crowdsourcing a sermon – part two

In the first part of the story of a sermon I preached I talked about the initial preparation stages, moving into Microsoft Word. It’s at this point that the sermon writing begins in earnest.

The first word document I was working on is mostly a list of bible verses, in the order of the outline, with some vague thoughts about an introduction to set the approach for the sermon.

In subsequent drafts (when I’ve made some progress, or I’m about to make a major edit, I’ll create a new word document and give it a new number – in this case we had draft01 through draft08, and then final.doc). Each of these represents putting some more “meat on the bones”, where I think about each small passage, and work out how it applies to me. From there, I think through what it might mean for the people listening to the passage.

For this particular sermon, I’m looking at how popular opinion from secular society relates to what is being said in James, and so the flow of each passage is to consider what society at large might think about a particular topic, and then look at the counter-cultural message of the bible. From there, I want my hearers to understand what difference this particular section should make to their lives.

A more traditional sermon might make three points, and then, at the end, give some idea as to how someone should live their life differently as a result. In this case, I’m going for more of a shotgun approach – covering more points than that, and providing an immediate application to each one, so that different hearers can take away different things.

When I get close to the end of preparation (which for this sermon means being a few hours away from preaching), I read through the draft, aloud, and record it. This gives me an idea of timing – 3000 words is about 20 minutes, allowing time to improvise in the final delivery.

It also helps me tidy up the wording where I’m likely to stumble over my words, and see if something that makes sense – to me – when written down will make sense when spoken.

A couple of times through this process I’ll print out a draft and give it to Kel (my wife) to read – she gives me really useful feedback, and helps me make the sermon as clear as possible: I think I’d be much harder to understand, and stumble over my words a lot more without her help. She also provides me with the encouragement to keep improving the sermon when I hit a wall.

In the next part, (if anyone is interested), I’ll post up the text of the sermon, and an audio recording of the actual sermon.

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  1. I’ve been told it gets easier over time, but it still takes me a long while (maybe 20 hours – I try not to measure it, but it was most weeknights for a week, and then a fair slab of a weekend) to put a sermon together. I could do it in less, but the quality would suffer, I think.

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