Somebody has likened (with all the necessary caveats and apologies) preaching to pregnancy. You know the elements of the analogy: something growing within, the building excitement, that something has to come out at a specific point in time, with the resulting post-delivery tiredness and even sometimes the post-partum blues.
Among other elements where the analogy breaks down, there is one that I’d like us to ponder today. The length of gestation. Real pregnancy has a consistency of length, preaching preparation doesn’t. It is easy to fall into a cycle of preaching preparation, from start to finish, taking only five to six days. This fits between Sundays, but it creates issues.
Is the message able to fully grow, and specifically, is it able to fully grow and work its way into your life if you’ve only been working on it for five days? “I’ve been studying this passage for the past few days. I’ve lived with it since Tuesday, and have been applying it consistently since yesterday morning. Listen to my powerful message from 24 hours of experience . . . ” We don’t say this when we preach, but sometimes we say it by our lives.
Haddon Robinson suggested using a ten-day preparation cycle. This means doing some preparatory exegetical work on the Thursday of the previous week. This give it time to stir in the heart and mind before launching into preparation in the week before preaching.
Some preachers suggest planning a preaching calendar a year in advance, allowing for time to do initial study, ongoing research/collection of information, and personal application. Some advocate taking a week to do preliminary work on all messages to be preached as part of this process.
What do you do? How long do you take to allow the message to grow, and to make sure it has time to make a mark on your life, before you commend it to others?
3 thoughts on “Extended Gestation”
I don’t preach consecutively, but I pick the topic/passge about 3 weeks before and I am thinking it over and listening to stuff on it for about two weeks, then in the final week I will start writing down all my thoughts on scrap and try and formulate a coherent talk with a title etc… I usually haven’t finalised it until the saturday before though.
I did a 3 week preach at a chruch which I found difficult. I had the passages all sorted out before the first session and I had been studying it for several weeks before hand any way. So I just worked on the detail of the individual passge/talk during the preceeding week.
I really struggle with studying and often find it easiser to be thinking about it as I am driving around…… I sue to put an awful lot of emphasis on the study with little associated prayer but as I get older I realise that there should be more prayer…….
I usually preach in 6 to 8 week series with 2 to 3 weeks between series. If I can, I have someone preach for me during the 2 to 3 week break between series and spend that time laying out the scope and sequence of my next series and doing pre-preparation on each of the messages. Then I return to each message the week before I preach it to do more in-depth preparation.
This process has really helped me. My only struggle is that since I preach from a short note page and not a manuscript, I will sometimes accidentally present information meant to be included in a future sermon during my current sermon since it’s already rattling around in my head!
Time is always the battle, but the longer you can give to any preparation, the better it is, not only for the speaker, but also for the listeners. Someone said way back when I was just beginning to preach that we should always be preparing, even if it isn’t for a specific message, and I believe he is right. As we read our Bible daily, as we read books, we should be taking what we read and be thinking about it, seeking to be applying it to our own personal lives first, and this can then build a foundation upon which we can later build messages. I have certainly been thankful for all the study I was able to put in when younger that is beginning to provide the preliminary material for the message preparation that I am now doing.