Preaching is both art and science. It involves a certain amount of creative artistry. But most of us have a limited tank of energy when it comes to creative flair. Don’t waste it.
Don’t waste your creative energies when you are studying the passage. This is the time for your adventurous explorer energy to come out as you travel in foreign, ancient and sometimes dangerous lands. This is where you need the determination of an archeologist, digging into the historical documentation of the text. This is where you live out your suppressed inner-detective, following clues, asking probing questions, persisting until you get to the truth.
Passage study is not the time for creativity; it is the time for persistence, for diligence, for probing, inquiring, questioning, for travel through time, for cultural encounters of the ancient kind, for passionate prayer that God will do a work in you as you work in His Word.
Creativity in the passage study phase of your preparation may lead you astray. Even though some in your congregation may marvel at your creative new interpretations of Bible texts, what they actually need is the true interpretation of the text. If you are the first to come up with something in a passage, maybe its time for alarm bells to ring, rather than a time for celebration.
Save your creative energies for the message formation phase of the process. This is where many a preacher has collapsed, fatigued from their creative expending of energy in the interpretation phase, desperate to pull a message together from the study notes in time for Sunday morning. What tends to follow is a re-hash of the same old sermon form, shape, structure and strategy. It feels tired, and what’s worse, the content isn’t great either because of energies expended on “new” interpretation!
As you collapse into your favorite armchair after the adventure of studying, digging, travelling, interrogating and praying your way through the text, you will be both tired and thrilled at the journey you’ve been on. Tired because it is hard work to exegete well, but thrilled because of the God who has travelled with you, revealed Himself to you, and worked already in you.
And a change is as good as a rest, so as you sit back in your armchair before the fire let your prayers and thoughts meander through the possibilities available as you plot your message strategy. Pray for the people, consider the possibilities, get creative. You’ve got a message worth preaching from the text; now’s the time to pour out your energy into making it a sermon worth hearing. Be a shame to waste that energy too soon!