By Wayne McDill
Little of any value comes to pass without someone planning it. I like the saying we use in discussing sermon purpose: “Aim at nothing and you’re sure to hit it.” We can use that same idea for planning: “Plan for nothing and you’re sure to accomplish it.” Planning is an essential part of the way life works in this world. God created the universe in such a way that planning fits. This includes, of course, planning for every aspect of your preaching. Here are some reasons for the importance of planning in your preaching program.
- The lordship of Christ calls for the discipline of planning. Being under the rule of our Lord calls for continual choices on our part. At every point we want to seek his will. Even so, you and I have great freedom under the lordship of Christ. We are the ones making the choices. His reign will be a reality in our experience to the extent we choose it. This truth applies to our preaching ministry as well. If we are to honor Christ in preaching, we will have to take an intentional approach to it. We never stumble into the will of God or drift into it. We move into it intentionally because we plan to do so.
- The priority of the preaching task calls for planning. Of all the tasks to be done in ministry, preaching is surely one of the most important. There is no other aspect of the pastoral work that has as much potential good as preaching. What else does the pastor do in any other half hour that can affect as many people in a positive way? Even though preachers usually rank preaching as one of their most important responsibilities, they usually admit that they do not give it priority in their use of time. That discrepancy can only be corrected by careful planning.
- Planning is vital to the well-being of the preacher. A positive and enthusiastic attitude toward your ministry can be spoiled quickly by another poor sermon. This discouragement and guilt then affect the preacher’s attitude about the whole of his ministry. Preaching is too close to the heart of the preacher’s calling and commitments to be done poorly without serious regrets. Planning carefully will change those regrets into rejoicing.
- The needs of the preacher’s family call for careful planning in his preaching ministry. By this I do not mean our families need to hear good preaching from us. I rather mean they deserve our undivided attention at those hours when “family time” is the agenda. When the family is home in the evening, the preacher should not have to think about a sermon. Careful planning and preparation allow us the freedom to give them our full attention.
- The needs of the congregation call for careful planning. The pastor is not only a preacher. He is also counselor, chaplain, friend, referee, administrator, and teacher. Whatever we do, however, our preaching and teaching will provide the overall conceptual framework for ministry. It is there we interpret the Christian life and the mission of the church. It is there we address the people at the point of their personal needs. Without careful planning this preaching ministry will not touch those needs.
- The time pressures of the pastorate require the pastor to plan his preaching carefully. There is always more to do than can be done in any pastoral role. These secondary tasks will dominate the time needed for sermon preparation. The pastor can give adequate time to sermon preparation only if he plans on it. In fact, he must plan for more than he can get by with because of the interruptions and emergencies that will inevitably come. Without careful planning he will all too often find himself with the “Saturday night panics.”
- The call for excellence in ministry requires careful planning. No one answers God’s call to ministry with the intention of doing a poor job. This is the most important work in the world. Lives hang in the balance. A great price has been paid to make the ministry of Christ a reality. We must give it our best. But to do so will call for planning. Again, we never drift into excellence.
Adapted from 12 Essential Skills for Great Preaching by Wayne McDill (B&H Publishing Group, 2006)