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How long does it take to prepare a sermon?

posted by xscot mcknight

I was impressed with much of what I read on Sivin Kit‘s website about Chris Erdman‘s “preaching on the run.”

Makes me a bit nervous, but I’m also quite sure that Jesus didn’t sit down and take notes, or that Paul did much of that sort of thing either. Maybe, but maybe not. A word to consider.

But, we shouldn’t forget the awesome task of preaching or that the fastest way to be shifted from the pastoral office to another one is bad preaching.



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Sivin Kit

posted July 20, 2005 at 9:15 am


I like one of the phrases in Chris’ post (I forget which one) – which attempts to answer the question in your title – “It takes a lifetime!”Thanks or linking me … indeed, I agree that bad preaching really opens many doors to be “ejected” from office. But, you know … at times, some survive with “flowery” rhetoric and “fancy” moves (while still bad preaching or bad theology) and the people suffer. Now that’s so sad … it hurts the body of Christ. Such an awesome task indeed.



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Orwell61

posted July 20, 2005 at 9:28 am


I couldn’t agree more with your comment on the “awesome task of preaching,” but I haven’t seen much evidence that “the fastest way to be shifted from the pastoral office to another one is bad preaching.”



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T

posted July 20, 2005 at 10:12 am


Thanks for your encouragement re: my comment a few days back about my local group’s practice of circle time (not squeaky clean, but getting cleaner). Sorry the comment was close to anonymous. My name is now linked to some information about me. I’m really appreciating that you put your thoughts on this blog (and I’m recommending it to some friends), having just found it. As for this post, my expectations from the title betrayed some of the strangeness of my perspective. I thought the (linked) post was going to deal with the idea of preaching (announcing, heralding, as I think of it) as being primarily an “out-there” activity as opposed to primarily an “in-house” activity. And I thought it would deal more than it did with the idea of Christians in general (not just professional pastors) constantly “preparing” (thinking about God with the Spirit and the scriptures, hopefully in awe-struck and infatuated kind of way); one of the benefits being an ability to “preach” in that out-there sense as the occasion arises. Preaching is one of those terms that I think has a different meaning in the Scriptures than its current usage, causing a little confusion and maybe some off-target practices. “Preaching on the run” sounds more like the biblical usage than ours. Thanks again.



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PJ

posted July 20, 2005 at 11:13 am


One of the lines in Chris’ post is this…”I’m a recovering perfectionist” – sounds like Scot’s previous post about telling clean stories…I don’t preach weekly from the pulpit, but if I did, I know that there would be a temptation for me to be a “clean preacher” – to have a polished act. My Bible college education impressed on me the “awesome task” of preaching and teaching…yet I’ve heard some of the most amazing things said by high school students who have flooded their mind with Scripture and don’t know a thing about my treasured inductive and exegetical practices.Cheers for preaching of the run. Preach always, if necessary…use a pulpit…Thanks,PJ



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Ted Gossard

posted July 20, 2005 at 8:07 pm


“Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Tim 4:16). 2 Tim 2:15 and 4:1-2 speak to this as well.It seems to me that sermons are best prepared both in our lives- in everyday living- and in our reading, meditation and prayerful study of Scripture.Surely both are a challenge, otherwise why would Paul write such words to Timothy as quoted above?



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John Frye

posted July 20, 2005 at 8:21 pm


I wrote in my book JESUS THE PASTOR that Jesus would not be accepted in most evangelical pulpits because he was not an “expository teacher of the Bible.” He was a story-teller. You can be booted from a church not for “bad preaching,” but for questioning the “symbols” of religiosity just as Jesus questioned them in his day. While most evangelicals would deny they “worship” the Bible, at heart they really do. To move a congregation from a Book-centered faith to a Person-centered is to embark on a perilous journey.



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Ted Gossard

posted July 20, 2005 at 8:31 pm


I read Chris Erdman’s “preaching on the run” and want to add my own “amen” to it.My own experience of preaching through the years has evolved more than less into what is spoken of there. Though I certainly don’t think it is wrong to study ahead of time. And anyone who does this “preaching on the run” must be immersed alot in the Bible and in prayer anyhow, I believe.



