By now, you know we're beginning 2017 with a new sermon "un-series" I'm calling "Unscripted." This isn't a typical sermon series. I'm not doing any long-range planning, and there's no central unifying theme connecting the sermons from week to week. Instead, each week will be whatever God gives me to preach that week -- no more and no less.
I do fully believe God honors the preparation of preachers the world over, no matter how they arrive at their sermon, as long as it comes from God and His word. After all, as the Bible itself says, God's word never returns empty, but accomplishes His purposes (Isaiah 55:11). I have the deepest respect for those who plan twelve-week series, those who use the lectionary to choose a text each week, and those who take it one week at a time. As long as God is in it, it's the right sermon.
Some say preachers should never plan ahead, citing Mark 13:9-11 as evidence. But those verses speak of being on trial for the faith, not shepherding a flock into a time of worship each Lord's Day. "But the Holy Spirit tells me what to say when I get up there," they say. I don't doubt it (usually), but I say the Holy Spirit can say more to me over a week of preparation than in a thirty-minute window while I talk the whole time.
For the next several weeks, I'll be somewhere between the two extremes of "plan the entire year ahead of time" and "winging something I definitely should not wing." I'll work on my sermon before Sunday morning, but I won't be planning the entire month ahead of time. Instead, each week starts with "What do you have for us this week, Lord?" As we begin a new year, I personally begin with the reminder to "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5-6).