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.