I recently blogged about my decision to start writing sermon manuscripts again. A couple of people asked about my routine in preparing sermons. I don’t know that my routine is the best, but since I enjoy hearing how others prepare to preach, it may be helpful, or maybe interesting.
My approach has been to follow the process outlined in this sermon preparation cheat sheet. I try to discipline myself in two areas, with varying success:
- Spend enough time in the text before turning to the commentaries. This one is hard for me!
- Exegesis comes before homiletics. Understand the text before you think about how to communicate it.
In the old days, before church planting, I’d devote four mornings a week to sermon preparation. On Monday and Tuesday I’d work on exegesis; on Wednesday and Thursday I’d begin to craft a sermon from the exegesis.
I now do the same thing, except on one day: Thursday. I fight (again, with varying success) to reserve the bulk of that day for sermon preparation. Everything conspires against that happening, which means that the preparation often spills over to Friday and Saturday. My goal, though, is to get it done on Thursday and then put it on the back burner until I preach. Internalizing the sermon, without looking at it, is a huge part of the preparation for me.
There’s one major disadvantage to saving the preparation for one day: there’s less time to slow cook the sermon over the week. My best insights have come to me outside of sermon preparation time. That doesn’t happen nearly as often when the preparation time is so concentrated.
For the past few years, I’ve used Scrivener to write my sermons. If you have a Mac, it's worth checking out. UPDATE: There's a Windows version too. I love roughing the sermon out using the index card feature, and then filling in the outline piece by piece. It chunks the task so that it’s more manageable and less overwhelming.
I'm rarely with my sermon when it’s done. I’ve been surprised, though, that when reading some of my old sermons they’re not quite as bad as I remembered.
That’s how I do it. I was encouraged to read Joe Thorn’s tweet the other day. It gave me perspective:
I’m thankful that God uses imperfect preachers who are short on time to proclaim his glories.