Thursday, July 31, 2014

Learn Sermon Writing From the Pros

(...or, at least, from this pro. Cue mental sequence of that parking garage scene from Ferris Bueller's Day Off:

"Relax...You guys have nothing to worry about, I'm a professional."

"A professional what?")

Also, this isn't so much a "tips and tricks" post so much as a "step by step process" post...a step by step process that has been finely honed and tested with the writing of three years' worth of sermons (and two years' worth of sermons before that as a part time student associate pastor).  I can confidently say that I have narrowed down my sermon writing process to 14 easy to follow steps, and that I am ready to share them with you:

Step 1: Pray. Every good sermon is rooted in two things: Scripture and prayer.  This I firmly believe.

Step 2: Study the passage you're preaching on that week.  This step obviously doesn't apply if your style is to pick a sermon topic and then shoehorn a miasma of different Bible verses out of context in to fit it.  Wait, that sounded judgey of me.  Hey, it's your world, I just live here.

Step 3: Bring into the mix the opinions of people smarter than you, like commentators, Bible professors, and totally wicked awesome bloggers. *ahem*

Step 4: Scour Internet news websites, various human interest story outlets, and your decrepit collection of Chicken Soup for the Soul books for a totally wicked awesome story to launch your sermon from (personally, I love using real life stories as springboards for my messages, rather than as illustrations of my message...after all, if worship of God isn't about real life, then why do we bother?).

Step 5: While doing step 4, get derailed by the breaking news that some ignoramus of a pastor said something colossally offensive and stupid.  Obsess about it and about any implications it has for your fellow Christians, and then write about it on your blog (you DO have a blog, right?).

Step 6: Realize that after you finished writing about it on your blog that you still have a sermon to write as well.  Properly shame yourself for allowing your devotion to homiletical greatness to be derailed by your devotion to your silly little blog.

Step 7: Once you have achieved said realization, sit yourself down (chain yourself, if necessary) and begin writing great words of holy wisdom on the blank canvas that is your copy of Microsoft Word.

Step 7a: A reminder that step 7 can be even more pressurized by scheduling yourself to officiate a wedding or a funeral that week, so that way you have TWO different messages to consider!

Step 8: Remind yourself that you are proclaiming not just anything, but the Word, the Logos, of the one and eternal God as revealed by His Son, Jesus Christ, and that therefore all the material you created in steps 1 through 7 is totally subpar and therefore useless.

Step 9: Begin shaking your head, kneading your temples, and crying softly to yourself.  If Step 9 is taking place after normal working hours, it is appropriate to fix yourself a drink or three at this time.

Step 10: Question your entire sense of vocation, calling, and very existence.  Pretty straightforward step, amirite?

Step 11: Pick your lush self up, spiritually dust yourself off, put on your homiletical hiking boots, and climb a mountain called "THIS WEEK'S SERMON."

Step 12: Pause mid hike to write this blog post that you are currently reading instead.

Step 13: Realize that you really need more prayer.  Repeat step 1 as necessary.

Step 14: If you're a senior or solo pastor: rinse, lather, and repeat for next week.  If you're an associate pastor, congratulations!  You're off the hook until the next time your senior pastor decides to let you out of your cage for the paying audience.

And in case it needed to be said...hopefully it doesn't, but you never know: everything I wrote after about step 4 or so was written thoroughly in jest.  Said steps also are totally NOT a reflection of the week of writing (or attempts at writing) I have had.  No sir, not at all.

Wait, I think my nose just grew...damn...hey, maybe that can go into the sermon...

Yours in Christ,

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