Thursday, September 06, 2007

#4 - MO for preaching: Writing, Practicing and Culling

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:
#4 The Writing, Practicing and Culling.

I write my sermons out in such a way that I won't ever read it out. (You have to see how I order it to know what I mean. Happy to send a formated copy of this sermon to anyone who emails me). That means that I do not write it out in prose. But in ideas and subset ideas. I learnt that doing MTS.

I know I do not stay to a text, so a 25 minute sermon cannot be any longer than 1900 words.

I practice as I go. And if I'm bored by what I prepare, I go back and start again.

Culling is the most important part. If you don't cull, you'll lose the game. (I'm not so good at culling, and so I know and feel the weight of this.)
PS -- Cafedave asked about timing. For a regular 25 minute Sunday sermon, I'm going to say 12 hours is average for me. Sometimes more, sometimes less. It's hard to say, because you live with it all week. I reckon something like 2/3 hours reading (more or less depending on what/where the sermon is, and whether you've done reading on it before, or if it's a text or topic), 2 hours on structure, 5 hours on writing, 2 hours culling and practicing. It's slippery.

It used to take me longer.

ONE MORE TO COME... (Just added an extra).


Pic is of Pulpit Rock by Mimi K


Bumble said...

Ahem, can you email me a copy of your note? I would love to see how it looks like.

BTW, what is MTS? And what is culling?

I try to write my sermon out long hand just to know how long I will take. My faith tradition wants a 35 minutes sermon - and that's 4000 words in my long hand writing.

When I don't have time to write, I work with outline. And with it, I've always overshot my time.

For me, 20 hours a week for 35 minutes sermon. I would love to have more time. But hey, you've got to work with what you have.

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding me? You guys spend 12-20 hours on a 30 minute talk that most people will forget completely?

Would Jesus not have suggested a better use of your time?

Justin said...

Anon -- Thanks for your comment. For the record, that 12 hours is often over 2 long evenings, because there is so much to do during the days.

But to your comment:

The reason it takes that long is not that you are writing a sermon that gives a shot in the dark. You are right -- most people do not remember sermons.

However you are doing more by preparing than simply giving a one-shot-in-the-dark sermon.

You are shaping your *own* heart and mind and your actions. You are reading, remembering, recalling, meditating, praying, changing and breathing the Scriptures. You are pressing against truths and testing their application in your life (as well as others). You are discussing the text and ideas with others over discipleships meetings etc.

So if that is the case, then all this is *exactly* what Jesus did. Jewish boys spent far more of their time memorizing and meditating on Scripture than any modern preacher.

But modern pastors are pressed for time with all the other things we do! So 12 hours will have to suffice.

I would appreciate a response.

Anonymous said...

No argument at all with "reading, remembering, recalling, meditating, praying, changing and breathing the Scriptures".

Just an observation that with all the time we spend preaching and having the Word preached at us (focused on a short message that imho has relatively little impact) there's a risk that we'll be avoiding our collective task/challenge of doing the Word.

That of course is not the intent, and I offer no reflection on you or your churches - since I don't know you - just that in my experience it seems quite possible to spend up to 20 hours preparing a sermon and still have missed the "weighty things" - justice, mercy and faith. And to have done very little to help others to actually walk in justice, mercy and faith.