The Art of the Sermon Part Four: Bottles and Cans (Just Clap Your Hands)

Always looking for a gimmick for the blog, and constantly being asked about it, I've decided to work on a two-week series called "The Art of the Sermon." I'm going to walk through step by step everything I do for a sermon, from two weeks out until Sunday morning at the Bridge. I will then post a youtube video of the sermon, just in case you can't make the Bridge. If we do it right, this will be fun and educational! Come along!

Ok, this morning I was scared of this sermon writing blog post thing. Why you ask? Because I was absolutely eating it! There was nothing on paper. There was nothing in my brain. I was struggling to find a way to tell you guys how I had completely bombed. I was afraid I couldn't finish the series. And most importantly, I was afraid you wouldn't like me anymore.

But then inspiration struck. On my computer, I have a folder of half baked ideas. These are sermons that I started, and were marinading, but hadn't made it past the marinade process. And I found it, a sermon that I had nearly finished, and was ready to preach, but it turned out the sermon was shaping up to be too long for the time period I had that particular Sunday. JOY! And so one of the most important idea when it comes to sermon writing is the concept of reducing (stress), reusing (ideas that never made the floor), and recycling (old/unfinished) sermons.

But it's not that simple. There are some things to think through when you're recycling something:

1. You can't just assume it's finished.
Remember I said that this sermon was nearly finished. I hadn't quite gotten all the way through it, because I realized right away that I didn't have the time needed that Sunday. It's probably I would say 75% done, so obviously we're not done with this series.

But more than that, even if your recycling a completely finished sermon, you need to read over it, and make sure that the illustrations and examples are up to date. No one wants to hear about how you voted in the 1992 election. Keep it up to date!

2. Make sure you haven't preached this sermon (or anything like it) in front of this audience.
A statistic that bothers me is that many pastors only have 6 sermons that they just re-work again and again and again. It bothers me most when I realize I am no different. I have my favorite topics, but I realize that the scriptures have a lot to offer our congregation.

This brings us back to a concept from our first post in this series: the spreadsheet. When I'm calling an audible at the line, one of my first stops is to the spreadsheet to make sure that we haven't preached on this topic recently. The spreadsheet in this moment goes from being my greatest enemy to my number one friend! Luckily I cleared the bar this time around!

It's really important to make sure you are in some way tracking what you've preached on. I just heard a story about a pastor who will go out and buy a cheap bible, and then highlight only the passages he's preached on. He tries his hardest not to repeat any of the highlighted sections until the whole of the bible is filled up. Whatever your methodology is, make sure you're keeping track of what your preaching, so you don't sound like a broken record.

3. Remember that God isn't done with the sermon you were working on.
I started this process feeling like God wanted me to share something about the Holy Spirit. Just because I wasn't writing a good sermon doesn't mean God wants me to abandon that concept or theme. So the few notes and beginings of an outline I have for this sermon heads into the same folder that brought me the new idea, and I'm certain it will find its way to the Bridge again soon.

I don't think God gives up on ideas, or that the need to hear about ideas becomes any less, just because we can't write the sermon. The spirit just had other priorities, and needed to plant the seed for tomorrow today. So keep a folder somewhere on your computer of half baked ideas, and let them marinade some more. As new ideas come and go into your head, make sure to update your files. You never know when they'll come in handy.

So now I'm on to this sermon. I'm actually really excited! I forgot how excited I had been to give it before I realized I didn't have time. We're going to be looking at Exodus 15, and examining why we sing in church. I'll have more on this sermon later, and fill you in a little bit more on the writing process. But if you're still hanging in there with me, take a moment in the next couple of days and read Exodus 15. It'll help if we're all on the same page, picking each other's brains!




Sarah said...

You wrote about spreadsheets! <3