I start with an outline.
Then, I write a full sermon manuscript of what I plan to say.
Then, I condense the manuscript to notes that I will actually preach from.
On Sunday mornings, I get up and 5:00 am, and read my manuscript twice – sometimes out loud. At 6:30 am, using my notes, I practice my sermon, out loud, at least twice.
Typically, I preach at three different services on Sunday mornings.
Now that I have this blog, I will post my sermon manuscript every week, which requires that I read it again and edit it according to what I actually said, or may have left out. My sermons do tend to “evolve” – hopefully improving… but not necessarily.
By the time I post a sermon manuscript, I have read it or said it at least eleven times.
Occasionally, on Sunday afternoons, Kelly (my wife) will ask me, “Did you listen to your sermon this morning?” Yep! Eleven times! But, that’s not exactly what she means.
She knows me better than anyone. She knows my struggles. She knows that, sometimes, the things I preach with conviction to others, I sometimes struggle to accept for myself.
She asked me yesterday, dang it.
I preached, yesterday, that there’s no brokenness that Jesus cannot heal and restore. I DO believe that. I wouldn’t be in this job if I didn’t. I’ve seen God do it. But, truthfully, after so many years of living with chronic pain – which has been particularly awful recently – I get discouraged. VERY discouraged. The discouragement itself, apart from the physical pain, is also painful. Even as I write this, I’m feeling pretty bad.
Do I BELIEVE God can heal my pain and discouragement? Yes. Of course. Do I think he will? Well…
I realize that sounds hypocritical. I say I believe it, but do I really? And, I know that sounds like I lack faith. Maybe I do, at least as far as my own struggles are concerned. I’m a preacher. But, I am a VERY human preacher.
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus was approached by a father, whose son was tormented by a demon. The father said to Jesus, “…if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” To which Jesus replied, “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”
I love the father’s response – “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
Yes, I DO listen to my own sermons – over, and over, and over. I swear, I will never preach anything that I don’t believe with my whole heart. But, listening isn’t always the same LISTENING! Listening isn’t the same is believing.
I swear, I will also never preach that faith and hope and believing are easy.
“I do believe – please, Jesus – help me overcome my unbelief!”
(I’m sure some who read this will be concerned about me. I’m ok. Really. I am. No cause for alarm. I’ve lived with pain for a long time, and life goes on. I get up everyday, and do the best that I can. There’s no need to worry about me, or ask me, “How are you feeling?” And, as much as I appreciate the gesture, I’m not asking advice about medicine, supplements, treatments, etc. I’ve tried EVERYTHING! This isn’t a cry for help – really! I’m not looking for sympathy. This is just a preacher being honest! I hope that’s ok.)