It’s been said that “The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair."  John Macarthur shared the same sentiment regarding preaching: “People have asked me – young people through the years – ‘What’s the secret to great preaching?’ Simple answer, keep our rear end in the chair till you finish the work and come out when you have something to say."  One of the secrets to better sermons is having the discipline to apply the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair.
Before you start to think that I’m advocating pastors spend all their time in their study to the neglect of other pastoral responsibilities—I’m not! Pastoring is more than preaching—much more—but it is definitely not less than preaching. I actually don’t think that “time” is necessarily the issue; more often than not I believe the breakdown is in the disciplined use of the time we already have set aside—particularly the discipline of staying in the chair long enough to do the hard work of exposition. I want to address what I see as 4 major obstacles keeping us from applying the seat of our pants to the seat of our chairs.
Sitting Down Too Late
Saturday night specials are not conducive to the hard-work required for faithful biblical exposition. Like it or not, opening up a passage of Scripture before the flock takes considerable time and effort. A few biblical ideas written down in haste on Saturday night (or early Sunday morning!) do not a sermon make. The tyranny of the urgent must never be allowed to crowd out the fundamental task of preparing sermons. As G. Campbell Morgan warned in his day, “The supreme work of the Christian minister is the work of preaching. This is a day in which one of our greatest perils is that of doing a thousand little things to the neglect of the one thing, which is preaching."  Sit down early.
Sitting Down Too Little
Though similar to the first in the sense of “time spent in the chair," this obstacle is not about running out of time but getting out of the chair too early. How many pastors sit down with a passage, get a couple “preachable” ideas, and then think they are ready to preach only to find that in the preaching moment they have more “airtime” than content! “Aside from the essential empowering of the Holy Spirit, if there is one single aspect of sermon preparation that I would want to emphasize, it is this. Freedom of delivery in the pulpit depends upon careful organization in the study. We may believe that we have a grasp of the text, only to stand up and discover that somewhere between our thinking and our speaking, things have gone badly awry. The missing link can usually be traced to the absence of putting our thoughts down clearly."  There is real discipline required to press through your “initial thoughts” regarding the text into 1) the real thrust of the passage and 2) a preaching outline that reflects that thrust and applies it to your particular flock.
Sitting Down Too Limited
This obstacle is about resources to help your understanding of your preaching text. Though there is no substitute for your own prayerful engagement with the text, many pastors simply don’t spend enough time in the chair because they have exhausted their resources so quickly. Imagine trying to get your 10 year old to sit at their desk for 2 hours without any resources to keep them occupied! After you have done your own work on the passage you should get out your tools. Good study Bibles, commentaries, original language resources—there are tons of helpful resources available to the expositor today! Pick a couple and consult them every week for insight, answering questions you have regarding the passage, and to deepen your personal reservoir.
Sitting Down Too Long
The last obstacle I would have you consider concerns preachers that have long ago identified these first three obstacles and have by in large found ways to navigate around them. You prioritize sermon preparation (perhaps having designated “prep” times in your week); it’s not uncommon for you to spend 8, 10, 12, even 15 hours “in the chair;” you consider yourself a “faithful expositor.” A main obstacle for preachers like us (I include myself in this group) is that we often sit too long in the study phase and therefore have meager time left for thinking through illustrations, applications, and better crafting the sermon. Anyone who has truly tried to study the Bible has realized that it will exhaust all the time you give to it. As Jerome already recognized 1500 years ago, “The Scriptures are shallow enough for a babe to come and drink without fear of drowning and deep enough for theologians to swim in without ever touching the bottom.” There will always be another word to look up, another commentary to read, another resource to consult. The task is not to understanding everything about a passage (which is impossible!) but to grasp the main idea and how it applies to your flock. Discover the main idea and primary application as early as possible and then spend adequate time crafting your sermon for maximum impact. Once this is done, get out of that chair!
As you prepare this week’s sermon, what obstacles do you need to identify and prepare for? Distractions abound from within and without. But brothers, keep your rear end in the chair ‘till you finish the work…and don’t come out until you have something to say.
Josh Boley is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Chaffee, MO.
 Mary Heaton Vorse
 Sermon, “Twelve Marks of Excellent Pastoral Ministry;” Delivered May 14, 2006
 G. Campbell Morgan as cited by Michael Fabarez, Preaching That Changes Lives (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2002), 84.
 Begg, Alistair, On Being a Pastor (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2004), 135-136.