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“Preaching is not so much preparing a sermon and delivering it as it is preparing a preacher and delivering him,” wrote Bishop William Quayle nearly a hundred years ago. When you preach, in many respects, you are the message. If your personal life is not congruent with your words, then a mixed message is delivered. Your integrity will be called into question, and your message will not be received. Here are five keys to embodying the message:

1. Develop a personal vision. Vision comprises an ability to see through God’s eyes what he wants accomplished through your preaching and ministry. Your vision is the wood that keeps the fires of your ministry burning. Vision understands that you cannot do everything as a preacher, but you can do something. What is God asking you to do?

2. Balance your priorities. Priorities are doing the right things right and putting the first things first to produce order, peace, and wholeness in life. As a preacher, one of your highest priorities is preaching each Sunday. If your priorities are not in order, it is easy to let the urgent dominate your life, it is easy to say yes to the lesser tasks of ministry, it is easy to waste your energy on unimportant events, and it is easy to be influenced by controlling people. Make the main thing the main thing. Preaching is one of those main things.

3. Focus your planning. Planning comes by scheduling your priorities, not by prioritizing what’s on your schedule. Preparation for preaching must be calendared, scheduled, and committed to on your daily agenda. Then it must be honored with as much importance as any other plan. Planning allows you to create rather than to react. If you are waiting until the end of the week to prepare your sermon, you are not giving it the needed attention, research, and time before God that it needs.

4. Invest in foundational pursuits. These are the actions that replenish and refresh the soul. Preaching is a demanding and draining task. Someone equated preaching a sermon to the equivalent of laboring an eight-hour day. If you don’t invest in yourself, you will destroy yourself. The foundational investments are, first, rest and exercise for physical stamina. Second, engage in your personal spiritual growth. You should meet with Jesus, not just to prepare a sermon, but for your own spiritual progress. Third, read for lifelong learning. Great preachers never stop learning. Read beyond sermon preparation material. Fourth, reflect on the journey. Reflection helps you to see where you’ve been, where you are, and where you are going.

5. Pray for power. Prayer is the key that unlocks God’s prevailing power in your life. Preachers need prayer. If you are not praying, you may preach for God, but your sermons will not be from God. Prayer reminds you who you are serving, who will bless you, and who will direct your ministry.

Rick Ezell is the pastor at First Baptist Church in Greer, South Carolina. Rick is a consultant, conference leader, communicator, and coach. He is the author of six books, including Strengthening the Pastor's Soul.

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