Saturday, July 14, 2007

When Your Preparation Hits a Brick Wall

Peter Mead over at Biblical preaching blog has a helpful post on suggestions when your sermon preparation hits a brick wall:

I’m sure I am not the only preacher who sometimes, perhaps regularly, hits a brick wall during preparation. What can you do when the words are no longer coming, and your brain is starting to give you cause for concern?

1. Do something else. Profoundly obvious, but it is easy to feel obliged to stay put and strive fruitlessly. Perhaps this is your allotted time for this stage of sermon preparation, so you feel obligated to endure. But when the brain is stuck, it can be unstuck by something else. Perhaps switching to a different part of the sermon preparation will help, maybe thinking through possible illustrations, or writing a rough draft of the conclusion. Perhaps you should switch to other work and come back to the sermon (be careful not to just procrastinate though, switch to stimulate your thinking again). Perhaps you should take an energizing trip to the gym, or pick up your guitar for a few minutes. Get the brain unstuck.

2. Discuss the sermon. Sometimes hours and hours of study can be helped beyond belief by a brief discussion of the sermon. Perhaps another preacher might help. I find a brief chat with Mike helps no end. Try to find someone you know will help either through their input or their ability to listen and probe carefully. Perhaps your spouse. Perhaps a pre-arranged group from the congregation.

3. Deliver the sermon. Somehow the link between brain and pen is different than the link between brain and tongue. Sometimes it helps to stand up with an open Bible and just preach the message. Verbalizing the message may release the jam and allow the study to flow. Having done this, it is important to get back to the outline, manuscript, or whatever, and not just rely on a good “practice run.”

4. Doze or get a full night. The mind can get overwhelmed and slow down just like my computer. But the wonder of God’s creation is that the brain can defragment as we sleep. I rarely take power naps, but some people swear by them. If it’s late, take a full night’s sleep and come back to the message in the morning. Sometimes when it is not time to sleep yet, I’ll leave the message, but review my sticking point right before retiring to bed (but don’t do that if you suffer from insomnia).

5. Divine help, obviously. Of course, firstly, lastly, throughoutly, be in prayer about the passage, the personal application of it, the sermon and so on. Preaching is a profoundly spiritual endeavor and it would be totally wrong to omit this point. However, it would be naïve to only include this point. Sometimes God helps us through prayer, plus a trip to the gym, or a good sleep!

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