Why Sermon Preparation is Important

February 4th, 2013
"Don't waste our time." — People in the pews

I was about half a year into my first full-time ministry position. I was the Pastor of English Ministries at a Korean church in Aiea, HI. Our college worship service was at an awkward time at 4pm on Sundays. So Sundays were always long, and I was looking forward to going home, especially this particular Sunday because I knew the sermon I gave that day wasn’t my best. It wasn’t because of a lack of effort. It just didn’t seem to connect with anyone, including me. Something was missing. But I was too drained to figure out what it was.

I’ll go over it tomorrow, I thought as my wife and I got into our car. Before I could even put the key into the ignition, my wife looked over and asked, “What was that?”

“What do you mean?” I responded.

“The sermon. I mean, what was that? Today, not only did you waste my time, but you wasted God’s time.”

Ouch.

I didn’t know how to respond. I mean, I knew that it wasn’t my best, but I didn’t think I was wasting God’s time. I drove off in silence. It was good to know that I had someone in my life to keep me grounded and humbled.

At that particular time, her words shocked me. I'd never heard anyone say anything like that, let alone to me. It’s been years since my wife told me that (and I love to tell this story any chance I get). The shock has long subsided, but those words remain in my heart. Not in a hurtful manner or as a scar, mind you, but as a reminder. A reminder that the sermon is a very important part of the worship experience and it is a responsibility that shouldn't be taken lightly.

I’ve been through too many worship services where the sermons were, at best, an afterthought of the entire worship service. And I know how judgmental and critical that sounds. But it’s true. We’ve all experienced a bad sermon.

There are preachers who consistently preach bad sermons. And it's not because they're bad preachers—it's because of lack of preparation. I know pastors who consistently put off working on their sermons until the very last possible moment. Perhaps it is because they believe they work best under pressure, so they spend the week thinking that the Spirit is stewing a sermon within them. Maybe they know that preaching is not their strongest gift and the biggest source of stress in their week, so they wait until the last possible minute to work on it. 

Whatever the reason, many of our sermons are probably not as good as they could be. 

Sundays have become the most competitive time in our culture. Sports clubs and leagues happen on Sunday morning. Many people are exhausted, so Sundays have become their day for rest and sleeping in, and during the fall and winter, the NFL dominates Sundays. Unfortunately, churches now have stiff “competition” on Sundays that we never had before.

So we as pastors and church leaders need to strive for excellence every Sunday morning, giving all that we can. I’m not saying we need to be entertaining church folks, but it would be helpful if people come to church thinking, I wonder what the preacher’s going to say instead of, I hope the sermon’s real short, I've got tee time at one.

We have a wonderful opportunity (and a great responsibility) of presenting God’s Words. We have 15-50 minutes each Sunday (depending on your church) to inspire, teach, rebuke (with grace), challenge, train, to make people laugh and/or cry, to provoke thoughts, and to start conversations. And it’s a sin if we take that opportunity for granted and don't put effort, prayer, and study into our sermon crafting.

I’m not saying we need to hit home runs every Sunday—not even the best preachers do that—but we do need to be consistent. Consistently good.

We live in a culture where information is everywhere. If you struggle with preaching or you’re struggling with a passage or topic, Google it. Or browse through Ministry Matters. There are resources everywhere. Many people will disagree with this next thought, but if it comes down to it, use someone else’s sermon, because that’s better than giving one that's uninspired and ill-prepared.

Each Sunday morning is a unique opportunity for every preacher. So by and through God’s grace, let’s make the best of it.

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