As a young preacher (and I started preaching at age 16) I was encouraged to use lots of Scripture references in my preaching. I probably overdid it and over time dialed things back, especially as I moved away from proof texting.
Still, I often mention different verses in a sermon, generally to give an example of what I’m talking about.
At first, I took strips of paper and numbered them in the order of verses I intended to mention. I bookmarked my Bible with those bits of paper so I could easily find the verses. As you can guess, it wasn’t a very good plan and sometimes left me searching, first for that numbered slip of paper and, not seeing it for some reason, for the passage itself.
My next plan of action was to type the verse directly into my notes. That solved the slips of paper problem and worked okay. However, at some point it dawned on me that I was going to be typing some verses many times in my preaching career.
So, I hit upon a plan. Every time I referred to a verse, I’d take time to type it onto a 3×5 card. In my sermon notes, I simply included the reference. I’d organize the cards in order for that sermon, then, after the service, I’d file the cards by book of the Bible.
From that point on a part of sermon preparation was to go through my Bible verse file and see if I’d already added the verses I wanted for the sermon. I’d add the news ones for that sermon and then file them after the sermon.
As you can guess, after 20 years of so of preaching, I developed quite a file system. It was so useful that it crossed my mind that the file box and cards needed to be placed into the hands of some young preacher when my preaching days were over.
Then in the mid-1990’s I added a computer to my study and things began to change. I now had the Bible in electronic form and in multiple translations. Inserting the text of a verse into the sermon notes was a simple copy/paste process. My extensive collection of 3×5 cards was no longer necessary.
For years the file box remained on my desk simply because that is where it had always been. Finally, needing desk space, I moved it to storage in the attic. There it stayed for several years until today.
I decided it was time for me to clear out the attic and there, covered with dust, was my old file box of scriptures. In spite of the countless hours of work represented by those 3×5 cards it was time for it to go. I reluctantly brought the poor old filebox down, took these final photos of it, and put it all in the recycle bin. Just awhile ago the pickup crew came, and not knowing or caring what was in the bin, carried it off.
Looking back on my system, I think I hit on a good plan. I accomplished exactly what needed to be accomplished. Not only that, but by typing out the passages, I became more intimate with them.
Still, over time, things change and the need for that approach is now part of my personal past. Happily, even though the way I handled the Bible has changed, I’m glad to report that it’s message is just as current and needed as ever before.