Friday, February 27, 2009

This week's sermon
  • Step five: grind out the sermon
  • Writing a sermon is like wrestling an alligator -- the only way to find out what it's like is to try it for yourself.

    Fortunately, I've picked up some moves that usually help; that's why most of my sermons follow this pattern:

    Page 1: introduction
    • Start with a one-sentence summary of the problem. (In this case, it's the fact that "We all hate it when nobody notices how good we've been.")
    • Spend a half-page illustrating the problem, viz. Greg Mortenson setting up 200-chairs for a fund-raiser . . . and only three people show.
    • Spend the next half-page noting the fact that scripture deals with this problem, and introduce the thesis that grows out of this scripture, i.e. "God is the only audience we need."
    Pages 2 through 3.5: the problem
    • Give some context for the scripture, and note how it states the problem, i.e. "some people try to get noticed by the wrong people."
    • Read and explain the scripture's take on this problem.
    • Make some application to our lives today.
    Pages 3.5 through 4: the solution
    • State the solution, i.e. "God sees what we do -- even if nobody else does!"
    • Half-page illustration: God is like a parent who knows what His children are getting Him for Christmas; there are no secrets from Him!
    • Take the next page to read and explain the relevant verses.
    Page 5: application and conclusion
    • Spend a half-page applying the solution to people who work without an audience -- people who may feel that "nobody knows and nobody cares" what they do.
    • Point out that God knows and God cares what we do (even if nobody else does).
    • Note that even an audience of one can be enough if it's the right one -- and illustrate this with Greg Mortenson's "failed" fund-raiser.
    • Close by restating the thesis.
    My goal is to write one page an hour -- and to help me do this, I use the usual writer's tricks:
    • If I finish a page early (i.e. before the hour is over), I take the rest of that time off as a reward.
    • I always try to write a little beyond a natural stopping place -- when I've finished page one, for instance, I'll write the first sentence of page two before I take my break.
    • If I come down with writer's block while typing my sermon, I switch to writing with a pen on a legal pad -- and vice versa.
    • And I plan for the fact that the last page will probably take twice as long to write as a "normal" page. (I don't know why -- it just does!)
    And with that, I'm done!

    Almost.

    Tomorrow: delivering the sermon.

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