It’s Saturday night and you have no idea what the sermon is going to be about in the morning. For the average layperson, it’s no biggie! But the catch is, you’re the pastor and you’re scheduled to preach. So what should you be doing in order to be prepared for preaching sermons on Sunday mornings?
Before we get into how to prepare to preach the Word of God, let’s make one thing clear. This Sunday’s prep began weeks ago, maybe even months ago. No matter your level of organization, if you have been called to the pastoral life, then you have a responsibility to be prepared. Additionally, God’s people are counting on you to be ready to preach God’s Word in a way that matches their level of preparedness to hear it. (How congregants prepare for Sunday morning is another blog post.)
Here are four things every pastor should do before preaching sermons on Sunday.
It’s not an afterthought, something you do simply because someone may ask if you have prayed about what you are going to talk about. It’s not something you add on afterward as if it’s the salt seasoning on a steak that’s already cooked. It’s also not a rote step you take in order to check off all the boxes for sermon preparation.
We should always remember this is God’s Word we are preaching. That means the sermons we preach do not really belong to us. Pastors are simply the mouthpiece God chooses to speak through when conveying His Gospel to His people. Wouldn’t you agree that discovering what God is interested in conveying to His Church is more than just a step we take?
When we pray, it should be with a keen desire to know God’s heart. Opening our own hearts to God and His desires will reveal a wellspring of ideas to encourage and challenge our church family.
Study the Word.
You probably wouldn’t be interested in presenting a treatise on the migration patterns of South American birds, unless you’re a practicing ornithologist. Even then, you better have done your research if you want to present your material intelligently. Likewise, a pastor’s passion and preparation will be evident to those who are listening.
Many of us have heard pastors read a lot of scripture on a Sunday morning and only offer some passing thoughts on how it might be applied. Preaching sermons that enlighten the hearers on the background of the text, how it was likely interpreted by the original audience, and how we can faithfully apply its truth to our own lives is much more beneficial. We bet you already know how this kind of teaching is presented and have experienced how it is received.
A pastor must study the Word, and not like a student desperately trying to survive the final at the end of a semester. Your calling should be matched with a fervent desire to present the Gospel in a way that refreshes Christians to keep going and invites non-Christians to learn more. Because the Word of God is like a multi-faceted jewel whose value can never be fully understood, your preparation will always be more beneficial than anything that is shared on a Sunday morning.
A pastor must study the Word of God, over and over and over again. If you prepare with a hard copy of the scriptures, the pages should be weathered. If you’re studying with a digital copy, your fingers should almost be able to type the text without any conscious thought. Be familiar with the Word, and allow it to be familiar with you.
“A desire to preach without a burden to study is a desire to perform.” – H. B. Charles
Search for Current Trends.
It is very likely that most of your radars went up because we just suggested searching for trends right along with studying the Scriptures. Rest easy and be assured we’re not talking about using the latest TikTok trends to prepare your next sermon. After all, those trends will likely change by the time you preach this coming Sunday.
We are talking about becoming a student of the people you serve and teach. What are they struggling with right now? What encouragement do they need to hear? What areas of their Christian faith do they need to be pushed toward further growth? While a pastor preaching sermons on Sunday morning cannot be expected to share something that is intensely personal to everyone in the congregation, it is reasonable to have an idea of what’s happening in the world when you step into the pulpit.
Does a current event have people asking questions about what the Bible has to say about a particular topic? Is there a struggle that appears to be common amongst the people? We read Paul telling Timothy that “Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) If we believe this is true, then we can be convinced there is scripture to be shared in any situation that will be of benefit to the hearer.
The trends are as diverse as the churches we serve in. What does your community of believers need to hear? Share that.
Prepare Your Own Heart.
If we were to tell you that you needed to live out a truth perfectly before preaching sermons to your congregation, very few sermons would ever be preached. Edit: Very few sermons would have been preached with a clear conscience. While maturity in Christ is certainly an admirable goal, we also understand that the more we grow in our faith, the more we realize our need to grow.
When we consider the sermons that have been the most powerful, it has been those where the impact has been evident on both the speaker and the hearer. To be prepared for Sunday morning, you must ensure your own heart has been softened. Far be it from us to be the traveling salesman who doesn’t believe in the product he’s selling. Allow the Word of God to have an impact on you, and then share that impact with your congregation.
As noted above, learning how to prepare to preach the Word of God involves time. If you haven’t taken the time yet, carve out time soon so you can plan farther ahead than this Sunday. A detailed plan that spans ahead several months need not be set in stone. But as you prayerfully consider what scriptures to teach, you can also allow those scriptures to saturate your own life, ensuring you are ready to share God’s Word best with His people.
The preparation and presentation of God’s Word to others is a great responsibility. The privilege of preaching sermons should be met with serious study. Grace Theological Seminary offers various degrees to match your interests and your station in life. Learn more about the Master’s of Divinity with a pastoral studies concentration. Our programs are priced to be affordable and scheduled to fit within your ministry schedule.