foundworthy asked a question:
What is your process for sermon prep?
Hello AJ! While I wouldn’t want to give you a simple formula, since each of us must find our own way, I’ll outline just a few things I do.
1) I often preach in series, about 4 to 7 sermons long, because it helps me to know where I’m going. Usually each sermon inside the series is supporting One Big Point that I’m trying to make.
2) In seminary, my professors always did the 3 am Test. Basically: If I were to shake you awake at 3 am on Sunday morning and ask you, “Tell me your sermon in one sentence!” — and you couldn’t do it, then it wasn’t ready. Simplify, simplify, keep it simple.
3) Exegesis (digging into the particular meaning of Scripture) is very valuable, but please know what to put in the showcase and what to keep in the basement. Sometimes I find a really cool fact of history during my study of the Bible, but I realize this is only me nerding out and has zero relevance to what I’m saying. So I save it for another day and look for another.
4) Sermons are hard work. I study hard. I read the news. I pray hard. I listen to how others did the same passage. One message might take about 20 hours per week. But the main thing is: I have to constantly meet up with the church. Sermons are a way to love and serve people by the powerful healing Spirit of God. I have to love my people first. Without that, then the pulpit is just a catharsis or a college lecture. Seminarians spend so much energy crafting a precise message, but they barely love their people or love the King. Love your people.
5) I constantly assume there are people who don’t care or who hate Jesus. I think of the twelve year old suicidal kid who is ready to hurt himself again. I think of the single divorced mom raising three kids on three jobs with a father who left them. I think of the skeptical college student who once loved youth group but has hardened by parties and amateur philosophy. I think of the pregnant fifteen year old whose parents have shamed her and she’s been vilified at school. I think of my close friends and family who don’t know Jesus. I practice my sermons by pulling up a chair in front of me and going one-on-one, because sermons are speaking to real people, and they’re coming to Sunday service with a load of burdens they can hardly carry, and they do want to know there’s something more.
Please know I’m way more comfortable writing, and speaking has always been tough for me. Thank God for grace.
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