The Life Cycle of the Sermon
Most sermons follow a similar pattern: birth, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension.
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In his 25 years of preaching, Pete Scazzero, pastor of New Life Church in Queens, New York, has noticed a pattern for his sermon preparation process. Scazzero calls it "The Life Cycle of the Sermon," and he claims that his sermons follow this cycle at least 95 percent of the time. This cycle involves five remarkably consistent phases—birth, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. (Sound familiar?) In this candid interview, Scazzero analyzes this pattern and coaches preachers in how to journey through each stage of the cycle.
What do you mean by the birth of a sermon? What does that look like for the preacher during a normal week?
The birth of a sermon starts with a lot of energy. A sermon is birthed when I get excited about a big idea or a particular passage of Scripture, and I can't wait to share it with others. So I plunge into my exegesis and my study. It's all so rich and enjoyable. My soul is getting fed. My mind is filled with possibilities.
God is speaking to me through this text. It's alive. So, initially, I think, Okay, it spoke to me. Now it's going to speak to everybody. At this stage of the sermon prep process, I love preaching. I also love preaching when I finally get to stand up and preach. But something happens between this initial infatuation stage and the sermon delivery phase. I almost forget that it's never as easy as just getting excited about a text. There's a long journey ahead of me. Death is coming. Burial is coming. I find that these must come if there is going to be a resurrection in the sermon
What do you mean by the death of a sermon? How does the preacher experience this "death"?
Soon after this energizing birth phase, I realize that I have to actually put these notes and meanderings into some kind of coherent message by Sunday. And generally that's when death begins. I realize my message isn't clear. I have twelve points, not one main point. I've got nine scattered but interesting thoughts, not one solid message that's been developed. I have to take all of my exciting possibilities and put them into a limited message of thirty to thirty-five minutes.
At this point I usually begin to feel I've got nothing to say. I begin to think, I must be crazy thinking that I can speak for God. How is God going to shape something beautiful out of all this chaos of study, exegesis, and good ideas?
Most preachers I know rarely talk about this, but do you actually know anyone who doesn't go through this? It's the feeling that the message is never going to come together. It's a painful feeling. Frightening might be a better word. It is certainly a kind of death.
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