This version of musings will be a different one because I didn’t preach this past Sunday. Instead, what I thought I would do in this post is talk briefly about how I process a sermon & also chat a little about what goes into our sermon planning/schedule.
About that sermon:
I love Dan Sieker. He’s one of my favorite men on the planet & quite frankly one of my favorite guys to hear preach. I remember several years ago, as we were working on the church-merge details, that Jill & I went to church at North Roseburg Evangelical Free Church (the building we’re in now), in order to experience the service, meet the people & hear Dan preach. During Dan’s sermon, Jill leaned over & said, “why would he retire…he’s still got it!” I concurred & marveled at this man’s faithfulness, tenacity, & joy as he preached. And every time he preaches, I still hear Jill’s words “he’s still got it!” Sunday was no exception. It’s the norm with Dan. Wonderful pastor; fantastic expositor; and a really good friend.
As I’m listening to a sermon, preached from the pulpit that I usually fill, I am acutely aware of my own need. I need Jesus; I need the power of the Holy Spirit to teach me; I need God’s word to be opened & show me Jesus; I need help to not get distracted…I’m no different than any other person in the church. However, there is another thing that goes on that’s a tad different…because God has given me a charge to oversee this wonderful church, I am presently aware of what is being preached…in its accuracy in God’s word & care for God’s people. The joy of the men that I have with the men that we’ve asked to preach at CLF is that every one of them do these these things with great joy. They love God’s word…they tremble at it…they feel a need to handle it accurately. And…they love CLF…they care for her people. These men are gifts to us.
And as I’m listening to sermons, I am listening to God speaking to me. I am asking God to not only show me something fresh (which is nice), but to show me Jesus & make my life conform to what I hear about Jesus. That happened to me on 2 occasions yesterday:
- When Dan began to discuss the connection of humility, Jesus’ example, & working out our salvation, I was struck with this thought from Dan: working out my salvation means putting God’s will 1st. When I sin, it means I’m putting my will 1st. That sounds so basic, that it’s profound! And it’s so basic, that it’s really helpful. It’s an easy way to gauge my pride & an easy way to consider humility.
- At the end of the sermon, Dan did a little biblical work on a drink offering. He did this because Paul wrote in Philippians 2:17-18: “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.” Dan showed us from the Bible, how the drink offering was this small offering of wine, poured out on the side of the altar, that was like a “completion” of a major offering. It was small in comparison to the major work going on. And Paul’s point was that he played a small part in the major work of the Philippians’ faith. I mean, just think about what Paul is saying…here’s the great Christian missionary (next to Jesus) telling those he shared the gospel with (for the first time), that he played a small part of their major work of faith. If you want to see a display of humility…there’s one. But it also meant that Paul did play a part in their faith & he played a needed part. And vs 18, showed that they played a part in his faith. Meaning…we all need each other in this walk of faith. This also showed me something else…there’s no need to sinfully compare ourselves to one another. Think about it: when we sinfully compare ourselves to others, we either criticize them in self-righteousness or we criticize ourselves in condemnation. And what gets missed? We don’t serve others, for their good. But what this “drink offering” concept helps us see is that God has placed each of us in each other’s lives for mutual upbuilding & encouragement. No need to compare. What a freeing thought.
I was humbled as I sat under God’s word this past Sunday. I was thankful. And I was glad I could do it.
Now, what goes into sermon planning/scheduling:
Some of you looked at me with a perplexed look on Sunday as to why I wasn’t preaching. It was as if something was wrong. So, I thought I would try to detail a little bit of what goes into the planning for having someone else preach on Sundays.
Let me say at the outset, that the Lord has uniquely gifted CLF with several men who can “deliver the goods” on Sundays. I’m very grateful the Lord has been building a “company of expositors” at our church. That’s pretty amazing to me.
Knowing this about our church, our pastoral team (our elder board), has asked that I preach at least 40 Sundays a year. This means that the most I am out of the pulpit on any given year (unless it’s a sabbatical year) is 12 times. But to be even more specific, they have (in the past) asked that 12 be the max number I’m not preaching & 8 be the minimum. That gives you an idea how many times a year the pastoral team feels good about me missing.
With that 8-12 number in mind, I head into every fall (usually in October), to schedule the upcoming yearly preaching plan. For instance, this coming October, I will spend a week working on the 2020 preaching plan. I will plan every Sunday’s text, potential topic, & I will mark the dates that I will look for a guest speaker (someone not me). I then submit that plan to the pastoral team at our elder & wives planning retreat in November. At that retreat, I will ask the men, about who they they believe should preach in those guest slots. We normally come up with a list of men that: 1) are members at CLF; 2) have gone through our theological classes (or who are theologically astute/trained); 3) have shown a gift for teaching; 4) we’ve heard teach at some other ministry in our church; 5) are “known” among us for their character & faith. There are other things that would go into those selections, but that’s a basic layout.
After that list of men is gathered, when I return from our retreat, I begin to put together the dates on when those men will preach in our church, if they’re willing. I normally will schedule men 3-6 months in advance, give them the text we would like them to teach from, & wait until they confirm. Once confirmed, if needed, I will give them my commentary notes from that text, help them through the text, & pray for them.
After they preach, if needed, I will give them some feedback. Every preacher is being evaluated, but not every preacher needs to hear an evaluation:). Most of the men who preach in our church request feedback, which we’re all very happy to give, if needed.
Now, I take you through that process to help you see a few things: 1) we do not “willy-nilly” select a preacher for Sunday, nor do we want them to “wing-it”. It is a very deliberate process; 2) I can only think of 2 times in my 16 years of pastoring CLF that I was overwhelmed on a Saturday that I needed an emergency sub…now, that excludes the times when I blew out my achilles, had surgery & wrongfully thought that I could preach the next week:). 3) this type of planning allows us to serve CLF with intention & thoughtfulness. For instance, next year, Lord willing, we will be starting a study through 1 Corinthians. That will allow us to look at leadership, sexuality, & spiritual gifts a bit more closely. This allows us to look at each Sunday’s text in order to “build” the service around it, to some degree.
I hope that gives you a good idea of what goes into the overarching plan & you know that when I’m not preaching, it means that nothing is wrong:).
From the cheap seats:
- The chaos of the NFL season started this past week. I’m sorry but there may be some periodic comments here about that. So, I’ve got questions:
- How are the Browns cocky about anything? They haven’t won a championship since Moses walked the earth!
- How did the Dolphins get this bad, this quickly?
- For my Steeler fans out there…should you have traded Mike Tomlin instead?
- And for me…how do the Cowboys give up 470 yards to the Giants??
- I don’t think this is wrong (as a longtime Texas Ranger fan), but I’m pulling for the Minnesota Twins…not because I love them…I do like their GM a lot…but for my friend, Kenn Bly…a life-long Twins’ fan deserves a break!
- Recently I attended some games where different kids from our church were competing. I was amazed at their encouragement of one another, the way they were great teammates, & the competitiveness with which they competed. Kids, it was an honor to your parents & to the Lord. Thanks! And I would say to all of us…if you get a chance, get out & see CLF students compete/play…there are doing this in a variety of places: Roseburg High School, JoLane, Fremont, UVC, Umpqua Community College, Oakland High School, Days Creek, Camas Valley, Sutherlin High School, Glide High School, & at the Boys/Girls Club in Roseburg. There’s a lot…go enjoy it.