PREACHING IS HARD, BUT WHAT IF YOUR SERMON PREP COULD BE…EASIER?
Preaching is challenging in a variety of ways. But what happens when this sacred task falls to someone with little or no experience? What resources exist to help faithful, but untrained servants in congregations around the world preach from God’s Word?
Simple Preaching Prep is written to provide an uncomplicated, customizable sermon development model for preachers who are new or perhaps just looking for a new approach. Here author and pastor Mark Messmore demonstrates how to:
* Interview the Text
* Narrow the Focus
* State the Main Idea
* Include Supporting Material
* Deliver the Message
* Evaluate the Result
While preaching is hard, Simple Preaching Prep aims to help you finish your first sermon and flourish beyond.
Targeted Age Group:: 18+
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
Churches across America of all sizes and types are struggling to find, and keep, pastors. I wrote Simple Preaching Prep to guide new preachers (lay church leaders, students, etc) through one pastoral task; the important task of preaching.
“Don’t ever ask me to preach.” This in-jest statement came from a leader in my church. He laughed as he said it, but he was completely serious. He quickly followed up by saying, “You can ask me to do anything, but don’t ask me to preach.”
This man is both Biblically knowledgeable and fairly comfortable speaking in front of others. Nevertheless, when it came to this task of ministry we call preaching he was not interested.
To be fair, he is not alone with that attitude. I have been involved with churches for my entire life, and have been in full-time ministry since 2006. I have found many who share that sentiment. In my experience, many leaders are simply unwilling to preach. While we could discuss various reasons why I sum it up here by saying this: preaching is hard. That may seem obvious to some and overly dramatic to others, but consider for a moment the various challenges that come with preaching.
PREACHING IS HARD
Early in my preaching development, I agonized over messages. My wife, Kara, could tell you stories of how I stayed up at all hours of the night stressing over details, form, delivery, and so on. Though I have always loved to preach, for years the process of looking at a passage and developing a message was overwhelming. My mind would catastrophize the worst possible outcomes. What if I do not make sense? What if I am boring? What if I accidentally misspeak and unwittingly inspire someone to start a cult of llama-worshipping vegans who monopolize the world's coffee reserves and enslave millions because of our shared coffee addiction? Sure, that may sound ridiculous (and it is), but the pressure of standing before others and communicating on behalf of an all-powerful God can cause one to be a bit ridiculous.
Thus, whether you call it communicating, sharing the Word, or delivering a message, the act of preaching can be filled with challenges. And the challenges begin with the person staring back in the mirror. Yes, one of the major challenges you will face in preaching is none other than you, the preacher.
I do not mean to sound like a downer, but you are not a perfect messenger of God's Word. Neither am I. You are a fallen, broken, imperfect individual who has neither lived a pristine life nor can claim to be wholly righteous in whatever your topic may be. Add to that our public speaking quirks (which we all have), verbal crutches (which we all use), physical well-being (which may or may not be at peak performance on any given Sunday), and you have a dangerous mixture that can make us wish we had just decided to play a sermon from YouTube. You and I are imperfect beings, and when we preach, we do so on behalf of a holy and perfect God. That reality alone is humbling, terrifying, and exciting.
To complicate matters, you may have a distinct fear of speaking in front of people. If so, please recognize that you are not alone. It is estimated that 75% of the population experiences anxiety at the mere thought of public speaking.3 Thus, even reading this chapter may make you feel queasy. Unfortunately, I cannot offer you a quick-fix solution that will turn you into Billy Graham. However, the model presented in this book can help you feel more solidly prepared as you step to the stage.
Unfortunately, the difficulties of preaching do not end with you. One of the most significant challenges we face is also one of the very reasons we preach – the audience. Regardless if your audience is large or small, whether they are black, white, red, or yellow, no matter if they are old or young, the audience itself presents a challenge in preaching. Why? Because each individual is inherently unique from all the others.
