New Year is around the corner and you are thinking about your weight, the books you promised yourself you would read, the relationship that you let go fallow, and other such New Years Resolutions. Can we put a few preaching ideas into your mind to consider? The New Year is a great time to evaluate where you are in the middle of the preaching calendar, make mid year adjustments, and look forward toward a new calendar year of preaching growth and faithfulness.
Here are a few resolutions to consider:
1. Start every sermon two weeks before you preach them. Starting a sermon really doesn’t take that much time. It can begin with a five minute brainstorm on a notecard or yellow pad. It could begin with a first cursory reading of the text, or a glance at the interlinear. But the beauty of the human mind is that it keeps working on open projects (like sermons) even when we do not tell it to do so. The reason you come up with ideas in the shower is often because you went to bed thinking about it, you dreamed about it, your brain reintegrated things as you awoke, and the calming effect of the showers brought the pieces together. What if you could make those shower moments of insight happen more often? You can! Just start thinking about sermons sooner.
2. Never let anyone hear you preach your sermon the first time. Preaching is an oral/aural art form. In other words, it isn’t text and it isn’t manuscript and it isn’t outline. It happens in the electric space between the lips of the preacher and the hearts of the listeners. Preacher is verbal. Preaching is performative. Imagine going to a play where the first time it was ever practiced was in front of you. Imagine listening to a concert where the music had never been performed from A to Z before. Preaching almost always flows better, makes more sense, and becomes more compelling when the sermon is honed out loud, practiced but not memorized.
3. Include others in your preaching preparation. Every year my preaching students are forced into “preaching groups” where they pray for each other, study passages together, and woodshed sermonic ideas together. When they are dry and uninspired, they turn to their preaching groups. When a passage seems to be heretical or abusive, they turn to their preaching groups. When they are not sure if an illustration will be helpful or distracting, they turn to their preaching groups. Each year my students tell me the most significant portion of their preaching experience was a preaching group. One of those groups that started in 2006 is still running strong. They still support each other, pray for each other, brainstorm sermons together, and help each other pick up their lives when they fall apart. And yes, their lives have fallen apart here and there. Do you have a preaching group? Why not make 2014 the year to start one.
If you make one of these resolutions for your preaching this year, let us know how it goes. If you have a different resolution you plan to make, let us know about that too.
May God give you the best preaching year of your ministerial life, this year.