The young pastor must be a preacher! Preaching demands preparation–adequate preparation, Holy Spirit-anointed preparation, preparation that produces spiritual fruit. Such fruit does not just happen. The young preacher absolutely must devote constant attention to sermon preparation. When one sermon is completed, the mind and heart must begin to plan the next message. Attention to sermon preparation and preaching can be divided into four essential categories.
First, young preachers must be readers. Read three books at a time—one in the study, one in the vehicle, and one at home. I personally prefer to underline words and statements with colored ink. Keep a record of the books you read. Write a short description about the book. Read all types of books.
Second, purchase books regularly…not just any and every book, but books that can benefit the ministry. Of course, the Bible should receive the major attention. However, commentaries on the entire Bible or individual books greatly assist sermon preparation.
When preaching expository sermons, a pastor should purchase several books on that specific book of the Bible. Over a period of years, a large library can be developed. Some preachers purchase books of sermons. They may produce an idea for a sermon or a series of messages. But as Floyd Bresee once stated, “A sermon is like a toothbrush; use your own.”
A filing system reserves material for use during the entire ministry. File at least these categories:
- Subjects from A to Z (such as abortion, baby dedication, colleges, etc.)
- Bible doctrines
- Current subjects (such as sociological trends, church music, magazine articles, etc.)
- Personal information (letters, church operations, etc.)
Your filing system can be as simple as a cardboard box, as practical as a two-drawer filing cabinet, or as complex as a self-indexing computer program. The key is to be organized so you can put your hand on what you are looking for in a matter of seconds. Filing material on a daily basis will keep the system ready to use whenever needed. (As you open the mail, file anything you may use later. Drop the rest in the trashcan.)
Some preachers use index cards, others use a 7 x 9 notebook, while others use an 8.5 x 11 notebook. It does not matter. Simply determine the size and stick with it. By the 20th year of preaching, you will have notebooks full of sermons. While you may keep digital files on your computer, a paper copy remains the most secure computer backup!
Be sure to write where and when the sermon was preached on the back of each message. Pastors who preach through books or subjects of the Bible will accumulate hundreds of messages quickly. If a Sunday School class needs a last-second substitute one Sunday, the young pastor will have subject matter at his fingertips and be prepared to teach the class.
E. M. Bounds wrote several books on prayer. The young preacher should get all of these books and read them regularly throughout the entire ministry. Bounds’ books give excellent direction for sermon preparation. His writings usually bring heavy conviction to the man of God. Practicing his powerful plan produces better preachers.
About the Writer: Dennis Wiggs retired in 2004 after many years in ministry.
Adapted from Contact magazine, March 2000.