Occasionally someone will ask a question that reveals a struggle with planning a teaching/ sermon calendar far in advance. Questions like:
Question: How do you listen to the Spirit if everything is so planned out?
Answer: My hope is to listen to Him through the whole process from planning, to preparation, and throughout every word of a message.
Question: Do you ever feel like how you plan sermons puts God in a box?
Answer: Not at all. The opposite is true. I believe I would be putting Him in a box if I believed He could only lead me a few days before or in the moment.
I am asked those questions at times, because it is known among people that I serve that I set teaching plans many months in advance. Each July the first draft of the teaching plan for the following calendar year is established. Thus, depending on when someone asks me those questions, the sermon calendar is set 6-18 months ahead. My answers to the questions about the “why” behind advanced sermon planning come from these three truths:
1. God exists outside of time.
God exists outside of time and sees every moment with equal clarity and vividness. God sees this moment just as clearly as He sees the moment a sermon is delivered 12 months from now. God sees the moment a sermon is prepared and the moment a sermon is heard with equal clarity and vividness. Because He is always at work, He delights to work in both moments. God can lead the teacher before the moment and in the moment, and the teacher is wise to yield to God the Spirit in both preparation and delivery. It is not “more spiritual” to minimize God’s ability to lead months before the sermon is delivered. In reality, a low view of advanced sermon planning can reveal a low view of God’s sovereignty.
2. Biblical metaphors about ministry or pastoring involve wise planning.
Metaphors about ministry leaders utilized in the Scripture include a solider (2 Timothy 2:3), an athlete (2 Timothy 2:5), a farmer (2 Timothy 2:6), and a master builder (1 Corinthians 3:10). Soldiers, athletes, farmers, and builders all prepare in advance. The solider prepares long before the battle, the athlete prepares long before the competition, the farmer plants long before the harvest, and the master builder develops blueprints before the work commences. The sermon, because it involves war with the enemy, planting and harvesting God’s Word in human hearts, and building the lives of God’s people, is too important to “just wing it.” It is wise to plan.
3. God delights to work in the sermon and in other ministry environments too.
I am thankful that God uses the preaching of His Word to save and sanctify, and I am honored to preach to people I love. God also works in small group gatherings, youth and kids ministries, and other environments where a church helps people gather. Planning a sermon calendar in advance gives other ministry leaders the opportunity to coordinate what is happening in the worship services with what is happening in the rest of the church—which shows a high view of the other environments.
Bottomline Answer: I don’t plan our teaching calendar in advance despite my theology. I plan our teaching calendar in advance because of my theology.