Local religious leaders discuss the art of the sermon
The duty of each and every religious leader is to spread the word of God to their church’s parishioners. How they go about that is up to them.
For Rev. Larry Stover of Valley Grande’s Praise Park Ministries Church of the Nazarene, preparation is key.
“I try to plan three months of themes, but I don’t necessarily follow an exact outline,” Stover said. “Prayer is non-stop for everyone, but if my church knows what theme I’m going to be focusing on, my prayer team can really help me make that message click.”
Pastor John Grayson, of Gospel Tabernacle Church of God in Christ in Selma, said his sermons are the product of week of prayer and meditation.
“I try to plan ahead multiple sermons, but I always start really working on a message on Monday,” Grayson said. “And then I will do a final critique on Sunday morning.”
At New Hope Apostolic Church, Bishop Joe Brown said he prefers to wait until Saturday night before composing his message.
“It’s just a fresh word from God. I’ve started doing this over the past ten years,” Brown said. “I try to find a balance of everyday things people go through with the word of God. That’s what really draws people.”
Even though he has been a pastor for 19 years, Grayson said he is always looking for ways to improve upon his craft.
“I learn. I have learned from greater men than myself. I watch how they preach, how they interact with other people, and how they prepare for, and then deliver, their sermons on Sunday,” Grayson said.
While all men take different approaches to preparing their sermons, they all acknowledged a higher power decides where the message goes on Sunday.
“We never know who all is going to be at church on Sunday,” Stover said. “And the Holy Spirit will move a message in a certain direction if there is something the church members need to hear.”
Brown echoed Stover’s sentiment.
“I will have a plan for the message, but the spirit of God leads me one way or another if I need to,” Brown said.
Grayson said current events in Selma can also alter a planned sermon.
“There are times I have will have a message scrapped at the last minute because of something that has happened in our church community, and I am called to preach about that issue,” Grayson said.
Regardless of the differences in their styles of preparation, Stover said all are keenly aware of the importance of their words on Sunday morning.
“We are being called upon to lead our people to the presence of God. That is serious,” Stover said. “Thirty-six years ago, I was a youth pastor in a church of 500 people, right out of seminary, and the first time I spoke to them, my knees were knocking. But today, I will prepare as best I can, and let the Holy Spirit tweak what it needs to.”