Tuesday, November 08, 2005

The Birth of a Sermon

The Birth of a Sermon
Ever wondered what a sermon preparation process is like? Here’s an example of a very rushed sermon preparation process. I had already decided to preach on 1 Timothy 4:16. Hopefully, it will make for an interesting read for you.
Monday Date: Oct 31 2005 - 8:40pm (2.5 hours / 2.5 hours)
I have Hebrew class on Mondays. I have a 25 minute drive, and while driving home this night I began planning for the next week or so. As I started filling out my mental schedule, I realized I'm preaching in five days for my sermon class!

I maintained the speed limit for the duration of my commute and arrived home in a mild panic. I told Cathy to give me lots of unstructured time until Saturday… she was very understanding.

After spending some time panicking quietly, I calmed down by printing out the immediate context (1 Timothy 4) in several English versions (NIV, NASB, KJV, NLT, NET) as well as in Greek. Started outlining the entire chapter for the study.

Finding epece to be a real problem… the translations tend to render this word differently. The original word, ep-ekh'-o, can mean

  • to have or hold upon, apply, to observe, attend to

  • to give attention to

  • to hold towards, hold forth, present

  • to check

  • delay, stop, stay

I think “hold forth” fits better with the context of Timothy being required to set an example, but “give attention to” would also be important. I have to print from the NIV, so the different nuances may be irrelevant to this verse.

I realized that I must get up at 6 tomorrow, and I must sleep in order to be productive tomorrow. I go to bed at 11:30 pm.

I read a short devotional but drift off to sleep thinking of 1 Tim 4:16. While drifting off to sleep, feel convicted by the passage I am studying…
Tuesday Date: Nov 1 2005 - 6:40am
While driving to work this morning, I was once again convicted by the passage. I confessed inadequacies to God, especially in light of the passage I am studying. Gotta work…
Over lunch I examined the passage and considered preaching verse 15 and 16 are together. Verse 15 refers to 11-14 (“these matter”). I considered the matters pointed out… I may enumerate the properties Paul points on in verse 12, but explaining it may take too much time.
Between customer calls, I looked up library holdings for commentaries on the passage. I found a total of total of eight volumes and two articles that I planned on utilizing. My shift ended at 4 pm, and immediately after work I went to the library. . I gathered the books that were available and used my digital camera to photocopy the pages. I went home and converted the photos into PDF files for reading (using freeware, of course).
I outlined the passage biblically, tracking the flow of thought on paper and determining the meaning. This is exacting but not difficult… it is only a matter of diligence and respected for the text.

I tackled the hard part… finding the timeless truth of the passage and outlining the text’s flow of thought. Every passage that offers instruction is answering an implied question. Struggled with finding the right question to ask (like Bible Jeopardy) in order to cover all that the text addresses… Finally arrived at the question I will ultimately imply in my introduction, the need I will raise which the text addresses. This will be the sermon’s central truth.

Continued to outline... the structure of the timeless message was beginning to form. Getting tired, though… before preparing for bed, I skimmed a couple of commentaries, which did not yield much insight (perhaps too tired to notice).
Wednesday Date: Nov 2 2005 - 4:30pm
I got off work at 4 pm again and headed to school. I spent some time going through the commentaries I converted to PDF previously. I also added two more commentaries to the stack. Some of them have some useful insights, mostly deeper insights than my observations. There is no vast difference between my views and the commentaries, so I am done with the observations of great men who came before me.

I will need to complete the sermonic outline tonight… I did not prepare for my Hebrew class and do not feel like I can focus on it… I asked a fellow student to use my digital recorder and hang on to it for me. I’ll need to write the sermon tonight if possible... or at least start.
I typed up an extended outline and began filling out the body of the sermon
I  realized at 09:30 PM that I CAN DO THIS
it's a skill... anybody can learn to write a good sermon
at 10:45 I realized that I was more concerned with preaching well than a grade
I suppose that is a good thing
I also realized that my sermon is not producing the same conviction the passage had on me... bummer
Thursday Date: Nov 4 2005 - 2:00pm
went home early and finalized outline. Malachi was sick, very distracting!
started writing sermon
found introduction difficult
found conclusion even more so!
wrote out basic sermon
went back and restated main points
quit at 1 AM... sermon is basically done, although I am not pleased with it

I learned a lot, which is the point, but I think my sermon won't do the text justice
Friday Date: Nov 4 2005 - 2:00pm
I took the morning off and sleep almost 7 hours.
finished off conclusion, emailed document to professor
it took me forever to document the resources I referenced!

tonight - I will practice the sermon for an hour or two... !
I practiced several times, first just reading the manuscript (15 min) then by memory (12:30)
I practiced twice, then reviewed, then waited 45 minutes and practiced two more times.
In the end, my sermon is about 11:30, under the target of 12:00. I am still not pleased with the transition from intro to message, and the conclusion does not do the passage justice. Something feels like it is missing. But out of time.
Saturday Date: Nov 5 2005
Sermon is at 9:00. Woke at 7 after a good night sleep. Went through morning routine and ate light.

Arrived at 8:20 and spoke with other people preaching. Everyone seems nervous.
My sermon went well, though. The transition was rough as I expected, but not as bad as in practice.
Sermon was only 9:30, though… I forgot to mention one illustration and spoke faster, with less pauses.
Professor indicates the layout is good, and the “what and why” intro is good, but I forgot to tell everyone the audible que when I got to the “why”… nobody remembered “why” we were talking about “why”… live and learn!
Sermon is on video; going to ask coworker to digitize it.

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