It Takes 20 Years to Make a Sermon

I have waited 20 years to write this post, even though the blog has only been around a few years.

In the earliest days of my Christ-following journey (as a college student), I read as much as I could about the lives of preachers who’ve gone before us. One of those people was E.M. Bounds, a Methodist preacher in the 1800s (he served as a chaplain in the Confederate Army during the Civil War).

One of Bounds’ major focuses was prayer. I remember reading a little book he wrote on prayer, specifically the prayer life of the preacher. In recent years, I’ve been getting back to Bounds and I’ve picked up a copy of The Complete Works of E. M. Bounds on Prayer, a collection of several little books Bounds wrote on prayer.

In the book on the prayer life of the preacher, Bounds wrote one statement that has stuck with me ever since I read it …

It takes twenty years to make the sermon because it takes twenty years to make the man (woman).

Frankly, I never liked that statement! But that was about 20 years ago, and twenty years later, it makes a lot of sense!

The point Bounds makes, I think, is that it takes time to internalize the message. The sermon grows out of the preacher’s life. The impact of a sermon is not so much in the words the preacher speaks, but in the life the preacher lives. When the preacher’s life speaks volumes about the life of God, the words have real impact in the lives of listeners.

I plan to write soon about the process I go through in preparing sermons (which is always in development!). I’ll write about how my process has evolved over the years up till now.

For more on preaching/communication, see One-Point Preaching and StoryMapping, two of the most viewed posts on the blog.

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