Haddon Robinson was on target when he suggested the weekly cycle of sermon preparation is too short. Starting on Tuesday for the following Sunday is not soon enough and can messages under-cooked and preachers without the time for the message to be working authenticity into their experience. Robinson suggests putting in some preparation the Thursday of the week before. I think he is on target.
But what about when things go the other way and preparation gets squeezed?
I have a personal principle on this issue. If I genuinely have had unforeseen delays and have to prepare at the last minute, then I ask God for help and know that He understands. But then there is a second part to it too – if I have procrastinated and end up preparing at the last minute, then I confess that, ask for forgiveness and still ask God for help.
The first part of the principle has been forged in the relatively gentle furnace of family life and missions organization participation, and in recent years by the busy schedule created by combining ministry roles. Sometimes life happens and there is no way to prepare as you would like. God understands this. Last minute preparation is not ideal, but it is possible and it is still better to prepare as much as you can, rather than not prepare at all.
The second part of the principle is because I am human. I admire people with perfect track records in the area of self-discipline (but I also doubt them!) Rather than make up excuses and try to convince myself that I genuinely could not prepare fully due to life circumstances, I would rather be honest and admit when I have allowed other things, often very good things, to distract me from what was needed as a ministry deadline loomed. I may have lacked self-discipline, I may even have succumbed to some tempting distraction, but I don’t want to succumb to another temptation and seek to justify my procrastination. Hence, I sometimes have to repent and ask for forgiveness and then prepare at the last minute.
Let’s all be marked by the last fruit of the Spirit in our ministry preparation, making the most of every opportunity to preach the Word as good stewards of the privilege. And let’s be real with God and ourselves when we fail. Let us neither abuse grace, nor reject it.