“Can I be called to the ministry, if I dread sermon preparation?” I was recently asked.

“You can still be called to the ministry and yet, at least sometimes, dread sermon preparation,” was my reply. Right or wrong?

If it was a constant and long-term dread, of course I would be seriously concerned. But I still think that just as the “flesh” makes a builder prefer to relax at home than to pour cement, and just as the “flesh” makes a mother of young children prefer facebooking to home-making, so the “flesh” can make a preacher prefer to read good books than to write a sermon. The curse on the ground affects preachers as well as gardeners.

I’ve often approached my sermon preparation with joy and enthusiasm. But, if I’m honest, I’ve also had times when I’ve dragged myself to the desk and “whipped” myself to do the hard mental, emotional and spiritual work of exegesis. Sometimes it’s a difficult text that’s going to require 10-15 hours of work to make it digestible for my hearers. That’s daunting. More often, I get started with great gusto only to hit a “wall” within a short time, and wish I could find some important blogs to read or papers to file.

I recently read about the four stages of software development, and couldn’t help but notice the parallels with sermon “developers”:

  1. Oh Boy! – Excitement about the anticipated benefits of the software (sermon?)
  2. Oh No! – Discouragement about the anticipated work required to write the software (sermon?)
  3. Oh Well – Resignation that the work just needs to be done.
  4. Oh Wow! – Excitement about the realized benefits from the software (sermon?)

I know all the twists and turns of that roller-coaster! So, if at times you dread sermon preparation, or lose heart in the middle of it, don’t despair. It’s still consistent with a call to the ministry and is to be expected as long as we remain fallen creatures in a fallen world.

  • revteapot

    True in many ways, but it’s not always the effort that makes me drag my heels. Sometimes its the difficulty of the text – not just exegetical difficulty, but a text that will offend. I have to steal myself not to the effort but to courage.