S.M. Lockridge was a prominent African American preacher who served as the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in San Diego, California during the 1900’s. He was well-known for his passionate preaching style and spoke an often-repeated phrase from one of his Easter messages, “It’s Friday…but Sunday’s coming.” This statement is true regarding Easter and the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, but rings true every Monday morning for a preacher. The highs of preaching a sermon on Sunday are quickly met with the realities that come on Monday knowing another sermon is needed in less than a week. With this in mind, it is important the preacher has a plan, a method, or an approach to his weekly sermon preparation. Let me state up front – this is an IDEAL week. The demands of life and ministry often require adjustments, but having a plan in advance will keep you prepared when Sunday morning comes.
I am a part of a preaching team that preaches at different services on different campuses, but we all operate using the same text, same title, and same sermon series. Having a sermon series is helpful not only for the person hearing the sermon, but also helpful for the preacher. He can approach each week ready to prepare instead of trying to figure out what to preach. Assuming the text, title, and topic are identified, here is a sample outline of my weekly preparation schedule:
This is primarily a day of recovery and gathering. I use the term “recovery” because a preacher is coming off of the emotions and experiences of the day before. In light of this, I refrain from any intense studying or thinking and work on any follow-up items from the weekend. From there, I move toward gathering my resources for the upcoming weekend. This involves pulling commentaries, books, files, illustrations, and other sermons. I use the following resources as my primary “go to” spots to find my study and support material:
- Logos Bible Software – I own the Gold package with many additional commentary sets added
- bestcommentaries.com – helps identify the best commentaries and study material for each individual book
- Evernote – contains a filing system of articles, blog posts, illustration material, files tagged for various passages and topics
- Personal books – each book has passages and topics written into the table of contents for each chapter so I can find and access them later if it has information specific to my passage
This is a day of meetings (staff, personal, planning, etc), so little thought is given to the weekend sermon.
This is a big study day. Since I already have my material ready, I simply cut and paste the passage into a blank Word document with each verse spaced out from the other to allow room for notes. Then, through the process of personal study of the passage and reading support material (commentaries, word studies, theology books), I make notes on each individual verse. As ideas come to me such as illustrations, message direction, or even questions of the text, I will type those into the Word document directly under the verse. I never want to assume a thought or idea isn’t useful to the direction of my message, so I always record it. It is my goal to go through most or all of my personal study and support material by lunch, leaving me with a fairly good idea of the passage with answers to questions that have come up from my study.
This is an intense day of framing my message. In the morning, I transition from my academic study to the shaping and framing of the sermon. I read over other sermons on the passage (sermon databases available in Logos Bible Software, Preaching Source) and make notes in the same larger document used on Wednesday. As I read and develop ideas for illustrations or preaching points, I record them and begin to formulate the message direction.
On Thursday afternoon, I focus on the structure of the message. I develop a detailed sermon outline, including an introduction, transitions, preaching points, illustrations, and a conclusion. I spend a significant amount of time identifying the purpose of the message, but once this is articulated and crafted, the sermon outline flows more naturally from it.
This is a writing day. I manuscript all of my messages which helps me determine the length of the sermon, helps the media team craft screen support, and helps prepare me for future opportunities to preach on this passage again. The actual writing out of the message comes rather quickly (1.5-2.5 hours), assuming my detailed outline is thorough. Once the message is written, I will read over it a few times, make necessary changes, and evaluate it for length and flow.
I rarely, if ever, look at the message on Saturday. This lets me be fully present with my family. There is confidence in knowing the work has been done and deters me from feeling like it needs more tweaking or changing.
I arrive early to church and spend time reading over my message at least 4-5 times. Occasionally, I preach certain sections out loud to myself, but my main goal is to get the sermon into my heart and mind before delivering it. I pray as I read over the message, asking God to use it and guide me in my delivery. I want to master the manuscript, not memorize it. While I use it and read from it at times, I try to preach as free from notes as possible.
Ultimately, a preacher needs to find his own rhythm of preparation that suits his schedule, personality, and style best. There is no ‘perfect’ method, but everyone needs a plan because…as the great preacher said, “Sunday’s coming.”