May 7, 2008

How Do You Prepare A Message?

One of the most frequent questions I receive here on this site is the one asking how I prepare a message…so here goes my best attempt to try and explain it. (Keep in mind that everyone is different…and it has taken nine years to develop this.)

#1 - I Listen

I know that sounds churchy…but it’s true. I try my best to listen to what God wants to say to me through His Word and His Holy Spirit.

He has rocked my world from time to time in my quiet time. (Let me be very clear…I do not use my QT as sermon prep time…whenever I feel the Lord impress something on me I ask Him if that is Him teaching me OR if I am to teach that to others. If I feel He’s leading me to teach it to others I jot it down on a piece of paper I always have with me when I have my time with Him and then move on.)

He also speaks to me through me listening to other speakers…talking with other church leaders…watching the news…paying attention to culture.

I honestly feel that God is always speaking…my problem is that sometimes I am not listening. BUT…if I will pay attention He WILL give me His Word and plant it in my heart until I experience what Jeremiah did in Jeremiah 20:9.

Oh yeah…one more thing. I usually have messages prepared at least three weeks in advance…and I have message concepts up to a year in advance. Sometimes God puts a message in me…but He won’t give me a release to preach it until He’s through teaching me. I’ve literally sat on some messages for over a year…and right now there is one in me entitled, “God has a breaking point” that He hasn’t relased me to preach yet…but I feel that it’s coming soon! (It’s been developing in me since December of 2005!)

#2 - I Write

Whenever He impresses the idea and text upon my heart I sit in my office, get some plain white copier paper (no lines) and begin to write and pray and then write some more. I literally go through the text, reading it out loud and talking through it and writing down every thought and idea that comes into my head.

Usually I go through around 15-20 pieces of paper in this process…and after I feel the idea is complete I then type it out on a Word document that I strive to be no longer than two pages (wanting to get it to one.)

After typing it out I then take the manuscript and continue to develop it…writing all over the type written paper, circling through ideas, slashing through others until I feel that I have a pretty decent outline developed.

#3 - I Discuss

After going through steps one and two I then send out the Word document to Shane Duffey, our creative arts pastor, and allow him to assemble a team to come to our creative meeting. This is usually a team of around 5-8 people with some being the same every week and some rotating. (Shane does a good job of having singles, married, male, female…it’s amazing how different people view Scripture with a slightly different filter.)

They get the outline from him…with a request that, before looking at the outline, they look at the text by itself and write down whatever they feel that the Lord may be saying to them. (It’s amazing how LOUD God will often speak through other people.)

Then they look at the outline and make notes, thoughts, suggestions, etc. We meet on Tuesday mornings and go through it for about an hour or so. When I walk into this meeting I have around 90% of the talk done…I’m just looking for the extra 10%.

I know some pastors start fresh and try to develop the entire talk and research the text with the team present…I’ve tried that before and it just doesn’t work for me. I speak best when I speak out of the overflow of what the Lord is doing in my life, thus the reason for this process.

#4 - I Preach

After the meeting I will take my original manuscript (that I have, once again, marked all to pieces) and type any additions or subtractions that need to be made, THEN I put it in a folder that I carry around in my backpack with me everywhere I go.  (Once again, this process usually takes place three weeks before I give the talk.)

On the week I am going to preach the message I take it out of the folder and prepare the final outline on Monday…and then on Tuesday I begin to preach it—OUT LOUD—in my office.  I preach it twice on Tuesday, twice on Wednesday, and once on Thursday through Sunday.

It’s amazing…but usually 25-50% of the content changes during this time.  For me…something just clicks when I preach things out loud…and God reveals more and more to me as I do that.

#5 - I Pray

No matter how good I feel the talk is…no matter how much work I put into it…no matter how many creative elements we have built around the message…it will completely BOMB unless Jesus shows up and makes up the difference.

Jesus made it clear in John 15:5 that ANYTHING I do apart from Him will be fruitless.  And so…all week long (and before) I beg for His guidance during the preparation and delivery of the message.  I know that His Word will not return void…despite how I feel the talk went…and I have to trust in that and pray that He will take HIS Scriptures and speak to hearts in a way that only He can.

There you go…hope that helps!

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