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Bill White: How I Prepare a Sermon

Helping you develop your signature method of preparing a message

As preachers develop their signature method of sermon preparation over the years, they often enhance their process by "cherry picking" from the sermon prep schedules and checklists of others. When someone preaches in a way that consistently intrigues and speaks to us, and we wonder how they do it, the answer may well be found in those schedules and checklists.

PreachingToday.com: Are there any key questions you normally answer, or paths of thought you typically take, as you study a text and write the sermon?

Bill White: In my sermon preparation I use "a missional hermeneutic"—preparing to preach by looking at the assigned text from a missional perspective. I have six key questions that I ask myself and that we ask our whole preaching team to take time to ask when they come to the text. There are two questions each on the doxological, communal, and missional aspects of preaching, basically the "up, in, and out" of many church's mission statements.

  • Where is Jesus in this text? Where does this passage connect to the life, teaching, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ?
  • How can people meet him in this message? How can I help the congregation truly experience God through this passage, enabling them to love him more deeply with heart, soul, mind, and strength?
  • Who is the story for the week? What has the Spirit been doing in the lives of people in our congregation that lines up with this passage, and what is the best way to tell that story?
  • How is God shaping our character? How does God, through this passage, seek to shape the character of our local church community so that individually and corporately we reflect his image more clearly?
  • How can I proclaim the kingdom? What is the alternative reality that this passage speaks to, and how can I winsomely announce it to the congregation?
  • What do I want hearers to do? Where do we want God's people to go in the foreseeable future in response to the appeal of this message, and what practical means do I need to provide them to get there?

What schedule routine do you follow in sermon preparation?

White: Three to six months ahead of time I work with a team to dream up the series, then I go and lightly study the passages, set overall direction for the series, make general outlines for the sermons, and assign messages to the preachers on our team. This requires about 8 hours per series.

Two months out, I flesh out the series further for the worship leaders and preachers, trouble-shooting tricky passages, and work with the team to plan for additional worship service components—such as communion, testimonies, videos, and writing music—that may assist in the preaching of the Word. This requires 4 hours per series.

I pray every day for the preaching of the Word. I do this for a couple minutes a day, but it is invaluable. I fast one meal a week and pray for the preaching of the Word. I spend that time hungering for God to show up.

I keep my eyes open all week for the answers to the above questions.

On Monday morning I spend an hour looking over my text.

On Tuesday I spend half an hour with my co-preacher (we have two English preachers and one Spanish preacher a week) to share thoughts, hammer out an outline, and solve problems.

On Friday morning I spend one to two hours working up what slides I'm going to use, editing testimonies, viewing the work of our video guy.

On Sunday morning I spend two hours figuring out what I'm going to say.

So, during the week of the sermon, it comes out to about 5 hours.

Bill White is a church planter in urban Long Beach, California.

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