In Sermon Prep: A Week in One Life, Stephen Um describes his normal process of preparing a sermon. Although there’s some helpful stuff in here, especially his last four points, and although he says “every pastor’s week looks a little different,” I think a lot of pastors will find it quite amusing – and perhaps a little disturbing too.
The amusing bit is to have what looks like about 20 hours to prepare a sermon. It reminds me of the time I heard Paul Tripp tell gasping pastors that no sermon should be preached with less than 35 hours of preparation! Talk about air leaving the room.
In my first congregation I had to prepare a minimum of three new sermons every week (every other week it was four). In my second pastorate, it was a steady diet of three sermon preps a week. Three is probably the norm for most UK pastors, mostly in small congregations with no staff. 15-20 hours to prepare a sermon sounds to us like an over-realized eschatology!
The disturbing bit for me was beginning sermon preparation with a group consultation rather than face to face with God and His Word. Stephen says:
For me, sermon prep starts on Tuesday morning when I gather my preaching staff (assistant pastors) for sermon discussions. We meet for about two and a half hours to read the text, talk it over, and pray that it would begin to shape us….By the end of our discussion, we will have determined a basic outline for the sermon, a general idea of where the sermon is headed.
I know its become strangely common for pastors to circulate their almost-completed sermon to fellow elders and other pastors before preaching, but this seems to be taking the co-operative sermon prep model way too far. What’s happened to the man of God prayerfully seeking a text and message from God, wrestling with the text face-to-face with God, seeking its meaning in dependence upon the Holy Spirit, and coming out to the people of God with a divinely-given message: “Thus saith the Lord…”
I really hope and pray that this kind of collaborative-group-sermon prep will not become the norm. Instead, let’s get our patterns and practices from some of the more tried and tested homiletics models of the past. It might spare Peter, Paul, Knox, Calvin, Spurgeon and Lloyd-Jones some grave-turning.