Monthly Archives: December 2010

Reflections on 40 years of sermon preparation

It’s funny how decisions made early in one’s career get carried forward for decades. In my early preaching I wanted to “hide” my sermon notes in my Bible (not to be deceptive, just so I could hold my Bible in hand and preach without having to carry a notebook too). I turned the page sideways and typed the sermon outline in two columns, creating a page one and page two. I then folded the page in half and used a rubber band to hold it in my Bible in the same place as my text.

That didn’t work very well because it was hard on the binding of the Bible. Over time, I moved the sermon outline to a notebook that holds the paper with a clip on top. It is the same length and width of the average Bible. I kept the landscape/two column outline approach. Ultimately, I went to a fuller outline and ended up filling front and back of a letter sized sheet of paper, but still using two columns – creating “4” pages of sermon notes.

If you are still with me, looking back, had I not wanted to hide my notes in my Bible I probably wouldn’t have gone with the landscape, two column approach that I’ve now used around 40 years!

I’ll add this: using a manuscript or decent outline is invaluable for revisiting passages. I very seldom just re-preach a sermon, but having exhaustive material from a previous sermon is invaluable to an every Sunday preacher.

Sometimes going back and reviewing old material is quite humbling to me and I’m tempted to write a letter of apology to a previous congregation. At other times, I’m amazed at how the Lord was helping me in those days with insights that are still valuable to me today.

In general, I think I turned a corner around 40 years of age. Work I did after that is generally more to my liking than what I did in my 20s and 30s. Maybe at 45 or so I finally grew up (not kidding here).

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