Preaching in a pastoral context—the parish, the community—requires a vocational dedication that stewards time and deploys a thoughtful strategy and tactical operation to realize the mission. On the topic of such vocational intentionality, the Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:15 (AV), “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
The Scriptural mandate to “study” is a divinely-denoted means of fulfilling the pastoral call to equip the saints for works of ministry, grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, and evangelize the world. Such a large-scale mission requires a comprehensive pastoral program pursued at strategic and practical levels. In the context of pastoral preaching (the exposition of the word of God in a parish or Christian community) in contrast to, e.g., itinerant evangelistic preaching, this essential work may be divided into long-range planning, a strategic level mission, and short term preparation, a tactical action.
The Differences between Sermon Planning and Preparation
To speak of sermon planning and sermon preparation is not to create new pastoral tasks but to acknowledge the inherent and necessary duties of the pastoral office to fulfill Christ’s charge to “Shepherd my flock (John 21:16).” The following paragraph seeks to differentiate between sermon planning and sermon preparation.
Sermon Planning is a critical pastoral exercise, undertaken annually, to design a one-to-three-year long-range (one to three years: e.g., Year A, B, and C)) strategic Preaching Plan, expressed in three “tracks”—(1) lectio continua, (2) liturgical-civic, and (3) crisis—so that the Christian shepherd can more effectively fulfill the Biblical mandate to “be ready in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2), “shepherd Christ’s flock (Acts 20:28), “Study to shew thyself approved unto God . . .rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Sermon Preparation is the tactical response to sermon planning. Sermon preparation involves executing the three-track preaching plan by immediately focusing on the exegesis and exposition of the respective Biblical text for the given week.
The following presentation is intended to illustrate the differences and define the task involved with sermon planning and preparation.
My dearest students in Christ, as Chairman of our Ministry Department at Erksine Theological Seminary, my goal is that you leave seminary with both education (vocational information) and training (vocation formation) in pastoral ministry. This summary of sermon planning and preparation is an expression of that goal. We pray that you may be so equipped in the gospel ministry that as you proclaim the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ, there will be a multitude of souls safe in the arms of Jesus when he comes again (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20).