My family and I moved from High Point, North Carolina to Dallas, Texas in March. The “settling in” process has taken far longer than we imagined. Losing one of our children in a pile of boxes is no longer a threat, but there are still at least a dozen boxes that remain unopened.
When we visited our hometown in the North Georgia mountains for the first time since the move, the comfort in not needing Google Maps was a welcome surprise. I was no longer at the mercy of a tinny robotic voice for my every turn. I had driven these paths countless dozens of times, and the turns were second nature. My mind could rest, and the green scenes of fields and mountains soothed my soul.
In these early weeks and months of my first senior pastorate, my sermon preparation process has provided a comfort similar to that of those well-worn country roads back home.
I still feel like I need a GPS to get around the church. Just a couple of weeks ago, I walked into a section of the facilities that I had never seen before! That feeling goes beyond just the physical campus of the church facilities. In these first months, I have leaned heavily upon the guidance of veteran staff and long-time members to navigate learning the ministries, history, processes, policies, and people of this wonderful church.
Surrounded by so much that is new and unknown, the well-known contours of my sermon preparation process have provided a welcome comfort. Power in the Pulpit by Jerry Vines and Jim Shaddix was the first preaching handbook I read. As an MDiv student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, I followed their guidance and experienced the immediate power of following a preaching process. Now, in this topsy-turvy season of learning a new pastorate, my convictions about the importance of a consistent process for preparing sermons have only grown.
I take one day a week to do sermon prep out of the office. My “home office” presently doubles as our master closet. Like one of the Pevensie children pressing through a coat-filled wardrobe into a new land, I squeeze past boxes and hanging clothes toward a small pine-wood Ikea table scattered with commentaries. As I dive into the familiar steps of my preaching process, nothing short of a Narnian reprieve rises up within me.
3 Benefits of a Preaching Process
If you already follow a consistent preaching process you know its power; my purpose here is to strengthen your conviction. If you do not, I hope to help you see the power of a preaching process by briefly mentioning three benefits. Many more could be listed but stability, integrity, and quality rise to the top of my list.
Benefit 1: Stability
Even when you are not in the “early days” of a ministry calling, life and ministry are crazy. Rarely will you have a completely normal week where your schedule goes exactly as planned. A consistent process for preparing sermons will provide stability amidst life’s beautiful chaos.
Benefit 2: Integrity
Guarding your schedule to ensure adequate preparation time is essential but difficult. In spite of your best efforts, weeks still happen when ministry demands press in and sermon prep time is cut short. In those weeks the temptation is to skip ahead to outlining and writing the sermon. But you know that skipping or short-changing prayerful exegesis and study is never a wise move. The steps of a trustworthy preaching process stand guard to ensure the biblical integrity of your sermon. When time is short, even if you can’t spend the amount of time you would like on each step, the discipline of spending at least some time on each step helps ensure faithfulness to the text.
Benefit 3: Quality
It is well-advised to be content not “hitting a home run” with every sermon. While that advice helps relieve the pressure of performance, you still want to be as excellent as possible. God deserves excellence. Further, relevant communication of the gospel demands excellence. While perfection is an impossible burden for which to strive, excellence is attainable through consistent and diligent effort. The steps of a sound preaching process ensure consistent quality. You will surely have “off weeks” where your sermon isn’t what you’d like it to be. But rest assured, even your “off weeks” will be better if you’ve followed a trusted method.
Where to Find a Sound Preaching Process to Follow?
We are immensely blessed today by the number of preaching handbooks in print. The framework and heart of my process still reflect the one prescribed by Vines and Shaddix. Over the course of the decade, since I first read their work, I have tweaked and adapted my process with insights from other books and listening to sermons. Over time, work your way through the wealth of expository preaching texts available today, preach the Word, and make your process your own. Whatever you do, be sure not to miss out on the power of using a consistent preaching process.
. . . . . . . . . .
 See for example Daniel L. Akin, David Lewis Allen, and Ned Lee Mathews, eds., Text-Driven Preaching: God’s Word at the Heart of Every Sermon (Nashville, Tenn: B & H Academic, 2010); Daniel L. Akin, Bill Curtis, and Stephen Nelson Rummage, Engaging Exposition (Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2011); Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon, Third Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2018); Michael Fabarez, Preaching That Changes Lives (Nashville, TN: T. Nelson Publishers, 2002); Robby Gallaty and Steven Smith, Preaching for the Rest of Us: Essentials for Text-Driven Preaching (Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2018); Tony Merida, The Christ-Centered Expositor: A Field Guide for Word-Driven Disciple Makers (Nashville, TN: B & H Academic, 2016); Ramesh Richard, Preparing Expository Sermons: A Seven-Step Method for Biblical Preaching (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2001).