How Sermons Really Get Written
You stare at a blank document on your computer. All the white space reminds you of a frozen lake or a giant white marshmallow. You start with a ten second prayer for help.
You don’t really know what to write so you start with the title. You’ll change it later.
You look at notes scribbled on a sheet of paper and you start writing. Your fingers start flying across the keyboard. You remember some old quote from Hemingway about writing being not that hard – all you have to do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed.
You write a few paragraphs from your head and think you should probably see what the Bible has to say about this topic.
You open up some computer software and type in a verse. That verse links you to another verse. Then another. Now things are looking up because you have three verses on forgiveness. Plus there are some good notes from the ESV Study Bible people. Those people are wicked smart.
Wait…Didn’t Francis Chan write a book on this? You go over to your shelf and start looking. You get distracted by a book about the faith of George Washington and start flipping through those pages. Five minutes later you remember Francis Chan and the hunt is back on. I should switch to Kindle.
You pick up the book and find the correct pages. It’s the sermon material jackpot. That’s good…I can use that.
You return to your desk and marshmallow colored document and start typing. Should you quote Francis Chan directly or just use the idea? You decide to go with the idea, because people in your church don’t really know Francis Chan.
Now you’re up to three verses from the Bible and a Francis Chan illustration. That might be enough for a homily in some traditional Presbyterian church, but you need twenty more minutes of material. You’re bleeding, Hemingway style.
You open up a web browser and start googling.
Rick Warren sermon on forgiveness. Click. The second hit is from Sermon Central so you download that.
Andy Stanley forgiveness sermon. Click. The third result are notes from a message, but the fifth post is from an angry blogger and called Extreme MegaChurch Abuse. You read about now Northpoint doesn’t preach the Bible, but you decide to use the sermon material anyway.
message on Acts 17. Click. There are hundreds of results, but the best one is from some Baptist preacher in Texas. It’s an outline about the five excuses people make for not forgiving someone. That wasn’t the original intent of the message, but this is good stuff so you decide to take it in that direction. I’ll make this work.
You’re up to two pages now. They are completely disorganized and all over the place, but it will make sense later. Plus, you’ve downloaded that podcast from Craig Groschel and you’ll listen to it on Thursday. That’s three full days before you have to preach so you’re feeling good.
Time to check in on Twitter and see what @perrynoble and @carllentz are up to. It’s been an hour and you’ve surely missed some important things. Then you remember you follow some people on Facebook and not Twitter, so you decide to check that too. Dang – Kelly and her family are on vacation again. I wish we could go on a cruise.
CMD-N to open up a new browser and type in cruises.com. Dang…these are expensive. Minimize window.
Checking Facebook turns into updating Facebook so you type, “Working on message for Sunday. It’s going to be epic and you don’t want to miss the opener.” If it’s the summer you add “If you go on vacation be sure to mail your tithe to the office.”
Now you’ve been on social media for 30 minutes and you feel guilty. I’ve got to work on this sermon..I’m a knucklehead. You close down Twitter and think about uninstalling it from your phone so you can be a distraction free preacher.
You started this thing with prayer, so you might as well end it there. God, please turn all this mess into a good sermon.
You change the title of the message from “Understanding God’s Forgiveness” to “Forgive and Be Forgiven” because that works better with the Baptist preacher outline from Acts 17.
You close the document because you’ve got a meeting. You’ll try and make some more time to work on this tomorrow, even though it probably won’t happen. It’s okay, you’ve still got Craig Groschel to inspire you.
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