The Birth of a Sermon

Sundays come around with an alarming regularity. That is the truth. For most pastors, the most discouraging day of the week is Monday when they realize they must craft another sermon for the following weekend. Thankfully, for me, I have discovered a rhythm of study and preparation that takes a lot of the weight off me.

My study week begins on Monday when I read through the text for the following Sunday. My goal on Monday is to read the text as if it were my first time. I hope to read and hear these sacred and ancient stories with new eyes and hears and not with the senses of someone who already knows the details and ending of every story. I believe the Scriptures are continuously articulate and all of us can hear and understand if we are listening.

Tuesday morning, I meet with a small study team that helps me explore the differing theological viewpoints of the text. We challenge each other and talk about different commentaries written by scholars like NT Wright, John Stott, William Willimon, Lloyd Ogilvie, among others. This meeting launches me into my morning of study and prayer that wraps up around noon.

After more study and prayer on Wednesday, I try to have a rough outline ready for a late morning meeting with a sermon prep team that is made up of a diverse group including men, women, young and experienced. At the beginning of the meeting, we pray and then I try to give the big ideas of the message in 5-10 minutes. After I finish, there are three rules:

1. They can give me any feedback they want. I would rather hear that the sermon is off base on Wednesday than on Sunday afternoon.

2. I do not have to take any of their advice. I would, of course, be foolish not to listen and consider all of it, though.

3. If I do take their input, they get no public credit from the stage on Sunday. I tell them their reward will be in heaven.

A meeting like this requires that pastors get over a great deal of insecurities and really allow for honest conversations that will only help us communicate to a multi-generational audience more clearly.

Thursday mornings are set aside for more study and prayer, with the goal of having a mostly finished outline by noon that I can submit to our team. I love that I still have two days for the message to simmer like a good stew. Hopefully, when Sunday arrives, the message is a good meal.

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7 Comments

  1. katherine walton

    July 18, 2012 at 8:59 am

    Love it!!! Gives us intercessors and those who pray for you and others that deliver the word, an understanding of how to pray through the week. May His Word continue to drop like rain on the soil of our hearts through His instruments….thankyou for the
    investment in the Word on our behalf!

  2. And it usually is a good meal 🙂

  3. I wonder how “getting over a great deal of insecurities and really allowing for honest conversations” relates to a relentless pursuit of humility.

    Also, how do you get multi-perspective audience feedback early. How would the message sound to:

    – A dyed-in-the-wool Pentecostal?
    – A 20th century Dispensationalism?
    – A five point Calvinist?
    – An Arminian?
    – A Roman Catholic?
    – An Orthodox?
    – The Desert Fathers?
    – Jesus of Nazareth Himself?
    – A theologian?
    – A Biblical scholar?
    – An agnostic?
    – An atheist?
    – A Muslim?
    – A Jew?

    I wonder, not just about who the guests might be (evangelism), but also about the Communion of Saints (ecclesiology) and what it would mean to be in communion with them and listen to their voices.

    “Does he know how this sounds to [_____]?” has sometimes been a question I’ve asked myself silently listening in various teachers’ sermons. From there, sometimes I’ve wondered, “Does he think [_____] even matter?”

    If “God so loved the world,” and we see those in the Church and those outside the Church through a Christocentric lens, how does this practical influence homiletics on, say, Wednesdays?

  4. Just yesterday I described your process to another Christian leader who remarked, “I’ve never met a senior pastor secure enough to let others into the process.” I quickly replied, “well, I know of one!” 🙂

  5. Wow, Steven. Delighted by the exception. Saddened by the rule.

    One of the things I like about the teachings of Christ is that they read so well from so many perspectives.

  6. Thank you so much for sharing this process. My husband and I look forward to your message every Sunday. We appreciate all you do! Thank you!

  7. Thank you for sharing this process. My husband and I attended New Life for 3 years, but now live in San Francisco and are almost 1 year into a church plant.

    It’s great to hear from seasoned pastors how they prepare each week. Sunday’s come quicker now in our lives than ever before.

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