I have had the privilege of preaching many times over the years.
I remember the first times I preached … I was extremely nervous. I had planned and studied and crafted it so well, that when I delivered it, it lasted a whopping 20 minutes long. I was aiming for at least twice that.
Preaching is a funny thing. Much like music style at church, there is a preaching style that is preferred. I have tried to change my style to fit in ways that people needed to hear.I used to spend hours preparing not only the studying portion of the message, but the presentation. That presentation would include the notes and the visual aspect (stuff on slides). I usually would wait until the last hours to produce the “visuals” and then stay up to the wee hours of the morn finalizing that … then going to the church to make the final copies. Ugh.
I have a routine/habit for preaching that tends to go like this.
- Decide on a topic
- Spend time researching the topic
- Realize that I didn’t pray enough and jumped the gun
- Allow God to direct me to a topic or passage of Scripture
- Read the passages on the topic or the passage in context
- Read the passages in a BIGGER context
- Think through logical points (based on research)
- Take a break and play some kind of game or do something to distract me
- Create outline that makes sense
- Think that I don’t have enough to last for 40-50 minutes, so prepare more and repeat steps above
- Re-create outline
- Realize that I have to much to go with so trim
- Re-create outline
- Study more because now it doesn’t seem enough (again) …. repeat these steps a few time
- Usually on Saturday I pull my final stuff together and then go to church to practice in my head (not outloud) trying to get the message outline in my head
- Freak because it is either to short or too long
- Go through outline making edits
- Normally I take a nap in the sanctuary (not necessarily on purpose, I just lay down trying to go through the major points in my head and end up sleeping in between praying and preparing) … oh yeah, I didn’t mention this but I really do a lot of praying throughout trying to make sure that I am listening to what God might have me change and to make sure when I preach, it is His words being spoken but within my personality/style.
- After the nap (I mean prayer and outlining) I usually play around on the piano and think how fun it would be to be a rock star.
- Then I go over the message a couple more times and then realize that the whole message is dumb because I haven’t spent nearly enough time making sure that I am allowing God to guide my thoughts and just created MY outline.
- Get up and read the passage in a bigger context to make sure it is fitting the point of the original author and that it is focused on Jesus.
- Before going back home, finish printing the final outline and visuals.
- Go back home and go to bed (usually Mer is sleeping by then ’cause it’s laaaate in the night/eeeeearly in the morning. While sleeping I am praying and going through the outline.
- Wake up in the AM, get coffee and something in my stomach resembling a breakfast that is not greasy.
- Go to church and if early enough stand on the platform and try to think through who might show up, pray for them and go through the message.
The last time I preached though … I didn’t follow my 567 step routine. I was sick. I had a final go/no-go decision to make by Saturday afternoon and at that moment I felt ok. Later that night I was sick. It was the worst that I have “presented” a message in years. What upsets me the most was my reaction though. I know that when I preached I presented our need for Jesus (if anyone who was there didn’t hear about Jesus, let me know so I am not off base), I was more upset at my presentation of it. That is just wrong. I should be satisfied that Jesus was preached (as in we are sinners and need a way out of our sinful condition so we can actually begin a relationship with God … all of that is done through Jesus who took our place for the penalty of sin … if we believe that, we can begin that relationship). I had thought I got beyond the “Randy is a good preacher” phase … but I guess not. I would honestly be ok (at this moment) if I never receive a compliment again. The only comments I really want to hear are “wow … I saw Jesus” or “That’s what God is?” or even “I want Jesus”.
I do recognize that to honor Jesus more with my skills, I do need to put some time into my “Craft” of preaching. I don’t want to just stand up and say “Jesus”. I need to develop a reason for him … sometimes just simply showing what He did so others can develop a love or appreciation for Him. But I don’t want the focus of my preaching to be about me. Nor do I want the focus of what I preach to be about whatever people want to hear – like popular topics, or how we should feel good about ourselves, or certain theology. All preaching should be focused on Jesus.