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One of the best ways to show the congregation that you prepare is to preach to the occasion. If it is youth day, preach to the youth. Youth sermons may prove to be the hardest sermons to perform because they involve all of the intense exegetical and theological work of any other sermon, but they also require another big step. Youth sermons require one to posit intensely deep messages in language and life experiences that children can understand.

If you are asked to preach at the Usher’s annual day, preach about that, likewise for Men’s day, Easter and the like. A minister friend of mine often jokes about attending a sunrise Easter service in which all of the preachers kept preaching Good Friday texts, and continually going to the cross out of habit. He said to me “man don’t these folks know Friday was two days ago, it’s Sunday, and today He got UP.” Likewise, we don’t want the congregation saying, “Doesn’t the preacher know what today is? Men’s day was last month and today is Women’s day.”

To conclude, if you have been called to preach a sermon, preparation means that you know the occasion otherwise you are opening yourself up to certain embarrassment.

Early in the morning I turned on the television to hopefully cure some insomnia. On this day, I found what looked like one of those Psychics. Only upon further reflection, I found some well known Christian personalities supporting the person. Then I found out that although the preacher was using the techniques of psychics he was a Christian minister, a “prophet.”

The prophet told us that if we give him a call, he will tell us our personal prophecy. If we call him, we will be assigned a personal prophet who will help us. The program told us that we should not ever have want for financial resources. God would take care of us if we would only follow the instructions that God had provided in God’s word. Then a well known Christian author supported the “prophet.”

Using the Devil’s Formula

There were two things that really surprised me about this. First was the use of the psychics formula to sell these aleged prophecies from God. We see the prophet asking us to give him a call for his personal “prophecy,” Very much like the personal “reading” that the psychic gives those who call. It was a very disorienting thing to see a prophet using the mechanisms of the demonic to prop up and sell his prophecies.

In addition, what was surprising was the belief that when you are right with God you will be right with your money. These “prophets” are telling us that if you have money problems you are doing something wrong. When you get diseases you have done something incorrect. When everything is not right in your life, then you need to straighten up so that God can “bless” you.

No One Wants to Hear the Truth

These prophets will always have an audience because no one wants to hear the truth which is that sometimes you can follow all the principles and laws of God that you should, and you still don’t get the new car. Sometimes you can cast out the demon of poverty and find that your bank account is still empty. Certainly we should pray without ceasing, but grandma may still die. That is the simple truth. We know it experientially, but we still hope that the new “prophet” can give us the word that sidesteps the Biblical word that all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. (2 Timothy 3:12)

Yes there will be those who can guarantee money, fame, and fortune, but one must always be careful, for Satan himself promised fortune and a kingdom to Christ in the temptations in the wilderness. One must be careful of the “prophets” that you listen to for even Satan himself shall be transformed into an angel of light. (2 Corinthians 11:14)

God With Us not Someone’s Empty Promise

God’s promise is that God will be with us in the pain and heartache. Let’s accept this truth as the Psalmist who said, “yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4). I would rather have the true God with me in the shadow of death, than an empty belief in a flimsy promise by a so-called “prophet.”

Another way to be prepared is to practice properly established protocol. One should have rehearsed citing:

  • The church’s name
  • The pastor’s name
  • The name of the auxiliary which extended the invitation.
  • The occasion that brought forth your invitation

I can recall with dread being asked to preach for a pastor in a surrounding city. This pastor was the president of the state convention, and so I addressed him accordingly, however, I mispronounced his name! I felt like a clown when the congregation communally corrected me. It was like a public chastisement. Previously, only he and I knew that I was a novice preacher, but after that moment everyone knew. It was an uphill battle trying to deliver the message because my lack of preparation ushered in an extreme sense of nervousness.

OK, we all know that we should prepare, but how do you prepare? Many put forth much effort into creating a strong manuscript, and then step into the pulpit having spent little time reading the document.

Know Your Manuscript

In contrast, great preacher’s review their sermon several times before arriving at the appointed place. My mentor, the Rev. G.L. Parks, has suggested that one reads their manuscript no less than 10 times prior to preaching it. The preacher should especially pay attention to details like spelling and grammatical concerns. Such efforts will help to ensure that the preacher doesn’t stumble over or mispronounce words.

Know Your Biblical Text

For those who opt to preach without a script, familiarizing one’s self with the introduction, major points transitions, and the close is helpful. Regardless of how one presents the material, a good way to be prepared is to be familiar with the text. Many seasoned pastors suggest that one knows their text well enough to cite it from memory. This is a good idea, and one should be familiar with the text enough to put emphasis where necessary in the text. Also having the proper pronunciation for difficult proper names is also a good way of demonstrating competence through preparation.

Thus preparing a strong manuscript is just the beginning, preparation includes knowing the Biblical text as well as one’s manuscript very well.