I will never preach a perfect sermon. My content will never be perfect. My manner will never be perfect. In fact, the more I preach, the more I understand why Paul called preaching “foolishness.” Yet, God has chosen “the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). What a relief!
I once heard a well-known preacher advocate spending a minimum of two weeks preparing a sermon. He said that he preaches his sermon to himself thirty times before preaching it in public, and that no sermon prepared the day before it was preached was worthy of the name “sermon.”
I saw many pastors’ heads drop all around me. That kind of “counsel of perfection” may be the norm for an exceptional few. However, the vast majority of “ordinary” pastors are not privileged with that kind of time or schedule.
What will happen if you try to live up to this? Well, I know one pastor who refused to preach a sermon until he had every single word written out, and every comma in the right place. He would spend 20-30 hours perfecting each sermon. This, of course, was unsustainable. Eventually he was off work with stress, and within a few years he had left the ministry – burned out.
Like most “ordinary” pastors, I preached at least three times a week in my congregation (two Sunday services and a midweek meeting). Every Monday morning I had to climb that daunting three-peaked hill in the midst of pastoral visitation, funerals, evangelism, administration, meetings, etc. Sure, I worked as hard as I could to prepare the best sermons I could every week, but there were many times my sermons were definitely “beta versions.” They were far from bug-free. And do you know what I discovered? God blesses “beta” sermons!
I am not advocating laziness or sloppiness in preaching. But I firmly believe that God blesses faithful pastors who preach to the best of their abilities and capacities in the midst of a busy pastoral schedule. Many of my “Saturday” sermons were blessed by God on Sundays.
So, fellow-preacher, don’t be afraid of launching your sermon in beta. Better to spend the last hour of preparation in prayer than on punctuation. And remember, God’s Spirit can turn betas into alphas.
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