It is easy to grow tired of pushing ourselves as preachers. After all, as the years pass by we are increasingly familiar with Bible texts and can prepare to preach them with less time required. Equally, as the years pass by we grow increasingly busy in respect to life and ministry. Factors combine to make sermon preparation get squeezed.
Let me nudge you to take the opportunity to stretch yourself with your next sermon. Carve out the time and add a few hours to the early part of your preparation. Don’t rush to the message formation phase, but linger longer in the text. Some suggestions:
1. Take the time to read the section or book more than you would normally do so. Extra exposure to the text will never hurt and could be enlightening as you move past the “familiarity” sensation to the “I see clearly” sensation.
2. Take the time to work your way through the text in the original language. Some preachers are diligent with original language work, but many have let it go from whatever level they were at in the past. Why not break out the text books and see what you can discover. For instance, why not take whatever grammar texts you have and check the scripture index for your passage? I often find this helpful with Daniel Wallace, for instance. Why not work with the text for a while until you can read through it in the original? Why not translate carefully at least a key verse or two? If you do this and more on a regular basis, great, but many do not.
3. Take the time to have a conversation with a partner or two. Perhaps you have access to a flesh and blood discussion partner who will engage you in the text. Perhaps you want to get a scholar or three off your shelf and have an out loud conversation with them about the text. It is too easy to rush to message formation and miss out on the sharpening that can come through robust discussion. As I prepare for this weekend’s sermon, I am enjoying listening to a fairly technical lecture from a solid Greek scholar. So, can you list the technical issues in the text that you won’t be referencing overtly in your sermon?
4. Take the time to memorize the text and pray through it. Perhaps you used to memorize, but haven’t done so in a long time. That muscle will soon strengthen if you use it. Memorize the text early on in the process and see the benefits as you meditate during the rest of the week’s preparation.