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Question 9:

How do you go about creating your sermons? What is the process from the beginning to the end, the result of which we see on Sunday mornings?

In a previous article, I answered a question with regard to the centrality of the Word of God in preaching.

Today's question is much more practical in nature, which means that while I am happy to share my own personal method, I fully accept that others have quite a different approach. In the end, what matters is that the meaning of the Biblical text is fully conveyed to the congregation, and the hearers are exhorted to change through it.

I begin my study each week by printing the passage for the week in large, well-spaced print on one sheet of paper. At the same time, I print the lexicon of the original language as well. I usually do this on Monday or Tuesday. On these sheets, I write questions of the text, mark important words or phrases, look up important words and their meanings, and interact with the passage in a meaningful way, so as to be sure I am understanding all that is being said. This is the observation portion of my study. I am observing all that is there.

From this point, the text of Scripture that I will be preaching is central in my thoughts, my prayer time, and my study for the week. I may study other things for different purposes, but my Sunday text is now in the front of my mind.

On Wednesday, typically, I will begin reading commentaries and study notes about the passage, as well as cross referencing other related passages. In any good study Bible, there are typically a wealth of cross-references which I use, and then I use a book called The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, which is simply a huge book of cross-references for every passage.

For commentaries, I use several different authors, and also will add in any other books that speak to the particular point or topic of the passage. On any given week, I will have used Matthew Henry, D.A. Carson/Frank Gabaelin, John MacArthur, RC Sproul, J.I. Packer, and usually one or two others. Each week varies a bit, but those are the commentaries or notes that I have and trust.

From that point, and typically on Thursday morning, I begin the process of taking all that information and beginning to write my sermon. Sermon writing and delivery, and the study and practice of it, is called homiletics. Homiletic professors teach ways to build an outline, how to make an introduction, a closing, and things like that. I believe there is a place for that type of instruction, but I also do not subscribe to much of it. The reason is simple: the more focus that is given to the method of writing and delivery, the less focus will be given to the actual text itself.

Instead, my preferred method is to let the text itself dictate the topic, the intensity, the flow, and the points made. Too often, a sermon outline, done with the purpose of breaking down the text for the speaker and the listener, actually becomes the focal point of the message, rather than the text itself. I have heard it said this way: "too many preachers preach their outline rather than preaching the text of Scripture." If we preach a passage of Scripture, with its individual parts and intent, but also place it in the context which we find it, both biblically and historically, the structure and the content of sermon is dictated in those things, not in fitting all that into an outline.

Listen to how Dr. Steve Lawson says this...

"...expository preaching is text-driven. That is to say, the expositor must start with a text of Scripture and stay with that text throughout the sermon. He must say what the text says and promise what the text promises. He must warn where the text warns and he must offer what the text offers. In expository preaching, the preacher is the mouthpiece for a text of Scripture. The preacher has nothing to say apart from the Word of God." (from a series on Expository Preaching)

Sunday's message on March 6, 2016 is a perfect example of this. The topic of fasting was clearly the centerpiece of the passage, but it was the various words and phrases found in the text that dictated the direction and content.

Let me summarize all of this by saying: the structure of a sermon is secondary to the Scripture of a sermon. The structure, the pace, and the content, all are understood from the text itself.

Dr. Al Mohler says, "Read the text, explain the text, and repeat."

So, for me, Thursdays and Fridays are spent working through the parts of the passage and being sure that each word, phrase, sentence, and the whole passage are understood correctly, and then explained correctly. From there, I try to make sure my grammar is correct, that I am not repeating words or phrases needlessly, and that I can accurately and clearly explain what the text says, so that we can then collectively be exhorted to Christ-like change from the text itself.

On Sunday morning, I spend another 2-3 hours re-reading and revising, just to make sure the delivery is clear and the whole of the sermon makes sense. Often on Sunday mornings I make revisions to my introduction and to my closing. After 5-6 days of thinking and praying on the text, I am often convicted myself about the meaning of the passage, and thus what you hear is a measure of that personal conviction coming out in verbal form.

In all, usually 20-25 hours is spent per week in study and writing for the Sunday sermon. This can vary some from week to week, as can the whole process, but generally speaking, this is the way I start from a text of Scripture and arrive at a 45-50 minute sermon on Sunday morning.

Thanks to Ben for this question.

Because of Christ,
Pastor Jayson

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