08 Apr The Making of a Sermon
I sat down one morning praying and thinking about what to write for our new “Reflections” section of our website for our church family. The staff had decided these reflections should be sort of some of our personal thoughts or experiences in our ministries and as part of our church. As I thought about what to write, I remembered that numerous people have asked me over the years about what goes into writing a sermon. So, I decided to share with you the process I follow, the schedule this tends to happen in, and a few thoughts about my own struggles and joys in sermon preparation and preaching.
We wanted staff to keep these blog posts to a page or two in length, so I will give you a summary of what my process is like in making a sermon, but if you want more (you have been warned the attached is long and detailed) you can go HERE to read more, but what follows is a short summary for the rest of you.
The process of making a sermon starts Monday morning for me, with an average of around 15 hours of textual research happening Monday to Wednesday. This research varies a bit depending on if it’s a narrative passage (story based), or a didactic passage (more direct teaching). Either way, I need to go back to their time, geography, history, language, culture, etc. Studying the context of the book and passage is crucial, as is grammar and structure. This process of exegesis must involve hermeneutics, the rules for interpreting Scripture. In this phase of my study, I am using lexicons and grammar sources, doing syntactical and lexical study, as well as many commentaries.
My normal schedule for Monday through Wednesday is a mixture of meetings with staff, congregants, and people from other ministries outside of ours, as well as study time. I am thankful for Karen, my Executive Assistant, and her role, as I used to have to study in little bits of time around the many other things that demand my time and attention. But now she blocks off half days, each of these three days, and protects my time to have uninterrupted time to study. I also put in some time in the early mornings or some evenings to supplement my study, depending on the need that weekend’s passage presents in terms of interpretation and textual struggles.
Thursday is sermon writing day for me. This starts early, usually around 6am, and my sermon and preaching notes, as well as PowerPoint slides, are done by 5pm, as Karen helps in protecting this day, giving me uninterrupted time to work on it, plus offloading many things from my plate to hers.
Friday is my day off, and again, thanks to Karen, I normally get my day off (unlike many years in the past), and I don’t touch my sermon on Friday, which is a nice break after the heaviness of writing day. On Saturday I put in a couple of hours early in the morning, going over my sermon, then set it aside for awhile, but pick it back up again around 4pm, reviewing it until bedtime. We seldom do anything on Saturdays, as I am bodily present in our home, but my mind is consumed with my sermon. Sunday usually starts around 4-5am with quiet time, reviewing my sermon, praying, then getting ready and heading to church.
It is such a wonderful privilege from God to have this calling to study and preach God’s Word. I am still shocked with His grace in allowing me this privilege. This is also a crucible in which God continues to wreck and remake me as preaching is a very difficult process and task for me, and anything good (in terms of kingdom terms) that comes from my preaching ministry is all of God’s grace and by His provision and power. He has been so kind!
I will just say a couple of more things, then you can read more than you likely ever wanted to know in the attached document, but I want to end by saying, you all are a joy to preach to!
Having preached in many different locations and places, what most don’t realize is that preaching is a dynamic interaction between the preacher and the listeners. The listeners really make what happens special or not. Your hunger for God’s Word, your desire to come and be taught, your commitment to, not an easy word or even a comfortable word, but a word from God’s Word, all make preaching to you very special. Your commitment to His Word makes it a joy to preach in our church, so thank you for your gift to me in our times together on Sundays.
And finally, I love the combination of worship and the Word. I’m so thankful to Steve and his teams, Andrew and his teams, Connie and her teams, and all those who have a part in our worship services. I’m also very grateful for Julie and the Kids Ministry teams, Brad and the parking lot teams, etc. There’s so much that goes on behind the scenes during the week to prepare for Sunday, keep things running smoothly, and ensure you are all cared for. Every person on our staff has a part, and I’m thankful for each one of them. There are so many serving in so many ways, such that together, all those who are serving together make our Sunday services such a joy, delight, and blessing to us all. I truly believe much glory and honour to the Lord comes through our Sunday services, which is our ultimate mission, to glorify God!