Behind on sermon prep? Look up, in and out

When I first became a senior pastor, I felt like a kid at a buffet—I had too much on my plate. I preached Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday nights as the senior pastor, though I was also the education minister, administrator, part-time janitor, and fill-in music minister.

Did I mention I was also in the final stages of my dissertation at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and my wife was pregnant with our third child?

Because this was a lot, efficiency in my sermon preparation was essential as the alternative would have been a dumpster fire. While we must figure out our own rhythms and work them, there were more times than I’d like to admit that I was up way too late on Saturday trying to finish before Sunday, and sometimes, I was still working on my sermon as the sermon began!

So what would I say to the busy pastor behind on his sermon preparation?

Look Up

It seems that prayer should be the persistent practice during a preacher’s preparation, but sadly, it is often neglected or outright ignored. When you feel that your sermon hasn’t had the attention it needs, look up and pray. Prayer isn’t passive; it’s a reminder to rely on the one you need to help craft the message.

Look In

At times, I’ve been so busy for the Lord that I haven’t spent time with the Lord. Even when busy, as a pastor, you have a responsibility to cultivate your own heart. If you’ve been busy, pause and examine your heart to see where your affections are for Jesus. If your heart is only 10 percent engaged with the Lord, you’ll be less than effective when you preach and lead.

Look Out

When I’ve been busy or in a hectic season, I remember the flock that God has called me to shepherd and consider their struggles and joys, pains and successes. Each story helps me think about my sermon (and ministry) with greater compassion and enthusiasm as I consider how a message will benefit them.

Michael Criner
Rock Hill Baptist Church in Brownsboro
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