I have heard a couple of figures quoted recently for the amount of time required to prepare a sermon. One said 25 hours and the other 15 hours. So how long should I give in preparing to preach a sermon? Here are some thoughts:-
The Whole of my Life.
God has so arranged that the declaring of His Word is through human channels. He could send angels, He could have declared the message Himself. But no it is through humans that He has ordained that the Word should come. And these human beings preach out of the reality of their lives. They are not postmen just carrying a letter which fundamentally has nothing to do with them. Rather they are mothers set to deliver that which has grown inside them. The baby emerges with the hallmarks of the mother all over it. Likewise the man who preaches produces a message out of who he is. The challenge in all this is for the preacher to be continually having a life immersed in God so that, that which emerges in his preaching is imbued with godliness. So his sermon is not only faithful to Scripture, but is permeated by the essence of godliness because a godly man has preached it. And godly men only emerge when they are 24/7 giving themselves to the Lord.
A strong impression of all this happening is found in Haggai 1:12-13 when we read
Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord. Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, gave this message of the Lord to the people: ‘I am with you,’ declares the Lord.
As long as It Takes
The naming of a certain recommended duration for the preparation of a sermon is to me unhelpful. It causes other preachers to become unnecessarily introspective about how long they take themselves. Here are some thoughts:-
- Every preacher is different. Some digest information more quickly than others.
- Every sermon is different. I have most definitely had the experience, although it has been very rare, of having a sermon given to me by the Lord. It was then a matter of tinkering with that which had been presented to me.
- Does meditating on the sermon in the bath get included in the time?
- Amount of time does not equal effective time. Sitting in front of books does not mean I am preparing. So we must know ourselves. I for one operate with short bursts of study and then I do something else.
- Your wife, or someone who is close enough to tell you straight will tell you whether you are taking enough time to prepare.
- When preaching you are not taking time to prepare a work of art. You are wanting a message from God anointed by Him. When a message comes from the Lord it may not be perfectly formed, but it has His stamp on it. The messages of Amos, the sheep farmer and Hosea, the baker were not necessarily perfectly formed. but they were mightily of God.
- However, as we read in 2 Timothy we should be careful in handling God’s Word. Paul says to Timothy. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Tim. 2:15). There is no room for casualness in preparing to preach God’s Word.
- I wonder how long Wesley and Whitefield, for example, spent in preparing a sermon? With the amount they were doing I cannot think it was an extensive period.
- Don’t spend all your time in your study. You also need to meet the people you are preaching to so that you can preach effectively.
So prepare your whole life to preach and prepare the message to be preached. The first takes the whole of life the second takes as long as it takes. So don’t be intimidated by those who specify a length of time.