Uncategorized / March 11, 2013

Are you ready to preach in season and out of season?

Recently, I was asked to speak in a challenging environment on very short notice. That experience caused me to reflect on Paul’s admonition to Timothy to “preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2).

There are times when every preacher will need to preach or teach on short notice, so how do you prepare in advance? The keys to being ready to preach in season and out of season are development and diagnosis.

Development

To be ready in season and out of season, preachers should develop the following items:

  • Character development – You won’t be ready to preach in season and out of season unless you are developing your character. Short notice preaching and teaching depends on a saturation in the word and the ongoing pursuit of spiritual growth for its effectiveness.
  • Arsenal development – You won’t be ready to preach in season and out of season unless you are developing your arsenal of preaching and teaching material. The more you gain experience, the more you’ll be able to dust something from the past off the shelf to present on short notice.
  • “Bullet in the chamber” development – You won’t be ready to preach in season and out of season unless you are developing your “bullet in the chamber.” Every preacher should have (at least) one sermon ready to preach at any time. Maybe this is one of your best sermons on a text you love, or maybe it is something you update periodically after you’ve used your previous “bullet in the chamber.”

Diagnosis

To be ready in season and out of season, preachers should diagnose the situation regarding the following issues:

  • Your goal – What is the goal of this speaking/preaching opportunity? Is it a typical sermon, is it a teaching session, is it a Q&A? Knowing what you are trying to accomplish will help you know how to prepare best during the limited time you have.
  • Your subject matter – What is the subject matter that you will preach or teach on? Is it an expositional sermon or a topical teaching session? Is it a passage you selected or one that someone gave you? Knowing what you are trying to preach on will help you know how to prepare best during the limited time you have.
  • Your role – How does your role fit into what the audience normally experiences? Are you filling in at a new place on short notice or speaking to a familiar audience? Are you the main event or a supporting actor? Knowing who you are trying to be will help you know how to prepare best during the limited time you have.
  • Your priorities – What are the most important features of the sermon so that you can focus on strengthening those? This is particularly important if you are asked to speak on short notice on a text or topic you haven’t prepared before. Knowing what you are trying to emphasize will help you know how to prepare best during the limited time that you have.
  • Your outlets – Where can you continue to develop your material after this short notice opportunity has passed? Especially if you are covering a new passage or concept for the first time, finding outlets for further speaking or writing opportunities on the topic can help you to develop your ideas further. Knowing where you are trying to go with the material will help you know how to prepare best during the limited time you have.

The best example of “out of season” preaching I’ve ever seen was several years ago at Highview Baptist Church in Louisville. Right before a Christmas season service started, the preaching pastor Russell Moore’s wife went into labor. So, he called on the worship pastor Dan Odle to preach. With about 2 minutes of preparation time, Dan preached a great 20 minute sermon on the Christmas story. I won’t soon forget the moment because of the quality of the sermon and the relief I felt that Dan was selected and not me!!!

One of the most challenging yet most fruitful opportunities any preacher has it to be ready to preach in season and out of season. You can’t always anticipate when you will be called on to preach or teach on short notice, but by focusing on these issues related to development and diagnosis, you will put yourself in a position to honor Christ in any situation.



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