I realized early in my ministry that I wasn’t doing God, myself or my congregation a favor to be stressing out on Saturday night trying to come up with something to say on Sunday morning. We’ve all had to develop those Saturday night specials when things get hectic, but as a pattern of ministry I have found it extremely rewarding to plan my preaching a year in advance. As the year draws to a close I try to set extended time aside to prayerfully consider what God would have me preach in the next 12 months. Keep in mind we are not to be presumptuous in our planning, we are not promised tomorrow. But if the Lord wills to leave us here, I want to have a plan. I also want to keep that plan submitted to the Lordship of Christ and the direction of the Holy Spirit. Plans change, but that is no excuse to avoid planning all together.
It seems wise to avoid thinking out the details because they will inevitably change as each actual service approaches. But it is prudent to plan the broad strokes for several reasons.
- Planning allows you to be sure that we do not get into a rut or develop “hobby horses”. Planning helps us to give the congregation a balanced diet of truth. The steady diet of my preaching is pure exposition of a book of the bible. In my opinion expositional preaching keeps us honest. We can’t avoid the hard stuff as so many are in the habit of doing. But I want to be careful as I choose the books from which to preach that I keep a balance of Gospel narrative, Pauline Epistles, Wisdom Literature, Prophetic writings from the Old Testament, etc. I’ve also recognized that it is helpful to do an occasion series in systematic theology to build up the congregation in a particular doctrine of the faith.
- Planning allows the rest of your team to work with you in communication a consistent truth on any given Sunday. I provide my preaching plan to our graphics department and our worship department so that they can plan their ministries accordingly. In doing so, each aspect of our service is Word driven.
- When you plan preaching you can also more effectively plan your study. I know I will be preaching through James, Nehemiah, a study of the End Times and 1st Corinthians in 2010. I know what the general outlines of those studies will look like. As I hear or conceptualize a useful illustration, I can go ahead and store it in an appropriate file that I will pull as I approach that section of the series. So every conversation, newspaper article, blog post, sermon, book, etc. is an opportunity to gather material for something I will be teaching in the coming year. So any given sermon isn’t made in a day or a week, but throughout the year.
- Last but not least it is one less thing to stress out about. It breaks my heart to hear a Pastor say, I’ve preached everything I know to preach and it must be time for me to move on. We are to give them the whole counsel of God, over and over, in season and out, with great patience. Give them the hard stuff, the deep stuff, the easy stuff, the convicting stuff – preach the Word! All of it, over and over. Then one day Jesus will appear and He will take it from there.