The preacher’s new year’s resolutions #8
I will pray my sermon for myself
You liar! You say to your congregation “Of course, I have preached this to myself first.” It rolls off the tongue. But it is untrue. You have spent the week thinking about all the people in the church who need to hear this message, but you have neglected your own heart. Take out the plank, brother! Make sure that as you prepare the sermon, you really do preach it to yourself. The test is whether it is shaping your prayers for yourself or not.
Resolved: I will pray my sermon for myself
The preacher’s new year’s resolutions #7
I will not work on my sermon on Saturday night
It’s been a busy week. And there’s always something more I can work on. So Saturday night comes around, that most precious of times, and I lock myself in my study and I work and work on my message for the next day. At 2am I crawl into bed beside my wife who mutters, “What time is it?” to which I respond, “oh, not late….”
Mr Preacher, you need the discipline to work on your sermon before Saturday night and then the courage to put it to bed knowing preaching is ultimately a spiritual task. You need a good night’s rest before the exacting task of preaching God’s word to God’s people.
Resolved: I will not work on my sermon on Saturday night.
The preacher’s new year’s resolutions #6
I will study the passage before opening a commentary
I am currently studying 1 Samuel and I have some wonderful commentaries. This book is particularly richly served with the NICOT volume (Tsumura) and the Apollos volume (Firth) particularly strong. And oh! The temptation to turn first to the commentary as though I’m sitting in one of their lectures taking copious notes. The temptation to allow them to form my opinions rather than working on the text myself, seeing patterns, asking questions – and using the commentaries as a help and check. This is the way to let the word do its work in me.
Resolved: I will study the passage before opening a commentary
The preacher’s new year’s resolutions #5
I will let someone trusted give me some feedback
How is your preaching, Mr Preacher? I don’t just mean content. I mean also style. How does it go down with people in the congregation? I mean, is it the right level? Can people understand? Is it well and appropriately illustrated? Is it engaging? Do you talk too fast? Is your delivery laboured? This is the kind of on-the-spot feedback you need, and you need someone to give it to you. Do not so set yourself above the congregation that you are unable (and the congregation feel unable) to participate. Find a fellow leader, a young person, a new Christian and ask them for some input.
Resolved: I will let someone trusted give me some feedback
The preacher’s new year’s resolutions #4
I will pray after my preaching
How do you feel after your preaching? Job done? Relieved? Tired? All of the above? Me too. So you spend an hour chatting and saying goodbye. You trek home and then there are people for lunch, then it’s the evening meeting. When did you last pray after your sermon? We long for the seed to be sown on good soil, so there is a place for praying against the enemy taking the seed away and praying that the thorns and weeds would not choke the word.
Resolved: I will pray after my preaching
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The preacher’s new year’s resolutions #3
I will pray over my sermon
We are paid, as someone once put it, to preach and to pray. Read Acts 6 again, Mr Preacher. We are set aside for the ministry of the word and for prayer and it will not surprise you to know that these two are not unconnected. Some people separate out pastoral prayer from praying for preaching, but I find the easiest way to pray for my people is to pray the sermon for them in the week they are on my list. Moreover, my sermon needs to be bathed in prayer. You could take the advice of one experienced preacher and take your manuscript out for a walk, praying and reading as you go. From time to time I’ve physically laid out my sermon before God (Isaiah 37:14). You may think that’s a bit quirky and you may be right, but it focuses my mind on praying for the sermon in particular. Find your own way.
Resolved: I will pray over my sermon.
The preacher’s new year’s resolutions #2
I will have been studying a passage before the week before the sermon
Pity the preacher who wakes up on Monday morning and this is the first time he’s ever looked at the text. I can’t understand that. Not least because every text has a context in which it is sited and that includes what comes before and what comes after. I don’t think what comes after should be particularly shaping the entirety of our sermons, but it must count for something. And how can you hope to present the message from a book faithfully if the whole book has not seeped into your bloodstream?
Different preachers do this different ways. I study a whole book before I preach it, perhaps six months before. That may or may not be your way. But the resolution still stands.
Resolved: I will have been studying a passage before the week before the sermon
The preacher’s new year’s resolutions #1
Seeing as it is new year, here is a short series on some appropriate new year’s resolutions for preachers. All can only be done, of course, in the grace of God. But, that said, may he grant you the will and determination to be approved before him. These are in no particular order.
I will think about the original text
We sometimes forget how good our Bible translations are. We spend too much time, I think, picking little holes in them to the detriment of our preaching and our people’s confidence. Nevertheless, they are not infallible and a preacher should surely prepare his sermon with at least a nod to the original languages.
My language skills are not great, I admit. But I have tried hard to understand at least how languages work so I can give some thought to original languages using some helpful tools. I hope you do the same. As the UCCF basis of faith puts it, we believe in the inerrancy of the Scriptures as originally given and so the faithful preacher will think about Greek and Hebrew.
Resolved: I will think about the original text.
We're closing down the blog for Christmas, and – may I suggest – you should be closing down your blog reading too. Take a break, get a rest, see the family and be refreshed ready for the new year. If you are preaching over Christmas, as many of you will be, then our prayer for you is the same for those of us who are preaching here – that the Spirit of Christ would be at work in faithful exposition to help people see Christ, believe in him and so come to the Father.
From all of us here, we wish you a very peaceful Christmas time.
Just one last thought: make sure you don't miss the greatest lost verse of a carol ever….. Wesley knew his stuff and this is a verse worth including:
Come, Desire of nations, come,
make in us your humble home!
Rise, the woman's conquering Seed,
bruise in us the serpent's head.
Adam's likeness now efface,
stamp your image in its place:
second Adam from above,
Give us life; impart your love.
Hark! The herald angels sing:
Glory to the new-born King!