Preparing a Message

I was asked recently, about how, when I was pastoring a church, I prepared a message to preach.  I gave you a few tips that I thought would be useful, but it got me to thinking about this topic, and I wanted to give a fuller answer, so hence, this posting.

Now for disclaimers –

  1. I don’t have all the answers.  I only know what I’ve done, and what worked for me.
  2. I believe there is no set answer to many of these type of questions.  I also believe that pastors prepare differently, and that no one is necessarily wrong or incorrect, and that no one is perfect, or has a model that will fit everyone.
  3. I believe the preparation of a gospel message is an intimate exchange between God and the minister.  It is never the same, even though we do learn things along the way.

Generally, I would start preparing for next week’s message early in the week.  Much of this preparation is primarily preparing myself with prayer, reading, and studying the Word.

I believe one of the dangers facing ministers is to believe that you know exactly what God wants to do, and exactly what God wants to accomplish in the message.  This also applies to selecting the topic to deliver.  Often the biggest problem the minister faces when preparing a message is to remove ‘self’ from the picture, so God can direct things as He sees fit, not how the minister believes it should be directed.  Self has caused many problems, so it is ridiculous to think self is going to bail us out and get us where we need to go.  (Note, I use the term self, but in this definition I’m including our own thinking and the flesh nature, all in this tiny word.)

Removing self is challenging, as most pastors and ministers know many topics in the Word, and are acquainted with many life situations on which to speak or teach.

How does one remove self?  I’m not sure my methods apply to everyone, but for me the methods haven’t changed much over the years.  In order to be directed by the Spirit, one must be willing to do the simple things:

  1. Prayer
  2. Reading and studying the Word
  3. Be obedient and submissive to God’s leading
  4. Be sensitive to the leading of His Spirit

On that last item, there is really a lot more to being sensitive to God’s Spirit than what might appear at first glance.  Paul put it this way in Hebrews 5:13-14

For every one that uses milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.  But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”

In this passage Paul distinguishes between those who are on the milk of the Word, and those who are able to deal with the strong meat of the Word.  The key to unlocking the difference is two-fold – “reason of use” and “senses exercised”.  This speaks of self-discipline and exercising the gifts God has given, and that by exercising those gifts we learn to discern between good and evil.

One cannot talk about preparing messages, without discussing what is the purpose of the Sunday (or any day of the week) message.  I assume there might be hundreds of answers if this question was posed to hundreds of ministers.  But, I think from a Biblical perspective there is really mostly one primary objective of a gospel message that is preached, and not taught (different ministry, different objectives):

To motivate believers, and non-believers to make a decision.

God uses the prepared, spiritual message to accomplish a work within the hearts of individuals who hear and receive it.  The message itself cannot accomplish the end purpose, but it facilitates it, or makes it possible.  It is the decision of the individual hearer, and what that decision does to the relationship of the hearer with God that does the actual work.

So, the message is a tool that God uses to accomplish many things:

  1. Motivate non-believers to give their hearts and lives to Christ
  2. Motivate believers to change their lives, their habits, their actions, their words, their character.
  3. Encourage and lift up those that are down-trodden, who need rest, who need healing, who need to know they are loved.
  4. Encourage those who the enemy has battered and torn their lives, that they might be healed and restored.

The gospel message, inspired by God, and delivered under the anointing of the Holy Spirit accomplishes those things and more.

But, never be confused.  It is God’s message, it’s His purpose, it is His plan, and it is His church.  The minister is the instrument through which God accomplishes the delivery of His message.  While the minister participates in the rewards and accomplishments of the message, he/she should never forget that it is God’s message, and that He accomplishes the work that needs to be done.

I’ve only touched on the surface of this topic, and I’ve run out of space.  But, before I close this out I thought I’d list a few things that should be avoided by the minister wanting to deliver God’s message:

  1. It is not your brilliance, your command of the English language, your oratory, or anything else that is critical here.  It is always the power of the Spirit and anointing that makes the difference.
  2. The message is not about you.  It is not about the difficulties you faced this week, this month, this year, etc…  It is not about any conflict you may have with officials, with ministers, or with your flock.  It is not about any problems you may have at home, your finances, your job, your relationship with your family members.  In short, the message is not about you.
  3. The mind can only absorb and comprehend what the seat can endure.  In other words, say what God has given you and don’t elaborate, expound, ramble, go on tangents, unless God directs you to do so.
  4. Laying out 10 points is usually not a useful thing.  Most messages should have a single objective, as that may be all that can really be accomplished in the time given.  Within that given objective you may outline several topics or sub-topics, but there should be no doubt about the objective when you are done.
  5. While I have used personal references when preaching, they are generally not in my outline, but are motivated by the Spirit at the time appointed by God to be delivered.  In other words, it’s ok to testify, but it should be guided by the Lord, and build towards the objective.  In other words, it’s not story time.
  6. People don’t care about your mastery of Hebrew or Greek, or ancient cultures, or historical facts and tidbits.  They need answers from God to their problems and challenges of life today.  Don’t give me a message about the 27 different items that are in the Hebrew passover ceremony, unless it is somehow going to change my life.


One Response to “Preparing a Message”

  1. Barbara McGuire Says:

    Love this blog and sounds like to me you know exactly how to prepare a message! Loved it! Blessings…

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