The look on their face told me what they were thinking. I had seen that look dozens of times before while I was preaching. Some people have been bold enough to confront me about it. They thought I was preaching at them or about them.
The sermon hit home in a way they hadn’t planned when they headed out to Church that morning. It was on a topic in which they were struggling or knew they needed to change. It seemed too personal to have happened any way other than deliberate planning.
At this point, I usually need to explain my sermon methodology to them. Over a year ago I spent time in prayer and discussion and came up with my annual sermon plan. Right now, most sermons have a title, topic and possibly a text until December 2019. That is almost a year and a half into the future. This helps me to touch on a wide variety of topics and prohibits me from giving stump speeches on hot topics every week.
Next, as each series approaches, I begin to fill in additional scriptures, articles, and illustrations. For example, the whole series I am working on now has a text, a general topic, and specific application. Then my next series in about one-third planned before I ever set down to write a single sermon. Most of the primary material is put together a month or more before the speaking date.
Third, I take Sunday night through Tuesday morning to write the final draft of the sermon. I then let it “rest” until Sunday morning when I preach through it and make any last-minute adjustments that I feel God leading me to make. Sometimes I will add in current events, immediate illustrations and application for relevance. Most of the sermon to this point has been guided by two questions. One, what does the Bible say about this text or topic? Two, what do all Christians need to hear about this concept? How can I apply it to this place and time to people who want to follow Jesus? At this point, I rarely have thought much about the people in my congregations specifically.
The final part of my sermon is prayer. This is where things begin to happen. I ask God to do two things every week. First, I want my words to be clear. God use me despite my sins and shortcomings. I implore him to take my words and fill them with his Spirit as I deliver them on Sunday. My second prayer is very specific. I ask God to bring in the people who need to hear this message. I plead with God to fill this building with people whose heart he can touch through my words.
I have no idea who will show up on Sunday. Nowadays many people only come once or twice a month and some it is far less frequent than that. I had no clue that you would be here on Sunday, but God did. He showed up and used my words to encourage, confront, challenge or do whatever he needed to do in your life. I do not believe it is a random chance that you came the Sunday I spoke that sermon. I believe God brought you here this day to instruct you in some way. Don’t be mad at me, God is the one who is putting all this together.