I have often heard that a preacher must frequently listen to other preachers’ sermons. While I try to do this as much as I can, it’s hard to find time, so I do it while I work out, listening to sermons over the internet while I exercise.
Recently I was listening to a sermon by a famous preacher in Korea and was astounded by what I heard. “I don’t teach the Bible in my sermons,” he said. He then shared how he usually begins writing his sermons at 3 AM on Sunday morning. He generally finishes it up by 7 AM, has breakfast, and then goes to preach.
I was totally flabbergasted. How in the world does he prepare a sermon in 4 hours? Part of it is that he doesn’t do expository sermons and sometimes substitutes his sermons with explanations about church policies. And I would have been consoled if his sermons weren’t thoughtful or pleasing to the soul, but the surprising thing is that his sermons are powerful and positive on their own. I got depressed and seriously asked myself, “Why do I put so much time and effort in preparing sermons? Does it matter?”
For me, once I decide on a main passage of scripture to preach from, I take a lot of time to study and research the book. I study the historical background of the book and research different reference materials. Then I repeatedly read over the scriptures in its original language and try to find the writer’s intent by carefully and thoroughly looking at the meanings of the words. These days, I start by studying the main verses, which usually takes a whole day, from Thursday afternoon to Friday morning. Based on the research, I construct an outline and start writing the sermon after lunch on Friday, sometimes working until Saturday evening. I also write the Pastor’s corner and do other things during that time, but at any rate, it takes me about one and a half days to write a sermon. I also check and compare different reference materials to ensure what I’m saying is theologically sound, and I pray and work to verify that it is in accordance with His Word.
Although I questioned the effectiveness of the extensive time and effort I placed in preparing for sermons, I concluded that I need to continue doing so. A preacher delivers God’s Word, not his own. So it is critical that he take ample time to study His Word. Although it’s wise for him to balance his daily schedule, he must give top priority to studying the Bible. Also, because I am still a novice preacher, I must do my best according to basic principles. And I hope and believe that, with time, I will acquire maturity and efficiency to deliver sermons with more clarity and accuracy.
Soo Kwan Lee
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