Prior to starting the church that I now pastor, I was an associate pastor at its mother church. I was not a regular preacher but I did get the opportunity to preach quite a bit. I had a certain rhythm that I would follow the week leading up to a preaching opportunity that included fine-tuning and final prep on Sunday mornings. When I started Christ Fellowship, I quickly realized that my pattern wasn’t going to continue working. I was no longer the associate pastor working in a specified area; I was the Senior Pastor, Lead Evangelist, Chief Strategist, Pastor of Discipleship, Pastor of Mission, and Pastoral Care Supervisor. As if that wasn’t enough, all of the time I used to spend on Sunday mornings fine-tuning and prepping was now spent setting up the worship space in a rented building. All of this meant that I needed to create a new way of preaching preparation as a church planter. So, I reworked my pattern continue to use this same pattern, 5 years later.
Annual Rhythm: Long Term Planning With Flexibility
Each Fall I go away for about a week to pray and plan out the sermon series I will preach the next year. I lay out each series, including scheduling the preaching calendar, brainstorming sermon titles, reviewing themes and scriptures, and an performing an initial exegesis of each text. I will usually leave one to two Sundays between series so that there is margin in the preaching calendar to speak to any concerns in the church, community or world that might come up throughout the year. This means we are well planned and prepared but still have room to address issues that might arise.
Weekly Rhythm: Mandatory Time for Sermon Preparation and Writing
The year is now laid out, and each sermon has some exegetical work already done. With this foundation in place, I block off Tuesday and Thursday mornings as sermon prep time. There are no meetings whatsoever on these two mornings. Tuesday morning is spent digging deep into the text, uncovering everything I can find, searching all of the literature and scholarly writing, picking illustrations, further developing the theme and beginning to put together the skeleton of the sermon. Thursday morning is when I finally put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).
Contextual Mindset: To Whom Are You Preaching?
This Thursday morning piece is where the church planter in me really comes out. This time is not as much about what I’m writing, as it is where I’m writing. I choose to write at a local bakery/coffee shop in our area rather than in my home office. My reasoning is found in the question I ask myself during my writing time: “Will this preach in here?” I find myself constantly looking around at the people gathered in that place – young, old, single, couples, various races and cultures. I’m asking myself if this sermon would communicate the word of God and the good news of the love, forgiveness and grace of Jesus Christ to the folks in this place, at this moment. If yes, then it’s ready to be preached in my church plant. If no, then I need to continue crafting the sermon. The point is, if people who aren’t in church don’t get the message then it likely needs to be re-worked. My week ends with some further revision and fine-tuning on Saturday night and finally preaching on Sunday.
I’m not saying that this is the way church planters should preach. I am saying that church planters owe it to those they are trying to reach to have a process in place that allows for diligent prayer, study, and reflection on whether or not the un-churched or disconnected will hear the message of the grace of God revealed in Jesus Christ. I pray God will show you what process will work best for you and the community you are trying to reach through your church plant.