More than twenty years ago, when I was training to become a minister shortly after I obtained my doctoral degree from Harvard University, I learned an important concept still applicable today. In preparing a sermon to preach, the minister studies in two ways: one way to prepare the sermon, the other to prepare the preacher. The key to successful sermon preparation is being able to distinguish the two different types of content.
In our highly public world where privacy is rare, it is far too easy to forget that some insights and experiences are meant to prepare you as a person, not as a professional. While many personal spiritual insights and life experiences make for great sermon illustrations for those in the ministry, sometimes an insight or experience serves to quietly strengthen your own faith. This moment is meant for your prayer life, not your pulpit life. You can take your strengthened faith into the pulpit, but cherish the experience and treasure it in the domain of your prayer life.
If you are a minister, your pulpit life is on display, going out to an unknown audience on Facebook or perhaps even archived on YouTube. Thus, when time is short, it is easy to pour all your time into the public part of sermon preparation. However, it’s the unseen prayer life preparation that sustains ministry and preserves the health of the minister. Take care of what others do not see, and you’ll be better prepared to minister where others do see.
In what ways do you prepare for public ministry?