We can all admit that life can be pretty busy and chaotic at times. There are deadlines at work, chores around the house, errands to run, time to spend with family, and so much more. The life of the pastor can also be busy. Between making visits, appointments with church members, community outreach, counseling sessions, family time, and devotion to his spiritual and physical health, a pastor’s life can be very busy.
In addition to the many commitments of a pastor, they are also called to preach God’s Word to their flock. Preachers of the gospel must be qualified in their ability to teach (1 Tim 3:3), and they are also charged to “rightly handle the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15). To be able to teach and rightly handle God’s Word requires the preacher to be dedicated, intentional, and faithful to study. In this article, I offer several reflections to consider in an effort to make time in the study a priority.
Schedule the Priority for Study
The old, yet familiar adage is true: “A failure to plan is a plan to fail.” Quoting Steven Convey, Matt Perman writes, “Don’t prioritize your schedule; schedule your priorities.” Matt Perman, What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 134. Preaching the Word of God is one of the highest privileges of the pastor (Acts 6:1–4), and he must intentionally prioritize time to study since so many things compete for his attention each week.
Designate blocks of time each week for time in the study. W. A. Criswell encouraged preachers, especially young preachers, to designate the morning for time spent in the study. W. A. Criswell, “Library Tour-Sermon Prep,” W. A. Criswell Sermon Library, accessed October 15, 2019, https://wacriswell.com/sermons/1996/library-tour-sermon-prep/. In the morning there are usually no committee meetings, no appointments with church members, no counseling sessions, and very few interruptions. However, every pastor’s schedule is different, so the morning will not work in every situation. The point is to find a time in the week that works best for you, schedule it, and then guard that time.
One of the best ways to make the most of your scheduled study time is to plan ahead in your preaching. Take a calendar, and plan out the sermon series for the next few weeks, months, or even years. Preach text-driven expository sermons through books of the Bible, and assign each periscope to a date on the calendar. This prevents the preacher from wondering what he’s going to preach each week.
Planning ahead in your preaching, however, does not mean you leave no room for flexibility. There will be times when you will need to take a break from the series in order to address some specific issue in the culture. H. B. Charles Jr. writes, “The preaching plans are made for the preacher, not preachers for the preaching plans.” H. B. Charles Jr., On Preaching: Personal and Pastoral Insights for the Preparation & Practice of Preaching (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014), 33–34. Don’t be too restricted by the preaching plan. Trust that God will use your planning, but also be sensitive to when He is leading you elsewhere.
Study During Your Study Time
You’ve planned out the next sermon series months in advance, you’ve scheduled the time to study, you’ve spent time in prayer asking God to teach you and give you insight into His Word, and now there’s only one thing left to do—study. This may sound simple and obvious, but sitting at a desk does not guarantee that you will actually study.
The enemy will do everything he can to distract and prevent you from studying so that the people of God will not hear the Word of God. Browsing through social media, checking the latest updates on your fantasy team, and being preoccupied with the pursuit of pleasure and entertainment are a few examples of how the enemy will try and distract you. Resist this temptation, remain focused, and commit to the study of God’s Word.
Rest in His Grace
Inevitably, there will be times in the ministry where it seems like there are not enough hours in the week. You will make hospital visits, tend to unanticipated circumstances, minister well to your people, and still you will see the hours of the week slip away. The stress and reality that “Sunday is coming” begins to set in, and you don’t know how your sermon will come together. It is in those times we are reminded to rest in His grace.
Shaddix and Vines speak into the lives of pastors when they say, “[God] will fill the gaps this world leaves in our lives due to circumstances beyond our control.” Jim Shaddix and Jerry Vines, Power in the Pulpit: How to Prepare and Deliver Expository Sermons, rev. ed. (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2017), 119. When the urgency of ministry pulls you away from your scheduled time for study, be faithful to minister to the flock, trust that God will be faithful, and rest in His grace. God sees and knows the hours you put into ministering to the flock, and He will give you the grace you need to remain faithful to those in the pew and when you stand to preach. Rest in His grace.
To be able to stand behind the sacred desk week after week and preach God’s Word to those whom He has trusted into our care is a blessing and a privilege. We are imperfect people called to proclaim His perfect truth. There is no such thing as a perfect sermon, but may we be faithful to prioritize time for study, plan ahead, be faithful to study, and rest in His grace when life’s circumstances change our plans.
Ryan Casey is the Student Pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Benton, Illinois, and an M.Div. student at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
|↑1||Matt Perman, What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms the Way You Get Things Done (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 134.|
|↑2||W. A. Criswell, “Library Tour-Sermon Prep,” W. A. Criswell Sermon Library, accessed October 15, 2019, https://wacriswell.com/sermons/1996/library-tour-sermon-prep/.|
|↑3||H. B. Charles Jr., On Preaching: Personal and Pastoral Insights for the Preparation & Practice of Preaching (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014), 33–34.|
|↑4||Jim Shaddix and Jerry Vines, Power in the Pulpit: How to Prepare and Deliver Expository Sermons, rev. ed. (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2017), 119.|