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ryan

posted July 20, 2005 at 8:52 pm


Of course, Jesus lived in a very oral culture…and most likely had the entire Torah memorized PLUS all the traditions and interpretations on it. The fact that Jesus can be stopped on the road and go toe-to-toe with any scribe or teacher of the law…means he wasn’t just the Son of God, he was a *darn* well-read theologian. (and the same for Paul we can assume)



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Ted Gossard

posted July 20, 2005 at 10:14 pm


John, I am wrestling with what you are saying, because I have wondered (in the sense of bewilderment) how we can take the living Word of God and make it dry crust that ultimately feeds no one on the living Bread- at the same time knowing it is only God that brings that “feeding” to pass in our preaching.I do agree that we can do the same kind of things Jesus did, fresh for our time and place. I can’t see making Scripture less than our UNIQUE and/or at least VERIFYING text for preaching. And what does “preach the Word” mean? I know you wouldn’t say that is an intrusion into the Jesus way.I would like to add: Can we compare Jesus’ preaching (he did not preach through Bible books- my paraphrase of what you wrote) with our own completely? After all Jesus in person, word and works was fulfilling the Scripture they had in that day. And in a way that we can only build on by the same Spirit- some replication included?



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Ted Gossard

posted July 20, 2005 at 10:19 pm


One more thing: I think too we must be immersed into the lives of people, especially of those to whom we are seeking to so serve.



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John Frye

posted July 21, 2005 at 6:11 am


Ted, it’s good to wrestle with how Jesus taught and how we teach/preach. I wholeheartedly agree with you and Ryan that Jesus was the entire Old Testament incarnate. He didn’t need to “preach the Word” (in our understanding of that phrase) because he was the Word. Jesus was also brilliant (so it’s very possible he had the O.T. memorized, Luke 24:27,…who knows?). Jesus did preach, though. He preached “the kingdom of God is at hand.” He described the kingdom in stories. I am firmly convinced that the only reason to explain (preach) the text is so that we may live the text, not just know the text. The living will be expressed in loving (God, others, creation). “Knowledge puffs up; love builds up.”



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Susan

posted July 21, 2005 at 6:24 am


So many great points have been brought up here but of all of them I like John’s and Ted’s -the two of you bring together the heart of what preaching and teaching should be about (and not about!)One of my prof’s yesterday spoke of becoming so integrated with your subject matter that you can jam on it like a great saxaphone player. It think that’s how it was for Jesus – to the ultimate degree – He IS the Word. But to the extent that we as preachers, teachers, and pastors submit to, understand, internalize, integrate the Word of God into our own lives – we can, without needing to make excuses, preach extemporaneously. Few have probably submitted to the disciplines necessary to get to a point like that however. Much of the extemporaneous preaching I’ve heard is either horrible or just creative and entertaining story-telling.



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Ted Gossard

posted July 21, 2005 at 8:54 am


Thanks John. Good points. I wholeheartedly agree.Thanks Susan. I personally am a strong believer in trying to prepare prayerfully ahead of time. Yet God has helped me to be able to deliver messages that seemed to be well received without such preparation. But for me this involved much (for me much) prayer and degree of struggle- before I was at rest with what I should share. But I know I’m not the ideal one to learn such things from. For me it goes something like this: Be yourself in the Lord and be true to your calling from him.



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Ted Gossard

posted July 21, 2005 at 12:13 pm


I have recently been working through an issue of forgiving another Christian who doesn’t seem to accept me in the Lord. I have found Jesus’ teaching in Matthew helpful here. And I can sense the Lord breaking through so that the other Christian and I can begin to commune with each other. Therefore I can now share on that teaching I think in more of a first hand and fresher way that is fully empathetic with the struggle we undergo in such circumstances, but is also aware of God’s grace available to us- in Jesus and in his way.



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Kerry Doyal

posted July 21, 2005 at 12:25 pm


Ted – you wrote: “…seemed to be well received without such preparation. But for me this involved much (for me much) prayer and degree of struggle- before I was at rest with what I should share.” Excuse the semantics, but prayer & struggle (I presume meditation, mental wrestling with a text / thot / topic / burden / people’s needs…) are indeed preparation. And, that you prayed & struggled tells me you had a data context that you drew out of from prior “prep.” – be it study or devotional reading from that week, month or decade. This discussion, not Ted or anyone, reminds me of a story. A pastor every Sunday trusted God for a word to preach. As he approached the pulpit He would pray: “Lord, give me a word.”One Sunday, as He prayed, walking to the sacred desk, the Lord answered and said: “Here is your word; you are lazy.”Warren Wiersbe once replied when asked how long he prepared for a sermon: “my while life”May God be pleased to use us because & despite our level of prep.



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