I’m often asked about the way I prepare my sermons. This is, by no means, a standard for all preachers. In fact, it may highlight the unique elements of my situation. But I pray that some of this might help young preachers as they think through their process.
(These questions came from a Ph.D. student who chose to investigate my preaching process. It was, by and large, a non-invasive investigation! Be sure to check out part 1: “Pastor J.D., who are your biggest preaching influences?”)
1. Can you describe the research phase of your sermon preparation?
It begins with the big picture—picking the content of the entire sermon series. This happens anywhere from 3 to 6 months prior to the start of a particular series. I consult with our Lead Researcher, our Communication Director, and several other key church leaders to determine what to preach. We ask questions like: What parts of Scripture have we not preached recently? What is going on in our church that requires pastoral leadership? What has God been teaching me and our leaders? Once we determine the general shape of the series, the research proper begins.
At the Summit, we alternate between marching right through a book of the Bible and doing more topical series. We feel that both are faithful methods of exegetical preaching. John Stott once borrowed the Apostle Paul’s imagery of the steward to describe the task of preaching. The steward, Stott says, isn’t in charge of the house or the children. That’s the master’s role. But the steward is given a measure of freedom with, for instance, choosing what the children will eat at any given meal. The master doesn’t want him to just grab the first eight items on the shelf and give them to his kids. The master actually wants the steward to use his wisdom and creativity to choose from among all the possible ingredients, making sure to combine them so the children of the house get all of the nutrients they need.