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5 tips for healthier sermon prep.
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Great insights Ken. You reminded me that spontaneity does not emerge in the absence of structure in any creative process, including preaching preparation. I like the contemplative dimension of how you approach the text in your preparation process. You mention analysis (e.g. exegesis, word study, historical context etc) and artistry (pastoral imagination informed by biblical theology and contemporary perspectives.) Sermons that give evidence of both tend to capture my head and my heart.
I like the comparison between preachers preparing sermons and novelists writing manuscripts. Preaching involves analysis (exegesis, translation etc)for sure, but it needs artistry and creative expression that is memorable and - as Haddon would say - has one big idea. I have preached a few "Saturday night Specials" and have found that I get the job done but without the benefit of the contemplative mulling over of the text in non-hurried everyday activities. You have reminded me that spontaneity does not need the absence of structure to emerge and shape any creative process. Thanks Ken!
After 30 years of preaching I can vouch for all the principles and practices you've mentioned. Personally, I find that writing my sermon the week I preach it brings an immediacy and energy (and occasional panic) that I just have never been able to give up. Still, our creative team and worship planning sessions are always working two or three weeks out, which forces me to be working ahead and giving room for the creative cycle. I, too, have found that "the body fuels the mind," but I prefer to do my exercise after studying or writing for a few hours. It almost always brings clarity, passion, and fresh thinking to the work I've done to that point. As I've gotten older, I find it essential to be brainstorming with younger people who are familiar with aspects of pop culture i'm not as in tune with.
Hi David, thank you for your question.
Typically, I don’t ask myself if a particular sermon series should be exegetical or topical, but rather, “What is the most fruitful form I could use to communicate this?”
As I’m thinking of a sermon series, I imagine a triangle. The base of the triangle is Scripture, but as a second side of the triangle I also consider what the community may need to hear. The third side of the triangle is what I sense the Holy Spirit doing in me and in the community.
In practice, in the fall I will often preach a series from the Older Testament, followed by an Advent series in December. I will often do something from the Gospels leading up to Easter and then, after Easter, I might do something from the epistles or Acts – so there may be a kind of Trinitarian feel to the preaching calendar in this approach, too.
Ken, another question here, as a pastor but how do you choose between topical and exegetical preaching?
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