Just as no two people have identical fingerprints, no two people have precisely the same likes, dislikes, preferences in music, attention spans, and so forth. Furthermore, even in a small group of people, there is likely a spectrum of spiritual maturity. Some in your audience may be quite close to God, while others may not yet know Him at all. Some may have rich spiritual disciplines of prayer, meditation, and studying of Scripture. Others may struggle to dedicate a few moments for their faith outside of Sunday mornings. Because of all these differences, every additional person you add to your audience exponentially increases your challenge of communication.
So, the preacher presents a challenge. The diversity of the audience presents a challenge, but our challenges in preaching do not end there. The technological age we live in also presents difficulties. I am not anti-technology. In fact, I openly embrace being a technology geek. Nevertheless, the endless presence of technology in our lives presents its own challenge.
For example, I often listen to messages by some of my favorite preachers while I am driving or running. When their talks inspire me, I make mental notes of illustrations, ideas, or approaches. Other times I just listen, allowing my soul to be fed. Yet when great preaching by world-class communicators can be accessed from the comfort of your couch, what does it take to make someone want to leave home and connect with my local congregation? Or, given today’s distractions, how do I keep someone engaged, even right in the room where I am preaching, so that they don’t shut me out in favor of using their cell phone to play a game or make their grocery list?
Please do not misunderstand me. My goal is not to be an entertainer or get wrapped up in the endless cycle of trying to impress people with my abilities. I do, however, want to preach in a way that makes a listener desire to come back and hear more about Jesus. I want to communicate in a way that helps someone connect God’s Word with their life. Technology is fantastic, but it can present a challenge.
Add to all this the additional realities of life, including distractions that prevent sufficient time to write a sermon, technical issues that come up during service, audience interruptions, including the sound of someone’s phone going off, the parent ID showing up on the screen, and more.
Preaching is hard! Some have even claimed that between the changing culture and the challenges above, preaching has become outdated or unnecessary in our technological world. Nevertheless, preaching continues to be the foolishness4 through which God changes lives, draws people to Jesus, and impacts the world.
Some may respond to these challenges by saying, “Just preach the Word!” While I certainly understand the underlying motive and Biblical principle behind the statement,5 the task of the preacher is neither to just read a text nor to solely disseminate information in a commentary-style fashion. Instead, the task of a preacher is to help listeners grow in their understanding of God’s Word and connecting it to their lives. To do this, preachers must set out to deliver messages that resonate both with those who are spiritually mature believers in Jesus, and those who are not yet Christ-followers.
Preaching is difficult and can be an exhausting practice of pouring out your heart, mind, and soul before others, but this sacred, beautiful, even sacramental act is one whose importance cannot be understated. We need preachers from all regions, from the inner city of Los Angeles to the rural communities of Mississippi, from the pristine suburbs of Albany, New York to the villages of Uganda. We need preachers who are willing to put in the work, time, and effort to communicate the message of Jesus.
My hope is that this book will encourage and assist you in becoming one of those preachers.
I delivered my first sermon at age fifteen, and I have continued learning about preaching ever since. This book is a culmination of lessons I have learned. From those first bits of instruction in the churches of my youth to the classrooms of Bible college to various conferences, workshops, and books. I have felt my calling lay not just in preaching and teaching but also in training others to preach and teach as well. Therefore, these pages do not necessarily contain new insights or revolutionary never-before-tried methods.6 Instead, here you will find pieces taken from various sources and mixed with my personal experiences, crafted into a model to help you begin your preaching journey.
To be clear, I do not expect every step in this book to click with every reader. The preaching process is a very personalized experience. Nevertheless, I hope this book provides you with a model to begin with that you can modify and adapt in ways that work more specifically for you.
Also, be aware that I will not cover every topic another preacher might emphasize. For example, I will take very little time to discuss prayer and personal integrity in these pages. Please do not take my lack of covering a topic to mean that I believe it unimportant. Both are incredibly vital! Prayer prepares the heart of the preacher and connects you with your Heavenly Father. Personal integrity, demonstrated over time, builds a relational bridge to those in the audience giving weight to the words you say.
Ultimately, I assume you are someone who loves Jesus and wishes to honor Him through the act of preaching.
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