Preachers do weird things. One weird thing we do is prepare our sermons alone. Consider the absurdity in that. Every week you have to get up in front of a group of people and say words. Those words have to be engaging, powerful, motivating, encouraging, accurate, practical and spiritual all at the same time. Every. Single. Week.
And you prepare alone. All by yourself.
I think this started with Moses. He went up on a mountain and heard from God. He came down and told the people, “This is what God said.”
We’ve never really changed the model. Preachers have been preparing sermons alone ever since.
I used to prepare my sermons alone. I would read commentaries, watch sermons and research articles, but it was mostly just me by myself.
If you’re like most preachers, you prepare alone. The problem is you are not Moses. You are not an Old Testament prophet. There is nothing requiring you to use this method.
I’m not saying God can’t speak to you in your study. You should hear from God as you prepare. If you’ve been preaching for any length of time you know how exhilarating it is to spend time in prayer and study and hear from God. There is nothing like it. But this should not lead you to think that you must prepare every sermon alone. So why do you prepare alone?
Why you prepare alone.
I can’t get inside your head, but I do know what I have thought from time to time. And you and I probably have some things in common. There are four reasons why you might prepare your sermons by yourself:
1. You want to take all the credit. If you hole yourself up for days in a room with books and come up with the most profound truths anyone has ever heard, then you can bask in the glow of your insights. Everyone will be in awe and you will be the star. If you developed content collectively, then others may know that every insight didn’t originate with you.
Preaching plays to our senses of pride and despair. If we do well and others recognize us we can be filled with pride. If we do poorly and others criticize we can wallow in despair. Preparing alone not only sets us up for pride, but also prepares us for despair. If you want to take all the credit, you have to take all the blame.
2. You think your ideas are the best. Why talk to anyone else? It’s not like they’re going to contribute something you don’t already know. Why ask what the interns think of your content? You’re the one with the graduate degree in theology. Why ask a group of people to give you feedback before the you complete your sermon? They haven’t been preaching for years like you have.
Nothing will hinder your ability to improve as a preacher more than thinking you have nothing more to learn. If you prepare alone because no one else can compete with your ideas, then you are setting yourself up for failure. Your ideas are always better when they’re strengthened by others.
3. Your pastor used to go hide in a room for 20 hours. Maybe your pastor was committed to spending several hours a week hidden “in his study” to hear from God. This was the assumed method in seminary. You don’t see any need to change things up.
4. You see it as a more spiritual experience. You are “God’s man” and it needs to come from you or it won’t have the right amount of pastor sauce. After all, if you were to prepare with others then wouldn’t that cheapen the process?
Perhaps you prepare alone for no other reason than it is just what you do. What could be wrong with that? Obviously this is a matter of preference, but I have found that it is far more beneficial to prepare sermons (at least in part) in teams.
This is part 1 of 3 posts on why you should prepare sermons in a team. In the subsequent posts I will discuss the following questions you may have:
- What would it look like for me prepare in a team?
- Who would be on the team?
- Is it a rotation of people or the same?
- How could I get started if I’ve been doing it this way for years? Why would I?
I would like to hear from you: Do you prepare your sermons alone? Why or why not? How do you bring other people into the process of preparation?