This is an update of a post called 5 Stages of Sermon Preparation that I wrote over a year ago. I’m going from five stages to four because, 1) four is simpler than five, and 2) the first stage in the previous post isn’t really a stage, it is something I need to be doing all the time (i.e., Cultivate).
The remaining four stages are the same, except that I changed some of the words so that they all start with the same letter, which might make them more memorable.
I begin sermon prep simply reading—and soaking in—the Scriptures. I like to print my sermon text in multiple translations (from biblegateway.com). I highlight key words and phrases as I read through the text. I also write down ideas that come to mind. My goal is to spend quality time in the text before I go to the reference works.
Ideally, I try to read through various reference works in one day, if possible. After soaking in the text, I am able to process the information during this stage more quickly.
I start out with study Bibles, such as the Life Application Study Bible, Archeological Study Bible, and The Life with God Bible study Bibles. After ordination, I look forward to adding the fairly new Wesley Study Bible. I would have bought it already, but in the last couple of years, they’ve been given as gifts to those being ordained at annual conference. If that continues, I should receive mine next weekend!
I try to refer to a couple of different commentaries as well as The Idiot’s Guide to the Bible for a good creative, overview/summary. I like to do as much as I can online (see my post on Online Bible Study Tools; one of my favorites is the extensive translation notes at NET Bible).
After soaking in the text and spending time in the study resources, it’s time to shape the sermon. This part of the process involves picking a point and then building everything around it. I use the map presented by Andy Stanley in Communicating for a Change—ME-WE-GOD-YOU-WE (see my post , One Point Preaching).
The one stage I probably need the most work on is this one. I’m usually shaping the message up until the time of delivery. I would like to have it pretty well shaped a couple/few days ahead of time so that I could let the sermon simmer for a while.
Well, in a perfect world, this is generally what I try to do. The challenge, of course, is that Sunday comes every seven days. That leaves little room for getting too far behind!