How I Write a Sermon
Someone sent me a message today, asking me how I write my sermons. He wanted to know the nitty-gritty, the details. He was especially interested in my manuscript or outline, and in my preparation. I wrote back to him, and I thought I'd turn it into this blogpost. I doubt this will be helpful, but what the heck?
Here is the link to the podcast of my most recent sermon:
Here are the all the notes I have for this sermon, this is my outline, which I have typed up for you. While I take my notebook with me when I preach, I leave it on the pulpit with the Bible, and I preach from the center of the chancel, with no notes and behind no lectern.
AMiA in Houston.
Jesus, doing his work
Work is important
Jesus in the quiet place
Perspective comes when we get alone, open to God
Jesus being hunted, let’s go somewhere else.
We’re being hunted all the time.
Jesus has a purpose.
Make decisions based on our mission, our purpose, not on what people demand.
You have mission, and, more importantly, Christ has a mission to you.
OK, notes over.
Here is my sermon prep process.
- On Monday, I look at the readings the Lectionary gives me for the next Sunday.
- I pray that God will help me hear from him what he wants to say to his people.
- I read commentaries, or articles, or whatever else I need to read.
- I pray that God will help me hear from him what he wants to say to his people. If I don't hear anything, I keep praying until I do. I must have that one thing, that one point.
- I take that one thing, usually a phrase or sentence, that I feel like God wants to speak to his people, and I pray some more. I pray for humility, that God would reveal himself, that he would use me even in my weakness, I pray that God would bless everyone, especially in our city, who is preaching the Gospel this Sunday.
- I think about my life, and a time that this thing he wants to communicate became real to me, or was expressed to me or through me. That will be my narrative structure.
- Then I take a long, long walk. I talk through that story, and through what I might say. This walk might last an hour, it might last 3 or 4. Sometimes I have had to take more than one long walk, but not too often.
- At the end of that walk, I have the structure, I know basically what I want to say, and I write it down in a little notebook. Usually just a few words.
Here are the things that are important to me when I'm preaching.
- I preach the Gospel only. Everything is about God in Christ, about who he is and what he has done, and what that means in the daily lives of the actual people I am looking at in the room that morning.
- If Jesus' Incarnation, Death, Resurrection, Ascension, and Return are not relevant, or did not need to take place for the sermon to be true, then I won't preach it.
- I am always praying that God will fill me with his Spirit, and that he will increase while I decrease.
- I only have one point sermons.
- While the podcast is usually 20-25 minutes, my normal sermon is 18 minutes long. However, I don't use a clock, or a watch, either in preparation or in the sanctuary, and I don't care how long or short the sermon is. Time is irrelevant to me, I am only preaching long/short enough to get what I believe to be God's message out there.
OK, that's it. If that helps, I'm glad.