“How Did You Know I Need this Message Today?”

Tuesday is for Preaching

Had an experience this past week that confirmed again the effectiveness of a rigorous plan with regard to a preaching calendar. For years, I have advocated to my students that they plan six months to a year ahead. I preached a message last week on a text that was selected and scheduled 9 months ago when I began laying out my preaching calendar for the year.

BehindPreacher'sDoor cover webFor me, this process is always a great time of study and prayer and listening to the Spirit of God and the input of our elders, leaders and staff as well as the threads that pop up in pastoral care and counseling. All of that input from the body of the Risen Lord, I take into a prayer retreat where I ask a couple of questions in a particular order:

  1. “Lord, what are you saying to your people and what do you want to say next?”
  2. Then I listen.
  3. I read the word.
  4. I listen some more with an open Bible.
  5. I pray.
  6. I listen some more with an open Bible.
  7. I begin to write down what I sense the Lord saying.
  8. I pray some more.
  9. Now it’s time to start writing with a new question.
  10. “What books of the Bible deal with these themes?”

Eventually, I settle on a book or books of the Bible and begin to plot out the preaching portions. This latter process may take a few weeks but eventually I will add another 6 months to a year to my preaching calendar. I try to alternate Old Testament and New Testament books. The plan will also include breaks for month long series’ focused on Christmas and Easter.

There is still a long way to go, background studies, contextual and historical analysis, getting familiar with the overall argument of the book, reading and rereading and rereading the book to set the flow in my own heart …. eventually a calendar is planned and laid out with texts for weeks and months of separately and independently titled series’.

The week of a particular message comes and it is studied and brooded over and meditated on and organized into a form that carries the freight of the text to the doors of a congregation’s heart. At that point, the prayers of the congregation and the elders and the preacher unlocks the door and the Holy Spirit changes hearts.

And then the moment is past and someone comes up and says, “How did you know that this is what our hearts needed today?” And you listen to the story of their last week, the sorrow and heartache and confusion of a soul wrestling with God over sin and its effects. And before you speak, your own heart is filled with praise for a God who six months ago, nine months ago, caused you hear something from him that sent you to this text, for this particular day, for this family.

And then you answer: “I’m not that smart. I didn’t know. But your God did. He knew from eternity past what you would need this day and six months ago he set me on a path to this text, for this day, for your heart, that you would lift up your heart and give him praise even in the midst of sorrow. Isn’t our God a great God?”

Another reason to love expository preaching.

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