"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

The Writing of Sermons

with one comment

I’m often asked how long it takes me to write a sermon. I’m often embarrassed to admit that it’s a lot shorter length of time than most imagine. My present life circumstance, working in a full-time secular job and preaching periodically, means that I have been forced to adopt a “lean” and “stripped down” sermon development process.

The way I was trained to develop a sermon follows the approach used by Darrell Johnson, a homiletics at Regent College. I never took a course from him, but was mentored by one of his students. The technique involves a period of prayer and meditation on the text, followed by a full day of original language exegesis and review of commentaries.  It is a highly structured approach that requires about 2 full days of work.  I still use the style of expository preaching, but I have a simpler approach.

Now, I have no where near enough time to pull that off, as my writing time is limited to evenings and the Saturday before preaching (along with everything else I have to do outside of work).  So, this is what I typically do:

  • Since I only preach every 4-6 weeks, I stretch the process out.
  • About 3 weeks prior I print out the readings, and carry them to and from work with me.  When I have a spare moment I re-read them and highlight words and passages that jump out.
  • Those words and passages point me into original language research and scholarly work, which I chip away at in the evenings.
  • One night about 1-2 weeks before preaching, I’ll look into the excellent preaching helps site, http://www.textweek.com
  • By T-1 week I have some idea of the line of thought that will run through the sermon.  If not, I spend more time in focused prayer.  If that doesn’t work, I forget about the sermon for a few days to wait on some inspiration.
  • The first draft is usually about 8-10 pages long, which I then edit down to 5 page maximum (which is about 20 minutes of speaking).

An easy cycle, I probably expend about 4-8 hours in total, with most of that on the Saturday.  A challenging cycle can see that doubling.

For some sermons (like the Advent 4 one below), the whole thing comes at once in a rush without much background work.  I’ve been thinking about the Magnificat for the past two weeks, but there was probably only about 4 hours writing time in total.

I couldn’t do that if it wasn’t for much work of the Spirit in leading me.



Written by sameo416

December 20, 2015 at 3:11 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. Matthew, it is your devotion and love for the Lord that manifests itself when you deliver your message. “The Light” of the world shines through the message. Thank you!

    Anna Mae

    Anna Mae Gibson

    December 20, 2015 at 5:49 pm

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