The Five Stages of Sermon Prep
As we say in the preaching world, Sunday is in the can.
Okay, so I’ve really never heard anyone say that in the preaching world. Heck, I don’t even have a travel visa to preaching world. But it sounded good, and my brain cells are toast. Back off.
Brier Creek AM campus, thanks for letting me hang with you onstage yesterday morning. As usual, you were a gracious crowd and fun to speak to. Every time I preach at the Summit, I’m reminded of my two core beliefs:
- J.D. is really good at what he does.
- I’m really glad that I do what I do and not what J.D. does.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy preaching. I really do. It energizes me and I end up learning far more than I can ever teach.
Preaching is fun. Preparing to preach is the killer.
Last week I discovered that my sermon prep routine was a lot like what Elisabeth Kübler-Ross termed the Five Stages of Grief. Here’s a peek into my life over the last few weeks:
Stage one: Denial. (Denial kicks in right after J.D. asks me if I’m available to preach. Gone immediately are the memories of sermon prep from years past.) “Sure, J.D. No problem whatsoever. I’m entirely confident that I can do this. And after all, it’s December, right? December is usually a slow month for me, other than Christmas at the Summit and Christmas parties and year-end wrap up stuff and shopping and traveling and getting the calendar lined up for ’09.”
Stage two: Anger. “Why me?!? This is so unfair. Do you KNOW how hard it is to prepare a sermon, especially when I made it all the way through seminary with nary a Greek or Hebrew class? And what kind of professors would allow me to get through school without forcing me into a language class! This sermon prep is too hard, and it’s all their fault.”
Stage three: Bargaining. “Lord, you made the sun stand still for Joshua. I’m not asking for even that much. But could you send an ice storm on Saturday night? That would be great, God. But give me a sign that it’s definitely coming, because I’d really like to just chunk the whole prep time if I’m not preaching anyway.”
Stage four: Depression. (this stage is usually accompanied by me lying in the fetal position in the bedroom closet, sucking my thumb) “My life is an acid bath, God! Why did you put me on this earth? I’ll never pull this thing together. I was nearly just killed by a falling stack of commentaries. I don’t even have a good opening joke. Please let the earth swallow me now…”
Stage five: Acceptance. “Oh hey, that verse makes sense now. And I could use an opening visual involving a set of four collectible worship guides…they’ll probably like that. Ah…and NOW I know how these two points transition. Dang it, this may very well be the most prepared I’ve ever been! I can’t wait until J.D. asks me to preach again.”