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Mark Mitchell: How I Prepare a Sermon

Helping you develop your signature method of preparing a message

Editor's note: 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?

Mark Mitchell: In the preparation process, the main paths of thought I take are:

  • What did the original writer want to convey to his readers and why? At this point I want to nail down an exegetical outline and one exegetical statement.
  • What timeless truth (big idea) can I derive from that exegetical idea?
  • How does that timeless truth apply to today? Be specific!
  • What is the vision of God in this passage?
  • What is the depravity factor? How does this truth intersect with our fallen nature?
  • How does this truth relate to God's redemptive purposes in Christ?
  • How will I preach this text? Will it be an inductive or deductive sermon? What will my purpose be?

As you might be able to tell, much of this comes from Haddon Robinson's training. He has been a huge help to me.

What schedule routine do you follow in sermon preparation?

Mitchell: Weeks in advance of starting a series, I study the overall book and lay it out according to natural units of thought to be used for preaching. I try to have an idea of what the general theme is of each passage at this point.

I am off on Monday, and Tuesday is full of staff meetings, but I usually get a start on my exegetical work sometime on Tuesday afternoon.

Wednesday morning is set aside for sermon prep. I complete my exegetical work and read exegetical commentaries to check my work.

Thursday morning is set aside for sermon prep. I work on going from text to sermon. I try to nail down my sermon outline, the illustrations I will be using, and sermonic strategy. I sometimes try to read a few other sermons on this passage or a preaching commentary to get the creative juices flowing.

On Friday, the whole day is given to sermon writing. I don't even come into the office. I write a complete manuscript that will be printed for the church as a whole and placed on our website the following week.

I don't look at the sermon again until Saturday night, when I simply review it and make minor changes.

On Sunday morning I take about two hours to go over my sermon and make any last minute changes.

Mark Mitchell is the lead pastor of Central Peninsula Church in Foster City, California.

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