Listening to the Spirit…Ahead of Time

Preaching CalendarI have a friend whom I remember visiting with about his preparations for preaching. He didn’t prepare. He would simply show up to the service a little early…play some worship music and “let the Spirit lead to whatever text the Spirit wants” and then he would go to the pulpit when it was time and preach “as the Spirit led.” (Or so his story to me went).
My version is, he was just being lazy about his preparations and study and not listening to the Spirit ahead of time. After all, the last I checked, the Spirit speaks if we will listen. My friend’s “prep” was bogus. And sadly there is a temptation among many pastors to do similar things and blame (er…”name”) the Spirit for their message. This can even occur when we are simply not giving ourselves to the faithful meditation of Scripture that God demands if we will truly desire to listen and be changed by this word to us. Pastors MUST prepare and be faithful persistent students of the Scriptures ever listening to the message God would speak to His Church.
But the Spirit IS speaking…are we listening? Are we planning and preparing in advance by attuning ourselves to the leading of the Spirit as we give ourselves to study the Scriptures and hear what the Spirit is saying to the church? Can’t the Spirit be involved in the preparations of a preaching calendar (especially if we actually believe the Spirit superintended the composition and compiling of the Scriptures)?
I personally “know” what I’ll be preaching for the next year or more at any given time (how NOT very Pentecostal of me 😉 )…and that’s for three different messages a week. For me, I’m currently doing Sunday AM through the Gospels and Epistles (alternating one Gospel and one or two Epistles…currently Matthew), Sunday PM in the Psalms (and currently with an interlude of Marriage video with discussions), and Wednesdays are OT books (currently Leviticus). But that is what I felt the Lord would have my congregation to do for this time. This way I can look down the road and see where I believe the Lord may be leading us and try to attune myself and my congregation’s ears to hear what the Spirit is saying.
So my question to you pastor is: Are you taking time and energy to lay out a preaching calendar and begin your preparations on messages BEFORE the few days you are due to preach? I’m not talking about writing out every detail, but are you taking time to discern just where your congregation might need to go in Scripture over the next month, several months, or year?
If so, what have you found helpful for such preparations? Pre-selected topics? Pre-selected texts? Church calendar days for particular messages or series?
The Spirit is speaking…are you listening?
Originally blogged by myself at on February 1, 2013.
DISCLAIMER: While I do not preach this regularly in my current ministry, I still plan out my preaching calendar well in advance: enough so that I know what I will still be preaching about 6 months out for the services I have booked at camps, conferences, and churches. For this, I have found great help in a regular Bible reading plan as well as making good use of the Revised Common Lectionary.

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3 Responses to Listening to the Spirit…Ahead of Time

  1. Craig Benno says:

    I agree that that is the normal way we should prepare. I think a lot of people take the promise of Scripture not to worry about what you will say; because at the right time I will give the words to you.
    A number of years ago I was critiqued by a congregation member when I preached that I was too tied to my notes. My pastor thought the sermon was good. But, I prayed asking the Lord to help me not to be tied to my notes. I was invited to preach again, and every time I went to prepare, nothing came from it. I was praying, reading, and had a number of themes; and each came to nothing.
    I continually heard God whisper to not worry, he would give me the words at the right time. But, I did worry, I told the devil to git away from me. I had my wife praying for me, others praying for me…but I kept hitting dead ends. I still had nothing on the morning I was supposed to preach. And I felt like ringing the pastor up, asking him to cancel my invitation…and felt strongly that I was not to do that.
    He called me up the front for the sermon, and I still had nothing. He prayed for me, thanking the Lord for the sermon he had given me, asking him to speak powerfully through me…and I still had nothing. I stood behind the pulpit embarrassed, scared, praying like a mad man…and felt God say to me..Open your mouth and preach.
    Through obedience I did, I said let us pray…and something happened, I preached like I had never preached before. I can’t tell you what I preached on. But, the power of God came over me and I preached with power and authority like I had never experienced before. And many in the congregation came up later and said they were greatly impacted by it.
    That is the only time I have experienced that kind of unction and dead ends over the years since. I have preached since and share communion at church often. But, every time is spent in much preparation – and my dogs become converted, rebuked and encouraged many times over. But – what the Lord did do for me after that was free me from being tied to my notes.

    • Thanks for sharing that Craig. I agree that the notes can become more of a distraction from what should be said, but function as a way of formally writing out what one believes the Lord is in fact saying ahead of time. BTW, have you read “Preaching On Your Feet”?
      I actually use VERY few notes for most of my preaching. I work on the message sufficiently until it is a part of me. I also prefer to feel the ebb and flow of the day and the response of the congregation.

      • Craig Benno says:

        I have not read that book. Like you do, I now use few notes. I am blessed that my early preaching years was as a lay preacher in a Anglican Church and my pastor wanted to always see the written text. I also prepare well in advance. I find the more I prepare; the more natural and spontaneous I seem to be in sharing the message.

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