The Preacher’s Clock: Anticipation

clock2For the last couple of days I’ve been pondering issues of procrastination and preparation.  But it is also important to consider anticipation.

Anticipating Future Preaching – The whole issue of preparation cycles is important.  Robinson taught us that a five-day cycle was not long enough and he was right.  This is only exacerbated by delays as you can end up with a message on Saturday night that has one night and one breakfast time to be embedded in your life as a preacher.  That is hardly long enough to scratch the surface of personalizing experience of the message or forming any sort of conviction.  You may know the material, but only in the head.  A longer cycle allows for the Bible passage to do some work in you and on you, the preacher.  But it could be argued that even a 10-day cycle is not really long enough if the goal is to let the message become part of your own life and experience.

This is why it is helpful to anticipate preaching for weeks or even months.  Obviously you can’t be preparing months worth of sermons in any detail at all.  However, knowing that a series is coming ahead of time does allow for an initial reading, some initial prayerful pondering, etc.  I am considering preaching through Colossians later in the year.  Awareness of that series, even without any sort of extensive study, can influence my life and thinking now.  By the time the series comes, there should be some deeper rootedness in my heart and life.

Anticipating Future Interruption – Any talk of schedules and delays must also lead us to ponder the possibility of future interruption.  Could there be a pastoral crisis, family illness, broken kitchen appliance, car trouble, unexpected guest or excessive administration between now and the sermon.  I suspect there might be.  That is why we need to build in margin to the schedule, rather than cramming things into every corner and relying on a smooth run through the week.  This isn’t easy for most of us, especially when it means saying no to ministry invitations, but there is no other way to avoid seasons of overwhelming stress than to say no to things before the crisis emerges.

5 thoughts on “The Preacher’s Clock: Anticipation

  1. Hello, Peter. Re: Anticipating Future Interruption, when I was in university, I was quite close to a man who was an elder in a very large and well-known church. He mentioned to me, when they were hiring a new pastor, that they had put in his contract that he was expected to be eight weeks ahead in his sermon preparation so that he would have sufficient margin for even very large and extended crises.

    Seemed excessive to me, and still does. But I also never forgot the principle, and I think you are absolutely right that having a margin for this is very important. Things happen on Fridays and Saturdays.

  2. I recently found your blog and have been following it for a few weeks. I enjoy the thought provoking and sometimes challenging posts. I would be interested to see some thoughts and/or discussion about how some of these ideas intersects with those of us in bivocational ministry. There are many “tent making” brethren out there who find it difficult to balance work, ministry, family, and other duites while striving to faithfully preach the Word.

    • Thanks Jeff – I certainly will ponder again some of the dynamics of bi-vocational ministry. I have written in respect to that in the past, but am happy to revisit and stir my own thinking in that area again.

    • Jeff, just one thought. I’m a “tentmaker,” too, and I find it far, far better to “get ahead.” Just one aspect — when you’re turning the sermon over in your mind all week because you already have the general flow of it by the beginning of the week, the illustrations and effective wording just “come” to you throughout the week.

      I spend less time on preparation when I’m ahead, because the things that I might tear my hair out over on Saturday came to me through the week as I was driving, walking, lying in bed, showering, whatever. Mundane tasks become also sermon prep time, when you are well ahead.

      • Jon,
        I have found the same thing true in my own life. In the early days of my ministry, I had a certain routine when it came to working on my messages on certain days. At an associational meeting, there was an aged pastor who said he was once challeneged by another preacher who said that when ever he went home on Sunday night, he began praying about what to preach the next week. That challeneged me too, and so while I don’t usually pray as intensely early on, I do seek the Lord’s guidance earlier in the week than I used to. In my experience, the Holy Spirit starts some of those ideas simmering, sometimes when I’m not really aware of them. But then when it comes time to put the ideas on paper, they tend to be much more developed than they used to be. It’s hard to explain.

        The worst, though, is when you pray and it seems as if Heaven is silent. I may be alone in that experience, but it is not good.

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