Sermon Preparation

There is no evidence in the New Testament that any pastor/elder/overseer ever prepared a weekly oration/sermon, complete with neatly-prepared points and illustrations all written down in outline form, as is the practice of many modern ministers. Certainly none of us could imagine Jesus doing such a thing! Teaching in the early church was more spontaneous and interactive, following the Jewish style, rather than oratory, as was the practice of the Greeks and Romans, a tradition that was eventually adopted by the church when it became institutionalized. If Jesus told His disciples not to prepare a defense when they were called into court, promising that the Holy Spirit would give them spontaneous, irrefutable words, we would expect that God would be able to help pastors in church gatherings to some degree!

This is not to say that ministers should not prepare themselves by praying and studying. Paul admonished Timothy:

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15).

Ministers who follow Paul’s instruction to “let the word of Christ richly dwell within you” (Col. 3:16) will be so full of God’s Word that they will be able to teach from their “overflow.” So dear pastor, the important thing is that you immerse yourself in the Bible. If you are knowledgeable and passionate about your topic, very little other preparation is really necessary to communicate God’s truth. Additionally, if you teach verse by verse, you can simply use each consecutive verse as your outline. Your preparation should then consist of prayerfully meditating on the verses of Scripture you will be teaching. If you pastor a house church, the interactive nature of teaching will even more so lessen the need for sermon outlines.

The minister who has faith for God to help him as he teaches will be rewarded with God’s help. So trust less in yourself, your preparation and your notes, and more on the Lord. Gradually, as you gain faith and confidence, prepare fewer sermon notes, until you can get along with just a skeleton outline or no outline at all.

The one who is self-conscious before others is the most likely to depend on prepared notes because he is so afraid of making a public mistake. He needs to realize that his fear is rooted in insecurity that is rooted in pride. He would be better to be less worried about how he appears in the eyes of people and be more concerned of how he and his audience appear in God’s eyes. No prepared speech can move listeners like a heart-felt, Spirit-anointed teaching. Think of how communication would be hindered if everyone used prepared notes for all their conversations! Conversation would die! An unrehearsed conversational style comes across as much more sincere than a prepared oration. Teaching is not acting. It is imparting truth. We all know when we are just hearing a speech, and when we do, we have a tendency to automatically tune out.