Saturday’s post on plagiarism took me by surprise. Lots of chat for a Saturday. The challenge to preach and teach weekly, and often more than once, is far more challenging than most comprehend. I’m wondering what you do to keep yourself fresh and in condition to give your own sermons.
I begin by comparing my life with the preacher’s, but my life and the life of a preacher is not comparable. I don’t have committee meetings that can increase tensions in the church, I don’t have parents calling me about their children, and I don’t have funerals and weddings and other sorts of meetings that eat up time and emotion. I grouse, as you may recall, about Dept and Faculty meetings. The more I think about this, the less this analogy works. Still, I do teach and I preach (though not in the same location weekly — and that is really the problem, isn’t it?) and maybe a few observations will help you and trigger your comments on what can be done to avoid getting stale and keeping the sermon grind stimulating.
One more comment: I’m assuming you are not a pastor that has only one responsibility — teaching and preaching. If you do just preach and teach, our lifestyles are more similar than not.
I make the following suggestions and welcome your own:
1. Always be reading something outside sermon or lecture preparation in order to keep your mind active in another area — it stimulates and comes in handy in all kinds of situations. You can build a databank of ideas this way. Read biographies or whatever you like. Key here: read what you want and not what you think you should read to “keep up”. (By the way, no one “keeps up.” Forget it; never; no one; there are 5,000 or so books published in connection with the Bible per year; thousands of journal articles. No one digests it all. It would be another post to discuss responsible reading patterns, but the one that suggests we need to “keep up” is just not realistic. Pastors can’t possibly keep up in all the fields they enter: Bible, history, theology, leadership, discipleship, evangelism, missions, spiritual formation … .) So, as I was saying, read what you want as often as possible.
2. Get your ideas for your sermon on paper sooner rather than later: one of the major problems in preparing sermons is waiting until the last minute. Why not get your big ideas ready early in the week so they can ferment and brew? I know some pastors who are working weeks ahead on their sermons. Good for them; that way allows a fermentation to occur that really helps avoid “brain block” at the wrong moment. It surely helps them avoid swiping sermons from someone else.
3. Chat about sermons with your friends during the week, or your wife, or your fellow ministers — this way you get feedback and contributions from others. Pass your ideas by a favorite professor you had. Most of them love to hear from former students. Avoid thinking you are the only one who has anything to say or the only one who can interpret the Bible.
4. Work hard at having both “down time” and “quiet time” — down time means time when you are not working as a preacher/pastor. Quiet time doesn’t mean personal prayer but uninterrupted preparation time.
Well, these are my suggestions. Many of you will have others.