following Sunday’s message.
This helped in two ways. First, it forced me to think at least a week in advance about the message. This reduced the Saturday Night Scramble significantly. Second, it gave the congregation a sense of place. It told them where we were heading, so they could follow along better.
4. Keep An Active Devotional Life
I wrote about this in a previous (and surprisingly controversial) post, Why I Don’t Go to the Bible to Find Sermon Material. That article has been re-posted and commented on in several other blogs, so I won’t go over the details again. But here’s the essence of it.
As pastors, we need to resist the temptation to treat the Bible as sermon material. It must always remain God’s Word to our own souls first. If we do that, God will speak to us through it. And when he does, we can take what he has said to us and pass it along to others.
This keeps us growing in our faith, passionate about God’s Word and (not surprisingly) far less likely to run out of great material to share with others.