THE LIFE-CYCLE OF A SERMON
What does it look like to prepare a sermon from the very beginning until after you preach it? Well, below I have outlined the life cycle for my sermons. This process is a helpful guide and is not meant to be prescriptive or followed legalistically. I hope it empowers you in your preaching journey. Someone once said, “Preaching a sermon is like building a plane and then flying it, and then re-flying it over and over again.”
Years Before – “The Never-Ending Preparation”
Listen to great preachers. Read commentaries.
Be a student of the Bible - write summaries of chapters/books of the bible.
Grow in your personal intimacy with God, your understanding of the Gospel, and your joy in God.
Know your sheep. Bias towards people not books!
Keep record of illustrations and good quotes.
13 Days Before (Monday) – “The Crockpot”
Get the text/scripture but don’t read any of the suggested preaching notes yet (if applicable).
Create a word document for dumping notes/thoughts/stories/analogies.
Immerse yourself in the text (read it multiple times, pray it through, read it in multiple versions, write thoughts, discover how it applies to your life.)
11 Days Before (Wednesday) – “The Research”
Read through commentaries, suggested notes, listen to other preachers.
Write as many notes and thoughts as possible and pray them through. Ask God what he wants to say and highlight through this text.
Find one thing to repent of – remember it must turn your heart too!
10 Days Before (Thursday) – “The Skeleton”
Before going into the weekend, spend a chunk portion of time formulating your preaching notes - write your points and big idea - ultimately find your “skeleton structure” (if you are needing guidance with regards to sermon structure refer to my other blog post called “How to Structure a Sermon”.)
5 Days Before (Tuesday) – “The Flesh Part 1”
Set aside at least half the day (a chunky portion of time), to start writing your sermon word for word (flesh on the skeleton).
Start and end this time in prayer, bringing your heart before God, inviting his Spirit to lead you.
The main goal here is to get at least 75% of your preparation done.
4 Days Before (Wednesday) – “The Flesh Part 2”
Set aside as least half of the day (a chunky portion of time), to complete writing your sermon word for word (“Message preparation is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration”).
Once complete, go through the content checklist:
Faithful Exegesis (Does this sermon elevate and faithfully exegete Scripture?)
Gospel Centered (Does this sermon center on Christ and the gospel? Is Jesus the hero of the story?)
Cultural Contextualization (Does this message speak into the concerns/questions/narratives/idols of the culture?)
Double Impact (Does this sermon impact believers and seekers at the same time? How would one of my non-Christian friends respond to this message?)
Personal Stories, Analogies & Illustrations (Does this message capture attention and imagination?)
After finishing preparation, send your notes to a trusted leader/preacher and get their thoughts and suggestions.
3 Days Before (Thursday) – “The Delivery”
Make suggested/applicable changes based on the leader’s feedback.
After this, begin with delivery preparation (practice your sermon at least 3 times out loud – intentionally include your spouse at this stage).
Tweak your sermon notes as you practice your sermon out loud (make language changes, write in where you need to pause or slow down, highlight sensitive sections, decide the parts where you need to move away from your sermon notes, etc.).
Go through the delivery checklist:
Length (Is my sermon the right length?)
Speed (Where do I need to slow-down, speed up or pause?) (Vocal Energy)
Volume (Where do I need lower my volume and raise my volume?) (Vocal Energy)
2 Days Before (Friday) – “Fine-Tuning”
Tweak your sermon notes as you practice your sermon out loud at least 3 times. Listen for any whispers from the Holy Spirit and write them down. Make notes if any parts of the sermon feel anointed.
Complete your PowerPoint presentation (font size should be no smaller than size 36).
Ask 2 trusted voices to email you feedback after you preach on Sunday.
1 Day Before (Saturday) – “Resting”
Spend the day resting and relaxing.
Deliver your sermon twice in the day to your spouse (pray together too before going to bed).
Print your sermon notes and put them in your preaching file. Also make sure you have emailed your PowerPoint in JPEG format to the necessary people.
Morning of the Sermon – “The Power of the Spirit”
Pray and connect with God relationally apart from your sermon. Surrender in prayer:
- I bless my feet: they bring good news.
- I bless my heart: I have a clean sinless heart (as pure as snow).
- I bless my spirit: I been given a spirit of courage & boldness (2 Tim 1:7).
- I bless my ears: to hear God’s voice.
- I bless my eyes: I look up to the hills, where does my help come from?
- I bless my mouth: for God to use my words.
- I bless my tongue: He has given me an accurate tongue (Isaiah 55).
- I bless my mind: I have been given the mind of Christ.
Preach your sermon twice at full blast.
Drive to church and pray on the way. John Piper says that when preachers wake up on a Sunday morning, they should smell the smoke of hell on one side and the crisp breeze of heaven on the other (2 Corinthians 2:16).
Remember: all genuine preaching is rooted in a feeling of desperation.
1-3 Minutes Before – “The Peace of God”
Pray: ‘God, I love you. You love me. You love these people. These people love you. I love these people. These people love me. Perfect love drives out all fear. Amen!’ (Rick Warren).
Focus on your sermon introduction.
In the Car on the Way Home – “To the Glory to God”
Pray and thank God for the opportunity, thank him for his power, repent of pride, give him the Glory, and ask him for protection.
Spend time doing something after the service to keep your mind ‘’busy’ but without getting you more tired (beware of temptations).
2 Days After the Sermon – “Never Stop Growing”
Listen/watch your sermon on Mp3 or YouTube.
Read the feedback from the two people you asked feedback from (but only after you have listened to your sermon).
Make notes of the feedback for your next sermon.
Finally remember, “The true usefulness of our preaching will not be known to us until all the fruit on all the branches on all the trees that have sprung up from all the seeds we’ve ever sown has fully ripened in the sunshine of eternity” (John Piper).