Saturday, May 30, 2009

Preachers: Please Sweat out the Text

I learned long ago that the process of studying and praying about and writing a sermon is different for me every week. Tonight (Saturday) I am still working through a few parts of the message for tomorrow morning - and reflected once again on a post by Erik Raymond from May 08, 2009 that was both encouraging and helpful to me at times such as this.

If you are a preacher then you know that you are never really ‘ready’ to preach. Preachers could always use more time in prayer, further meditation upon the text and to reconsider appropriate application. However, the time eventually comes when we must take that walk from our seat among God’s people to stand behind a pulpit and proclaim the everlasting word of God. It is at this point that you must be as ready to do what God has called you to do.

Why do some guys walk to the pulpit and from first word to last seems to be clicking, dripping with passion, demonstrating some brokenness, and a visible burden for their people to ‘get it’? While others are able to deliver a biblically faithful message but seem to lack that extra ‘something’ that makes a good sermon different?

I think it comes down to what one is doing in the pulpit. There is a difference between being a lecturer and a preacher. A lecturer may get all of the points correct, be elegant, engage you with humor, and even give you something to think about as you leave. The preacher, on the other hand, has been powerfully affected by the truth that he is proclaiming. He himself has spent a considerable time canvassing his own heart for agreement with the text’s proposition. Where there is a deviation from the divine will the preacher has bent his own will through prayer and meditation that he might be aligned with heaven in truth. Furthermore, the preacher is one who has worn out a path to the throne of grace petitioning for the hearts of his people to ‘get it’. The preacher is convinced of the urgency and power of the message; he really believes that what he is about to say is exactly what God wants these people to hear, therefore, it is the most important thing in the world for them to attend to at that very moment.

To put it simply: the preacher is the one who has personally bought the importance of the text, prayerfully applied it to himself and then, convinced of its importance, wants to deliver it to the congregation.

In my own preparation I think of this whole process through the image of sweat. We are all familiar with sweat, it is a fact of life. In my preparation I want to apply the passage deep into my soul, prayerfully dispatching it to the far ends of my heart. Once the text is ‘in me’ and I have seen the importance of it for myself and for the glory of God, then I am closer to being ready to preach. When I do preach what comes out? Eloquent quotes? A running commentary on the text? Funny jokes? No! Instead I am sweating out the proposition of the text, the power and greatness of God in it, personal brokenness for my own sin and those of the people, and a genuine, bible-dripping zeal for us all to get it and live it.

My encouragement to preachers is to not preach until you are ready to sweat the text out. Anyone can put in the requisite hours in the chair, do the research, craft a sermon and deliver the message. However, it takes a man called by God to wrestle with God in the text and who will not refuse to let go of the text until God promises to bless him and his people. If you are a preacher, be that guy. Spend your week marinating in the text and then on Sunday morning sweat out the glory, greatness and obedience provoking beauty of God in the passage.

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