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For the occasional preacher, it’s usually not difficult to get motivated to prepare a message. For those of us who do it week in and week out, sometimes multiple times a week, it can become a challenge.

I’m a passionate guy. I find it very difficult to do anything I’m not in the mood for. That includes preparing sermons. What do you do when you need to do sermon prep but you just aren’t feeling it? A family just left the church. God feels far away. Everybody at home is mad at you. Even the dog won’t talk to you.

How do you get motivated to prepare a sermon when it just feels like work? Here are a few things I find helpful.

1. Sermon preparation shouldn’t be entirely a matter of motivation.

Spiritual momentum helps, but if you are preaching God’s Word, then your motivation isn’t the key to sermon preparation. Make your emphasis to exposit what is in the text.

Prepare to preach by preparing the text for preaching. Rely on the Scripture, not your emotional or spiritual energy, to develop interesting and impactful points.

2. I’ve found that relying on the text means immersing yourself in the text.

It’s funny, when I don’t feel like preparing a sermon and I really dive into the text, God’s Word begins to transform my spirit and elevate my mood. Even if the circumstances of my life don’t change in the hours I’m locked in my study, the condition of my heart and spirit are altered.

Dive into the text. It is a wellspring of life for the people to whom you preach, beginning with you.

3. Sermon preparation is a kind of spiritual discipline for preachers.

When I was a Marine, I didn’t always feel like training, but it is often the work you do when you don’t feel like doing it that is the most beneficial. It forces you past emotional energy into something deeper—spiritual empowerment. Perseverance is born not of easy commitment but of stubborn stick-to-it-iveness. Sometimes you just have to grind it out.

4. It is not cliché to pray.

I’m amazed at how leaving my study for the sanctuary or my chair for my knees opens the floodgate of understanding of a passage of Scripture and the flow of ideas of how to build bridges between the Bible and the daily lives of the people to whom I preach. A few minutes of prayer may save you several hours of frustration, and it will no doubt bear a lot more fruit.

5. Change the venue.

I remember the man who welcomed me as his new pastor by telling me of a tranquil setting beneath a tree on a bench overlooking a nearby waterfall where I might go to prepare my sermons. My first thought, "Boy, are you in for a surprise when you hear me preach about hell and your need for repentance!" Not every sermon has as its backdrop serene cascading waterfalls and dancing butterflies.

But a change of venue can do a lot to stimulate thought and alter your outlook. We preach to people. Why not take your laptop to a city park and watch people as you prepare what you will say to people from God’s Word? I routinely pull up a creaky chair at an antique table in an old stone library to write and prepare sermons. A change of venue can lead to a change of attitude and mood.

In addition to shepherding the flock as Pastor of Liberty Spring Christian Church in Suffolk, Virginia. Chris Surber is also Founder and Director of Supply and Multiply in Montrouis, Haiti. 

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Alexander Drysdale Lay Preacher Uca Australia

commented on Oct 9, 2014

There are times when we all feel as you do, Chris. My solution is to read the text and then take the dog for a walk. It is surprising how God inspires you with ideas.

Chris Surber

commented on Oct 16, 2014

Amen.

Richard Scotland

commented on Oct 9, 2014

Change of venue works for me. I have gone over sermons in cafes, beside swimming pools as my kids swam, in parks too. The noise and distractions would be too much for me to write a sermon, but they are surprisingly helpful for thinking about illustrations and incidents. Good article, thanks!

George D. Jackson, Jr.

commented on Oct 9, 2014

Semper Fi Marine this is a good message I am not a preacher but I am a writer I do acrostics messages. Right now I just don't feel like writing so some how I have to push through it. God's blessings on you

Chris Surber

commented on Oct 16, 2014

Hoorah!

Mattie Phillips

commented on Oct 9, 2014

Thanks for the article it was helpful. When I am preparing a sermon I play my favorite gospel songs on worshipping God. It really helps me clear my mind and focus in on God and the text. It helps me receive revelation on the text.

Marc S. Mcgrath

commented on Oct 9, 2014

Good article. Don`t trust yourself or your feelings. I would add also, trust the message that develops. Trust that God IS leading you, which he promises. Also trust that the Spirit of God is in it. Perhaps God wants you to speak it quietly and assuredly. We don`t need to be on fire every Sunday. At times, I have also taken part of what I am studying home and shared it with my wife, only to find she was inspired by it, and that, in turn encouraged me that God was in this process. It is the word ans the Spirit which changes lives. Amen?

Chris Surber

commented on Oct 16, 2014

Absolutely. Great addition to this collection of thoughts Marc.

Donnie Case

commented on Oct 9, 2014

Chris I appreciate your article. One thing that has really transformed my approach to sermon prep is my good friend, accountability partner, and fellow preacher at a local congregation. He and I have agreed to meet together every week and we work through the same text, to encourage study, and tough questions about the text, we then go our separate ways and flesh out the sermon but the prep time is so refreshing, it has really become a time i look forward to. I would encourage every preacher to find a fellow preacher who they have great chemistry with and study the text together. It is work, but it is worth it.

Chris Surber

commented on Oct 16, 2014

I love that idea. There is a lot of power in that.

William Douglas Johnson, Sr

commented on Oct 9, 2014

Donnie, what a great idea of a partner to go through the text with, to ask the hard questions and to help provide feed-back for our own questions. We are so blessed to have others to make this journey with us. Iron sharpens iron. God bless you.

Tony Bland

commented on Oct 9, 2014

ok.. let my try that now...and i will get back with you. thanks for now

Susan Lynn Brandt

commented on Oct 10, 2014

How about fasting beginning in the evening, then reading the text, going to bed and if awaken in the middle of the night pull out pen and paper and let God flow through you? However, if you sleep all night, fast the next day and just soak in worship seeking the face of Jesus. When you feel the weighty presence of God on you, sit down with chosen text and let revelation write itself out on paper. More preaching needs to be heard straight from heaven revelation. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. Do the Isaiah 61 thing like Jesus did. Its only by the Spirit of the living God that anything of lasting value will be accomplished.

commented on Oct 11, 2014

Lyall Phillips Lay preacher UCA Australia I immerse myself in the particular passage and allow scripture to speak to me and ask for God's help. Then I try to write the simple aim of the sermon in a single sentence. That focusses me. The other blessing is to preach the sermon more than once. Familiarity with the text brings a particular blessing and confidence. Each time it is preached, it changes to suit the unique congregational needs. God always blesses if you are a workman for God.

John Payton

commented on Oct 11, 2014

I used to go to a donut shop and sit (and eat) outside on Sat. morning and go over my notes. Not sure how much if any that helped me preach, but I reached a family with twin girls who 25 years later are serving the Lord. (They tore the donut shop down and I retired!)

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