Writing a Sermon

Every once in awhile, someone will ask me how I prepare for a Sunday message. Over the years, I have used a lot of different approaches; but the one I prefer is to work inductively from the text. I work slowly, and it usually takes me about 25 hours per week to prepare for a Sunday message. That might sound like a lot of time to study a single passage; but it really isn’t. To properly understand a passage of the Scriptures, you need to not only look at the text but also understand the context. Right now, I am teaching through the Seven Churches of Revelation 2-3; and there is a lot of historical and linguistic context to delve into before you can present the passages.

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A lot of people are surprised to discover that I don’t write sermons on the computer. I am something of a computer geek; but I find that working long hand forces me to slow down and think. It also forces me to re-read my own notes over and over again. Things pop out at me that I might have missed before.

My schedule for preparation usually looks something like this:

  • MONDAY: Read over the text in an English translation and then write out the original language.
  • TUESDAY: Outline the English translation, highlighting important transitions.
  • WEDNESDAY & THURSDAY: Do historical and cultural research
  • FRIDAY: Talk through the message, jotting notes as I go. Begin the preaching notes page.
  • SATURDAY: Review the text again.
  • SUNDAY: Finalize the notes page and make a photocopy to take to the platform.

On Sunday afternoon, I usually listen to the message online. Since I don’t script and work from a single page of notes, there are always things to tweak and consider for the following week.

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