By Brandon Hiltibidal
Raise your hand if you’ve ever decided on Saturday what to preach on Sunday.
My hand is raised. My head is lowered.
When I was a younger preacher, I thought not planning ahead for sermons was holy. I wanted God to speak through me, so I was afraid to prepare much to say myself. Thankfully, a leader in my life said something to me I’ve never forgotten. He said, “The same Holy Spirit who works through your presentation can work through your preparation.”
Yes, there certainly are times when we should preach a sermon God impressed upon us the day before, or even the morning of.
But it’s OK to work ahead. In fact, it’s wise. Here are three kingdom-shaping reasons to approach sermon prep through long-range planning.
1. Align more ministry to your messages.
The “pick your passage the morning of” method won’t stop the impact of God’s Word, but it can hurt the impact of other ministries in your church. When you plan sermons six or 12 months out, you have time to line up the work of multiple ministries, leverage the creativity of multiple teams, and execute ideas with excellence.
When you know you’re preaching a passage on biblical community in four months, you have four months to prepare the entire service to push people into new groups.
Advance planning allows your worship and tech team to choose songs and visuals that undergird the sermon topic or series. Your groups ministry can plan content to complement the message.
Setting long-term teaching plans helps your ministry team make informed and intentional decisions with plenty of time to execute well.
2. Deliver balanced sermon content.The same Holy Spirit who works through your sermon presentation can work through your sermon preparation.Most preachers have preferred topics and themes with which they are most comfortable. The problem with sermon non-planning is the tendency to rerun our favorites or fly to our comfort zones. This is not only boring for the body, but it leads to an imbalanced approach to the Bible.
Our churches need God’s whole Word, and when we discipline ourselves to prepare months in advance, we lead ourselves to lead our people to a fuller biblical experience.
3. See the Holy Spirit at work.
We don’t know the future. That’s not a point of debate. But should we allow our lack of omniscience impact our sermon planning? Since we don’t know what will happen in our world and in our church nine months from now, shouldn’t we wait and see before we plan and preach?
No. We don’t have to wait, because we don’t have to know. The God who lives within us as we plan holds the future in His hand.
The answer then is, don’t wait to prepare, but don’t prepare alone. Whether you work with other team members or alone at your desk, pray more than you plan. Ask God to lead your heart as He leads His church and you’ll be amazed how often the sermon you set a year in advance is the right Word for the right hearts on the right day.
BRANDON HILTIBIDAL serves with the Groups Ministry team at LifeWay. He is also an elder and a member of the preaching team at The Bridge Church in Middle Tennessee.