Every week I restart the routine of preparing what I will say on Sunday. It is a long and involved process from its inception to its conclusion.
1. A Seed of an Idea. Months and sometimes years before a sermon is written entirely a simple idea catches me. I continually ask God to open my eyes to possible sermon ideas. Many times, they come while I am reading my Bible or spending time in prayer. Sometimes they happen during a conversation or while watching a movie. The concept gets placed in a “Sermon Idea” folder on my computer.
2. The Plan for a Year. Every year in late June and July I spend time reading and praying and putting together a sermon plan for the next 18 months. I think through holidays and various highs and lows in attendance. A plan is born for the next 18 months. The first six months of those were decided the year before, but I make any final adjustments.
3. A Month of Thinking. When I approach a new series, I create a new set of files on my computer. I type all ideas for each sermon into the computer. I might find a great idea while researching another sermon, so I type that into the appropriate place.
4. A Week of Writing. Each week I open the file for that particular sermon and start working. Sometimes I have a great deal started, and other weeks it is empty. I spend 3-4 hours on Monday chasing ideas, reading scripture, and general searching on a topic. I hope to have a rough idea of where I am going by the end of Monday. Tuesday is all devoted to sermon prep, and I hope to complete the first draft. Wed. is review and altering my original content. Then I search the internet to see what other people have said on the same topic. Thursday is for review and finishing. All week I pray for what I am writing.
5. The Spark of Connection. During the writing of a sermon, I keep looking for one simple idea to help the congregation know God better. I want them to hear something to encourage or challenge them. This week an idea became clear as I was writing that will be the final point of the sermon this Sunday.
6. Practice, Practice, Practice. I usually preach through the sermon during the week sometime. Then I will review it again on Saturday night before bed. I get up early on Sunday and preach through it in my office before worship.
7. Preaching. Finally, the moment comes to speak the words. Most of what I say is one hundred percent planned, but I do have a few ideas that hit me at the moment. Adjustments are made as I see people engaging or being lost. I have literal skipped whole prepared sections because people were sleeping. I have also added a page of material because the people were on the edge of the seat.
8. The Listener and the Holy Spirit. Somewhere after the words leave my mouth and fall on the listener’s ears, the Holy Spirit does something special. He will take my words and touches the heart of the person listening if their heart is open. I am always amazed at the way God takes my thoughts and uses them for good in the life of another person. He convicts, encourages, challenges and helps people understand in ways I never imagined.
9. The Heart of the Listener. I always pray that my words make it past the ears of the person listening and into their heart. I hope one line or one idea will not let them go. It infects their soul and moves them closer to God.
10. The Life of the Listener. The final stop of this journey is in the actions of the people who hear the sermon. It is great when people say, “nice sermon” to me, but it is better when they live it out. When someone changes their life because of something they heard, it is the greatest work of the sermon.
This Sunday I kick off a new sermon series entitled “All I Needed to Know I Learned in Children’s Church” with the sermon “Worship Should be Active.” This sermon and series have been months in the planning and preparation. The time is nearly here to speak what God has been laying on my heart. I hope you will be here to listen as I explain what the Bible teaches. I am praying it will help you in your walk with God as you live for him. My part is almost done, and your piece is almost upon us. I hope you are ready as I know I am. Hope to see you in worship on Sunday as God has something to say to you through me that might just help your life.