Have you heard sermons that are so good that after you leave the service, you feel encouraged that you have heard the Word of God speak clearly and directly to you? It is most likely the case that the pastor has invested time in prayer with God, the indwelling Spirit; in study and deep reflection of the scriptures; and plain hard work into the writing of the sermon—either all three or some of these.
Are you one of those people, after hearing a sermon, know that your pastor has not invested any deep thought and hard work into sermon preparation? This can be somewhat disappointing for people who walk into a church expecting to hear a good word of encouragement but end up receiving nothing from the word except for some good feeling from the beautiful worship songs. As a layperson, I have experience this and asked myself: “Why do I want to come back to this church?” So I can relate to people who have been disappointed with church.
Lawrence W. Farris says that one temptation for some pastors is to go into the old barrel to pull out some old sermons because it saves time in preparation. One of the ten “commandments” that Farris, from his book Ten Commandments for Pastors New to a Congregation, brings up is: “Thou shalt attend to thy preaching.”
I haven’t been in the ministry for very long and am just barely getting started. I hope to be ordained in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada in the very near future. Anyway, I try to put in a lot of time into sermon preparation because the spoken word of God brings encouragement and life into people’s lives. People generally do not know how much time goes into a well-crafted sermon but from what I’ve read, some suggest an hour of preparation for each minute of sermon preached. Yikes!! That’s a lot.
Farris, Lawrence W. Ten Commandments for Pastors New to a Congregation. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003. pp. 94. This a nice easy read and is full of practical information for a pastor moving to a new congregation. It’s dated but it was required reading for me in seminary. It’s useful for seminary students ready to leave the student desk for the church office.
Another very useful (but dated) book I’ve recently finished reading is:
Moore, Christopher C. Opening the Clergy Parachute: Soft Landings for Church Leaders who are seeking a Change. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1995. pp. 190. This one is excellent for pastors heading into an interview situation.
A most recent, and new, book I’ve finished reading, and blogged on here, is:
Carl, William J., editor. Best Advice: Wisdom on Ministry from 30 Leading Pastors and Preachers. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2009. pp. 190.
If anyone else out there knows of any good books in this same genre, feel free to share them here. I’m sure I or anyone else in ministry would be interested in hearing about them.