Sundays come around with an alarming regularity. That is the truth. For most pastors, the most discouraging day of the week is Monday when they realize they must craft another sermon for the following weekend. Thankfully, for me, I have discovered a rhythm of study and preparation that takes a lot of the weight off me.
My study week begins on Monday when I read through the text for the following Sunday. My goal on Monday is to read the text as if it were my first time. I hope to read and hear these sacred and ancient stories with new eyes and ears and not with the senses of someone who already knows the details and ending of every story. I believe the Scriptures are continuously articulated and all of us can hear and understand if we are listening.
Tuesday morning, I meet with a small study team that helps me explore the differing theological viewpoints of the text. We challenge each other and talk about different commentaries written by scholars like N.T. Wright, John Stott, William Willimon, and Lloyd Ogilvie, among others. This meeting launches me into my morning of study and prayer that wraps up around noon.
After more study and prayer on Wednesday, I try to have a rough outline ready for a late morning meeting with a sermon prep team that is made up of a diverse group including men and women, young and experienced. At the beginning of the meeting we pray, and then I try to give the big ideas of the message in 5-10 minutes. After I finish, there are three rules:
1. They can give me any feedback they want. I would rather hear that the sermon is off base on Wednesday than on Sunday afternoon.
2. I do not have to take any of their advice. I would, of course, be foolish not to listen and consider all of it, though.
3. If I do take their input, they get no public credit from the stage on Sunday. I tell them their reward will be in heaven.
A meeting like this requires that pastors get over a great deal of insecurities and really allow for honest conversations that will only help us communicate to a multi-generational audience more clearly.
Thursday mornings are set aside for more study and prayer, with the goal of having a mostly finished outline by noon that I can submit to our team. I love that I still have two days for the message to simmer like a good stew. Hopefully, when Sunday arrives, the message is a good meal.