The word, done, can have different meanings. Obviously, sermons are not totally done until they have been preached. Some of us want our sermons in manuscript form, and others function best preaching from an outline. The vast majority of us preachers want the words we preach on paper in some form. So, when do you get that product done?
I believe God is able to speak best through me when my messages are in the form of a manuscript, and for years I got my manuscripts written somewhere between Tuesday and Saturday. On rare occasions with a 5 p. m. Saturday service, I got my sermon done just before the service began. Karl Barth was no doubt effective when he reportedly walked into a lecture hall with the ink still wet on his lecture. I did not believe God was best served when I finished my manuscript just before the service began.
Then I read an interview with Frank Harrington in the magazine Preaching when he said he wrote his sermons three months in advance. He was the Senior Pastor of Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, GA from 1984 through 1999. It was the largest congregation of the Presbyterian Church (USA), with 6,940 members in 2012.
I was deeply moved by Frank Harrington’s practice, and I said to myself, “If he can do it, I can do it too.” From that point forward I began rising at 6.30 a. m. to work on sermons, and I began the deeply satisfying practice of having my sermons written one month in advance.
What were the advantages?
- The Holy Spirit had freedom to rumble the words of the sermons around in my mind and spirit a month before I preached them,
- I was able to give the choir my sermon material a month in advance to help them coordinate music with my messages,
- I was able to give my secretary my sermon material on Monday morning giving her more freedom in her work schedule, and
- Now I am able to give my worship computer tech my Power Point outline on Monday, so he has time to get it finished for proofing by Thursday.
When do you get your sermon done? Are you happy about it? Is Jesus able to use your messages most effectively with your timing? If not, what are you going to do about it?
Royal Speidel is a church consultant that has worked extensively with the Missouri Conference Center for Congregational Excellence on the Small Church Initiative. He is also serving as pastor of Russellville UMC.