Extended Sermonic Incubation

I’ve been struck again recently by the challenge of regular preaching.  Sometimes regular preachers might look with envy at those who only get to preach every two or three months.  Weeks on end to ponder a passage before preaching it.  For too many of us, the sermon for next Sunday is not really considered until the Tuesday before (and for some, later than that).

A friend recently suggested that without enough incubation time, the preacher will end up preaching while they have a mass of information accumulated, like a firework box of ideas going off all over the place.  Better to give it the necessary time for your heart and mind to stabilize and settle on the main idea of the passage.  Amen.

Then there’s another reason for preparing over a longer period of time.  It simply takes time for passages to work in our lives, as God’s Spirit moves in us using that Word on which we are dwelling.  So if you start your preparation on Saturday night, there is no time for the passage to be truly owned, because it has really gripped you.  It hasn’t.  You may be excited to preach it, but it hasn’t got hold of you and worked itself out yet.  So five days is better than one.

But ten days is better than five.  Haddon Robinson advocates the notion of doing the first day’s worth of passage reading and study in the Thursday of the week before you start preparing the sermon (day’s worth may not equate to eight hours, of course, it may only be one or two).  Then you press on with this week’s sermon prep, before returning to it the following Monday or Tuesday.  Perhaps refer to yesterday’s PEPPERS approach to reviewing the text for added blessing!

Several weeks are better than ten days.  As well as the above approach, I really appreciate knowing what passage I’ll be preaching on in a month or two or even longer.  Knowing that I’ll be preaching on Mark, or Acts, or Proverbs, or whatever, allows me to pick at the text and gradually accumulate over the course of time – accumulating not only helpful resources, articles, illustrations, etc., but accumulating the experience of that text starting to work in my life.

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2 thoughts on “Extended Sermonic Incubation

  1. I think this is a powerful tool. Not only does it make the sermon better but it makes the sermon preached in between better because the preacher has a better idea of where the text is going and is bearing fruit from that passage already.

    What advice would you give to a preacher who is currently on a 5-day sermon prep schedule to gradually shift to a longer-term schedule without sacrificing this week’s sermon?

    • Hi Dave – I suppose the simple step would be to gradually introduce the “previous Thursday” by taking an hour to look at the following week’s passage. That can gradually increase over time. Too simple?

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