It is Sunday morning, nearly 168 hours from the beginning of last week’s sermon. It is about time for you the preacher to take that walk again. You are going to walk alone to the sacred desk to preach. Are you ready? As you reflect on this question you realize that your mouth is dry and don’t have any water. Your opening to the sermon just got eclipsed by the reminder of a heavy pastoral concern. But you have to take this solitary walk. It is time. Are you ready? As you walk you throw up a petitionary flare, “God, help me.”
This question of readiness is really subjective. Some guys will answer it by considering what they have done in sermon prep. They have spent adequate time in prayer, studied the text, made a sensible outline, drew out some practical implications, and are ready to help people to understand God’s Word.
These are all good, even very good things. I aim to do them all each and every week. However, I wonder if sometimes we miss a very important aspect to sermon prep. Preachers should be wrecked and rebuilt by the text before preaching the text.
Be Wrecked by the Text
When you are wrecked by the text you have been stripped of your pride. Like a divine power-washer, the Bible has blasted off the mildew, dirt, and residue of self-reliance. The text has shown you God’s character and made you feel very small. You have been made to see something of the grandeur and greatness of God–in the very text you are preaching. And, when you see this then you can see yourself (Ps. 8). No one can rightly look at God without rightly looking at self. God’s bigness and beauty reveals our smallness and sin. This wrecks us. The Bible gives us a holy leg-sweep and brings us low. Preachers who have dirt stains on their face from being brought low are often very useful in the church.
Before taking that solitary walk to the pulpit, be sure to spend some intentional time letting the text work you over; let it wreck you.
But, that’s not all. Be wrecked, but also, rebuilt by the text.
Be Rebuilt by the Text
When you are brought low you are eligible to be helped by God. He hears your cries for relief and showers you with grace (Ps. 145.19). Not only do we see God’s bigness in the text we see his beauty. We see faithfulness, goodness, mercy, and grace sandwiched between holiness and righteousness. We see that God is unchanging and so therefore, immutably glorious in all of his perfections (Mal. 3.6)! Divine grace, mercy and love is not simply for them out there in the pew but for us in the pulpit. Oh, it is so good to have tasted and seen that the Lord is good! We have taken a big swig of the gospel tonic ourselves. The bigness and beauty of God means that he cares for and consoles his people–even preachers. We are rebuilt by the craftsmanship of the gospel with the tuck pointing of grace and goodness of God.
After wrestling with God you are blessed by him. He sends the limping one off in humility and acceptance with wind in his sails.
Doubtless, you can see the importance here of both. If the preachers is simply wrecked by the text then his sermon will lack the hope for renewal. If he is not wrecked then he will be like me describing the helpfulness of a kale smoothie–I’ve never tasted it myself but hear it is very good for you.
Anyone can have the self-discipline to put in the requisite hours to do the research, craft a sermon and deliver the message. However, it takes a man called by God to wrestle with God in the text and who will not refuse to let go of the text until God promises to bless him and his people. If you are a preacher, be this guy. Spend your week marinating in the text and then on Sunday morning sweat out the glory, greatness and grace of God in the passage. Perhaps God will be gracious to you and answer your prayers for preaching impact. He might just wreck and rebuild the congregation each week also!