Bloggers are usually either curators or creators. Curators act like hi-tech museum custodians, scanning the worldwide web for quality content to gather, organize, and link to. One of the best Christian curators is Justin Taylor at Between Two Worlds. Curators like Justin save many of us lots of time as they search, filter, and organize the best Christian content on the Internet. Brief though helpful comments often accompany the links and steer discussion. In a world of information overload, this is an invaluable service.

Creators, on the other hand, create. They write articles, comment on trends, and pen reflections and meditations. Most of their posts originate in their own minds and hearts. There is often a freshness and originality about their work. A good example of this is Kevin DeYoung at DeYoung Restless and Reformed

Of course, there are many bloggers who are both creators and curators. The classic example is Tim Challies who writes tons of original content, but also posts his daily “A la Carte.” Trevin Wax does similarly at Kingdom People. But most bloggers tend to fall into one of these two categories.

I think this distinction also applies to preachers. Creators are preachers who pour over the Scriptures, and think deeply upon them, prayerfully meditating and reflecting upon God’s Word. When they begin sermon preparation, they begin with their Bibles, not commentaries. And they don’t open another book (or Logos!) until they feel they have really exhausted their own minds and hearts.

Curators, in contrast, are preachers who do very little of their own thinking and meditating on the Scriptures. They mainly read commentaries and theologies, and listen to others’ sermons. They then cut and paste it all together. Their sermons are usually sound and well organized, but often somewhat stale and predictable.

I’m afraid that there are many more curated than created sermons today. We have so many accessible resources that can save us so much time and effort. If I punch my verse into my Bible software, it opens 15 commentaries at the right page, links me to other sermons on the text, suggests quotations and illustrations, and even produces sermon outlines. That is very, very tempting! Why struggle with the text? Why pray for light? Why beg for the Holy Spirit?

Why? Because, eventually, God’s people can tell the difference between a “curated” sermon and a “created” sermon.

Of course, we have to be careful not to overdraw this distinction. To avoid heresy and dangerous innovation, the creator should check all his conclusions with other commentators. And, of course, the creator is not averse to using commentators. However, he does not simply parrot the commentator. He distills the commentaries through his own mind, “makes the material his own,” and tries to express it in his own words. Also, when not preparing sermons, the creator should be reading good Christian books to keep his heart safe, his mind stimulated, and his thinking fresh.

But, despite these qualifications, the general distinction still holds and produces a challenge. The next time you prepare a sermon, see how far you can get with just a Bible, prayer and the Holy Spirit. Keep resisting the temptation to open Logos, Accordance, Hendriksen or Henry. Keep searching the Scriptures, asking for light, meditating deeply, and writing out your thoughts on the text. And only when you are truly “dry,” open other resources to check, clarify, and contribute to your sermon. And see if your hearers detect a new life and freshness in your sermons.

  • Peter F Whyte

    DavidThis is very helpful. I’m definitely a creator, but I find that it makes for longer preparation time. I suppose sermon preparation is also a bit like cooking. Some dishes can be microwaved, but they don’t have the same flavour as a slowly cooked stew that is left overnight before you eat it. Sermons need creation and time to mature. Not only do the sheep taste the difference, but the chef knows the difference too.

  • Paul C

    Exceptional post. I am wondering what to make of Jeremiah’s warning here: “”I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me.”You are right, the temptation is great… especially with all the sound bytes, pithy phrases and metaphors that make us look and sound clever. Thanks again.

  • Richard Sipes

    Great post on sermon preparation. I have to confess to sometimes being a curator, and sometimes a creator. I agree that there is much more of the Spirit’s power in the creating because I really let the Holy Spirit teach me the Bible and apply it to my life before I bring it to the pulpit.What are the steps or the process that you use in the creative sermon preparation?

  • David

    I agree with Peter … the best sermons are the ones that have been allowed to “marinate”

  • Carine

    This is so true. May I add that, as sheep, we not only taste the difference, but the created sermons create a hunger and thirst within us to hear more!

  • Slabbert Le Cornu

    Dear David, what is your stand on preaching with a paper/notes in front of you or not, any thoughts, or should we not be dogmatical about it ?Thank you for the answer.Greetings in our KingSlabbertps. say hello to my dopper friend, Antoine Theron, at PRTS !