How I Develop a Sermon – Part I: Steps 1, 2 & 3

How I Develop a Sermon - Part I

Since developing a sermon takes up so much of my week, I’ve often wondered what other pastors do and how much time it takes them. This led me to some articles discussing the preparation of well-known pastors (here’s one): John MacArthur and Mark Dever said they require 30 to 35 hours of preparation per week, while at the other end of the spectrum Mark Driscoll said he only needs 1 to 2 hours. It’s worth adding no other preachers even come close to approaching the minimal amount of time Driscoll said he requires. Most other prominent pastors – Matt Chandler, John Piper and Tim Keller – said they require around 14 to 16 hours per week.

This looks to one of the interesting realities associated with preaching: pastors prepare in vastly different ways. While I’m sure there are some similarities between great preachers (their familiarity with Scripture, diligence in studying, time committed to prayer, etc.), their actual sermon development looks very different.

Even though I’ve only been preaching consistently for the 4 years I’ve been at WCC (when I was at Grace Baptist I preached occasionally, approximately once every 6 to 8 weeks), the way I prepare has changed slightly and perhaps it will change even more in the future, but for the most part it has remained the same. I thought I might provide some posts discussing how I prepare a sermon. First I’d like to be clear though that I don’t think there’s necessarily a right or wrong way to develop a sermon and I don’t think what I do is better than what others do. With that said…

First, I read over the passage a number of times.

I want to make sure I’m very familiar with the passage. Since it usually takes months to preach through a chapter (for example I preached on Luke 4 from 7/7/13 to 11/24/13 and Luke 5 from 12/1/14 to 6/29/14), most passages have been read numerous times.

Second, I copy the verses to Word with spaces between them for the notes I’ll add.

Whether it’s for a sermon, Sunday School message, devotional or any other teaching, my notes always keep the same format: I put the verses in bold, my notes in normal font, and quotes in italics. This provides visual clues for me as I’m teaching. At the bottom of this post I copied some of the notes from my most recent sermon as an example.

Third, I begin looking at commentaries.

This is where I add the most to my notes, not just because of what I learn from commentaries, but because what I learn from commentaries leads me to think of other things to share/teach as well. As far as the length of time looking at commentaries, it usually takes one full day and sometimes runs into a second day. At this point my notes still look fairly unorganized and will later require a significant amount of organizing and editing.

Here’s a sample of my notes from my most recent sermon (1 Kings 13:19-32 False Prophets – Part II) simply copied and pasted below…

Now when the man of God – or the young prophet – was returning home from confronting King Jeroboam, another prophet, an older prophet, who was lonely and wanted to spend time w/ him invited him to eat w/ him. Please look at verse 15…

15 Then he (this is the older prophet) said to him (the young prophet), “Come home with me and eat bread.”

This is the second time the young prophet received an invitation to disobey the command God gave him. If you remember last week’s sermon, one of the lessons was about how we need to expect to be tempted to disobey the commands God gives us in His Word, and that’s exactly what happened w/ the young prophet. He keeps being tempted. But, look at verse 16…

16 And he (the young prophet) said, “I cannot return with you nor go in with you; neither can I eat bread nor drink water with you in this place (now notice this…). 17 For I have been told by the word of the Lord, ‘You shall not eat bread nor drink water there, nor return by going the way you came.’”

This is a great response!

If you read the bulletin letter, one of the points I wanted to make is when we’re tempted to disobey, the temptation will come back stronger, and that’s what’s about to happen to the young prophet…

18 He said to him (the older prophet said to the young prophet…), “I too am a prophet as you are, and an angel spoke to me by the word of the Lord, saying, ‘Bring him back with you to your house, that he may eat bread and drink water.’” (He was lying to him.)

One of the main points of last Sunday’s sermon is prophets lie, and there’s an example of it right here in Scripture.

Now almost everything we’ve studied up to this point leads us to verse 19 in the hope we won’t make the same mistake the young prophet is about to make…

19 So he went back with him, and ate bread in his house, and drank water.

He did exactly what God told him not to do. This is very sad, and it shows how terrible and deceptive false prophecies really are:

The young prophet had been strong enough to withstand Jeroboam’s invitation to eat and drink…

He was able to withstand the old prophet’s first invitation, which I’m sure would’ve been very attractive considering how tired and hungry he was…

But he wasn’t able to withstand the old prophet’s second invitation b/c of how strong the deception was, and in giving in he clearly disobeyed the command God gave him

It didn’t take long for the young prophet to find out the mistake he made and the punishment he’s going to suffer as a result. Look at verse 20…

That’s it! If by chance you’d like to see all the notes to this or any other sermon, please let me know!

Here’s Part II.

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8 thoughts on “How I Develop a Sermon – Part I: Steps 1, 2 & 3

  1. Pingback: HOW I DEVELOP A SERMON – PART I: STEPS 1, 2 & 3 | From the Pastor's Desk
  2. Hi Scott,

    Are you aware of the fracas between John MacArthur and Mark Driscoll last year, and the subsequent dissolution of Driscoll’s church in Seattle?


    1. Hi Lynn,
      I was aware of John MacArthur criticizing Mark Driscoll over a number of things, like his treatment of Song of Solomon, but this was a few years ago; I wasn’t aware of anything between them last year. Yes, I followed the situation when he stepped down and then resigned.

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