My friend, Scott, asked me a while back: What is your Modus Operandi (MO) for preparing a sermon? Here is what I wrote to him in Five Parts:
#3 Preparing a Structure
Then I sit with a "blank sheet of paper" (or blank computer screen) and I create a structure for the sermon out of what I’ve been reading. What's the one question to answer, or one issue to explore?
That takes AGES.
It takes me close to as long as the preparation, and sometimes (not all the time) as long as the writing of the sermon. I go through maybe 20 versions of how to structure it, changing the wording and ideas etc. And I’m only dealing in a few words, usually. I swap the words around. I scribble them out. I start again. I sleep on it etc. This is the most frustrating part for me. Because I know if I get this, everything else will fall into place. I aid this process by asking:
- What’s unique about this text that I’ll find nowhere else in the Scriptures? (To stop me saying the same thing every week)
- What is the main image here? (The mind is not a debating Hall, it is a picture gallery)
- What is the emotional content here? (To keep me thinking about real lives and hearts)
- Why is this text life or death for us? (To stop me from getting trivial)
- And of course, how does this text alter how I live my life? (To keep it from being un-devotional).
Most of my sermons are exploring one issue, or answering one question.
In the case of the sermon last Sunday (Click HERE), it was simple: "What value is there in this very surprising 'Parable of the Dishonest Manager'?"
The structure of the sermon is will mostly fall out of the text. It writes itself. So instead of the normal 3 points, I wrote 4 surprises (16:1-7) and 2 things to learn (16:8,9). The text lends itself that way.
That’s what I write on the one Blank Sheet of paper.
I live with the structure and think about it lots (I learnt that from a young Andrew Rees 10 years ago), and I scribble thoughts wherever I can.
Last one to come.