Did Sturdy Just “Wing it”? or…How I write a sermon

14 05 2013

For a variety of reasons preaching has been on my mind lately.  It’s not that I feel like I have anything significant to say on the issue but I do preach with some frequency and what is helpful I’d like to share.  It’s important for preachers to sit down with aspiring preachers and work through texts together and share a process (assuming they have one).  For that reason I have asked several preachers in the Carolinas to share their process, which will go up on the Kardiablog throughout what’s left of the month of May.

My post went up today.  Perhaps you’d like to read it as a preacher yourself.  Perhaps you’re an aspiring pastor/preacher who might find this helpful.  Perhaps you’re a member of the congregation who just wants to be assured that I didn’t download my sermon from Jerry Falwell’s archives.  No matter the case, click on through to see the whole thing.

Day 1 (about 2 hours)

  1. Begin with the text:  I am an expository preacher.  I always begin with the text.  I write the chapter and verse at the top of the page.  Even if we’re preaching topically, having chosen the text the topic fades into the background.  My main aim is to exposit the text.

  2. List potential hazards over the coming week:  I list my obligations that are likely to interfere with sermon prep at the top of the page next to the chapter and verse.  I do this so I can plan appropriately and navigate what is always a packed schedule.

  3. Read the text through 10 times:  Sadly, my Hebrew is rubbish but my Greek is functional.  I translate the text from the Greek if applicable.  Then I read through the translated text 10 times, noting questions, impressions, and thoughts along the way.  I find that having read it through 10 times I’m pretty familiar with it and have come close to memorizing it.

  4. Pray through the text for 30 minutes:  Immediately after #3 I pray through the text line for line, asking God to give me clarity on my questions and strengthen or confirm my impressions.  I don’t have a set 30 minutes, I just find that this usually takes 30 minutes.

  5. Sum up the main point of the text in one sentence:  Immediately following #4, I sum up what I believe the author was saying in one sentence.  Obviously, you must make considerations outside of the text at this point (who was the author? to whom was he writing? when was it written?).  Summing it up in one sentence is in my opinion, critical.  You need to have something that you’re trying to drive into the congregation.  This one sentence is your one thing.  After doing this, I put it away until the next day.

Read the rest of it here



5 responses

15 05 2013
Rod Sanders

“I preach on average 25-30 minutes.” Heh, heh, heh.

15 05 2013

Rod, thanks for catching that. I meant to put: “I usually preach a 25-30 minute introduction…”

15 05 2013
Zach Kennedy


You’re article was quite helpful and I saw a number of points of overlap with the process I already go through.

My one question for you is how you manage to read so many books a year. Right now, I probably do well to manage a tenth of your annual average. Any advice on speeding up your reading without losing retention? And how much time do you devote to reading on average each day? Thanks.

15 05 2013
Zach Kennedy

Pardon the typo…

15 05 2013


I would say it’s not important how much you read as much as that you read diligently and wisely. Diligence meaning read what you can. Wisdom meaning, if you have limited time, only spend it reading things of quality. Here, old books really are superior to modern because they have been vetted with time.

As for me it’s hard to say how much time I spend reading per day. I usually go in cycles, where I’ll read a book a day for a week or two and then chill out and not read a thing for a few days. Sometimes, if I dedicate a whole day to study I can go through 8-10 books.

In terms of practical advice however, I would suggest:
1) like anything it gets easier the more you do it
2) authors are often repetitive and write several more chapters than they actually need to. These can be skimmed.
3) As far as retention, I make notes in the margins of every book I read (even fiction) of things that I want to remember. Then at the end of the chapter I try to summarize the argument underneath the last paragraph and any points I thought were provocative, unfounded, etc. If I’m using the book for something important (sermon series, course, research) I’ll type up the summary and put it into the computer for easy access.

Finally, I had a friend who took a speed reading course that dramatically improved his reading abilities. I have never done anything like that, but it did work well for my friend.

Hope that helps.


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