Sunday, March 6, 2011

My Preaching Process

I wonder, sometimes audibly, if people ever wonder about the process that is preaching. What goes into a sermon? Where did you get that idea? Whose idea was it to sing this song?

If you’ll permit me, I’d like to offer a glimpse into my preaching process. On Sunday March 6, 2011, I preached at High Street Nazarene. The sermon was entitled, “rethinking: communion” and it was not created that week.

When you have lots of time between sermons, you do different things to prepare for them. My way is not meant to be viewed as “the right way.” I had months to prepare, and so it looks a little different from what someone who preaches every week (and sometimes twice a week) might look like.

So, without further delay, a behind the scenes look into “rethinking: communion.”

At our church’s Christmas Eve service, I was struck with an idea for what I thought could be an awesome sermon series someday. As I’ve said many times, advent is my favorite time of year. It should be no surprise that my idea that day centered around that. I was thinking about doing a 4-5 week series called, “Rethinking: Advent.”

But my brain began to work in a different direction, I realized that Advent may only be one thing that could be rethought in the Church today. What if we did a LONG sermon series just called Rethinking?

So, on the envelope to a Christmas card one of my teens had given me, I jotted down a list:

Rethinking: Advent
Rethinking: Christianity
Rethinking: Politics
Rethinking: Communion
Rethinking: Church

I basically filed the idea away in my brain (I still have the envelope. It’s in my work office, I’m writing from my home office). I thought I could use it at some point.

As a staff guy, you get asked to preach on a certain Sunday. My senior pastor asked me to preach a few months in advance.

So, I know a few months in advance that I’ll be preaching. It gives me a LOT of time to prepare.

When my wife and I moved, I got a chance to make a bonafide home-office. I love working in that office. I installed white boards on the walls, and I basically wrote the entire sermon on those boards.

I asked my pastor if I could serve communion as a part of the service. He told me I was allowed, and it was off to the races with my idea for Rethinking: Communion.

The message took shape on my white board over the next 4-5 weeks. This picture is a part of that process. I spend time in prayer preparing for the message, and used commentaries to refine the message (and make sure that I’m not saying anything incredibly stupid).

I typed out a manuscript, but I don’t preach from a manuscript. It just helps me to lay the ideas into a logical flow of thought.

Finally, I typed out a Sarah Palin-style crib note. I just don’t do it on my hand. I make a small sheet that fits on the cover of my Bible, and I print the entire Scripture I read on there, as well as a very skeletal outline of the sermon, just in case I get lost.

The manuscript and notes happened this week, sometime between Tuesday-Friday.

My final preparation happens the day before I preach. I think I’ve done this in one way or another every single time I’ve preached. The first time was actually at half-time of the Ohio State-Florida National Title game a few years ago, I was scheduled to preach in chapel at MVNU the next morning.

I take some time and I go into the place I’ll be preaching, and I run through the sermon. I tweak wording a little bit then, and check how long it’s taking.

Sometimes I have to go through it 4-5 times. Sometimes I just do it once. I ran through it once for this particular sermon.

Then I came home and picked out what I was going to wear on Sunday. Why take the time to pick out what I am going to wear? I’m honestly not that obsessed with the way I look, but on a Sunday morning when I’m going to preach, I don’t want to be concerned all morning with what I’m going to wear, so I try everything on the day before (pray that I don’t look like an idiot) and get it all put together for the next morning. That way when I get up I can be streamlined in my focus.

Well, that’s really it. Thanks for reading... as always, feel free to comment =)