Tailgate Theology | Sermon Prep
As pastors and teachers, it’s important that we rightly handle the Word of God. In this episode of NSR, Brody walks through how he prepares to preach a sermon and how we can be expository students of the Word.
We need to study in a way that will bring about the approval of God. Prepare your sermons in a way that’s faithful to Scripture. Prepare them well to be faithful to the Lord.
2 Timothy 2:15
*Key word study Bible
Read the transcript here!
Welcome to No Sanity Required. I’m excited about this content today. You have to excuse me. I’ve got a cold head, cold chest, cold. It’s that time of year. But stay with me. We’re going to get into what it looks like when I prepare a message, a sermon, when I prepare a lesson, when I’m gonna teach… And I teach in a bunch of different arenas to a bunch of different audiences. I’m speaking to sixth graders this week, to men’s conferences, to church on Sunday to… What does it look like to prepare a sermon? And I think this is going to be good for our listeners because I think it could be encouraging when you sit down and study the Bible on a day-to-day basis, what does that look like? How can you be an expository student of the Word of God, an expository hearer of the Word of God? How can you be a better listener on Sunday when your pastor or teacher is speaking? This idea has been brewing for a while to do an episode on this. So if you’re someone who’s prepared to teach, this might be helpful. Hopefully it will also be helpful if you’re just someone who wants to be a student of the Word of God as we all should be if we’re Christians.
So I just want to share kind of what that process looks like for me, give you a little bit of my background and what that journey’s been like for me. Hopefully it will be encouraging and helpful. Thank you so much for tuning in to No Sanity Required. Let’s get into it. I’m really excited and excited to dive into this content. So welcome.
So, I have not always been a pastor, preacher, teacher. And when I first started out in ministry, I was a maintenance and construction guy. And so I came into my first ministry opportunity, after I’d gone to college. My undergraduate degree was in government with a concentration in criminal justice and I thought I might wanna be a game warden then I thought I wanna be a local law enforcement and then I thought about going to the military and then I thought, no, I don’t wanna be in law enforcement. And it kinda bounced around and I think a lot of that grew out of as a kid I loved playing good guys, bad guys, cops and robbers.
And I always just loved cop movies, so I always wanted to do law enforcement. And I think a lot of young dudes want to do that, do want to do that. But God had a different plan for me. I did a short stint of an internship with US Marshals and that was about it. I guess I did some ride-a-longs, local law enforcement, but it never went into that career field at all. And the Lord ended up calling me. And you can go back to the early NSR episodes and hear kind of what my journey was like into student ministry, camp ministry, in specific. But God called me into student ministry and early on I was doing construction and maintenance. And then I got to start working with students and then had the opportunity to teach a little bit, and those early teaching opportunities, what I would do is I would just take a thought or an idea and find some scripture to go with it. Or I would take a verse that was meaningful to me personally and then find some illustrations to make some points, but not necessarily really teach that verse in the proper context. And I was taking the opportunities God was giving me and I was sharing encouraging things with people, but I wasn’t really handling the scripture properly. I was young. I was in my mid 20s and I was just trying to help people along the way in their journey with the Lord.
And in the late ’90s when Snowbird was about 2 years old, I heard a lecture that was given by John Piper and it was given at the 1996, I believe if you want to go look this up, I would encourage you to and I’ve referenced this in one of the early episodes here. 1996, I think it was, it was John Piper speaking, giving a lecture on Martin Luther at study. And he talked about how Martin Luther’s study life is his study of the scripture. Martin Luther’s study of the scripture shaped and changed who he was as a person and eventually played a huge role in the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther was formally trained in the Catholic Church. He was a monk and training to be a priest. And in his study of and translation from the Greek and Latin of the books of Romans and Galatians into I think the German tongue. I might be wrong on this, but I think that’s what he was doing anyway. It was his deep dive into true exegetical expositional study of scripture that awakened in him an understanding of the doctrine of justification by faith. And man, listen to that lecture on Martin Luther at study because it really affected and impacted me. I remember one of the points that John Piper made in that lecture was something about you… He was speaking to pastors, seminary trained vocational pastors.
And I was not seminary trained at that time and still have not been, I’m gonna be transparent with you, I have not been to seminary. I’m praying about and trying to get that started. But at that point, I had no education, no formal training or no informal training on how to study the Bible or how to, you know. So Piper is speaking to these pastors saying he’s challenging them with studying the original languages and being students of exegesis. And I thought, well, what is the original language? I’ve heard pastors say Greek this and Greek that. And so I got myself a keyword study Bible edited by Spiros, is that how you say his name? Zodhiates is a Greek professor, I think, from Covenant and Covenant Theological Seminary. And I got a reader’s New Testament and started trying to become a student of the word and just study the Bible effectively. And I was like, okay, I’m going to have opportunities to teach and lecture on the scripture, I don’t want to just put together some thoughts or ideas and funny stories. I want to be faithful.
And that lecture in the late ’90s really impacted me. And I ended up doing a deep dove into 2 Timothy 2:15 and actually 15 and on from there. But we’ll look at verse 15 right now, because I think it really sets up what I want to share in terms of how I prepare a sermon. But Paul writes to the young pastor Timothy and he says,
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” – 2 Timothy 2:15
The old King James said, “Study to show yourself approved.” And so just breaking that down, the idea is there needs to be study that will then bring about the approval of God. Study to show yourself approved or do your best to present yourself to God as one approved. So I want to recognize that when I’m preparing to preach and teach a message, first and foremost, I’m not doing it to be approved by people. I’m doing it to be faithful to the scripture and faithful to the Lord, knowing that God is the one who will give the approval. When we talk about being unashamed of the scripture, I think it’s important that if you’re going to be a teacher, a communicator, you cannot make excuses. You cannot figure out a way how to make the hard teachings of Jesus, the hard teachings of the scripture fit into the teachings of a progressive culture that are clearly contradictory.
In other words, for example, the culture says that if you love someone, you should be able to sleep with that person. And then Jesus would say, no, that’s adultery. We can’t try to make that work where the Bible and the culture agree. And that’s not even a progressive thing. I mean, that’s… That was the world at Jesus’s time. That’s, you know, and progressive ideology is not progressive in the pure sense, because like, okay, let’s think about what is super progressive right now, saying that children should be able to change their gender or that they get to make that decision or saying that a man who’s married can also have boy, man boy love. And, you know, this is progressive. You see this in extremely perverse sexual progressive cultures and ideology, like a guy should be able to have sexual relations with a young boy. That’s like, that’s where the progressive shift is right now. And people who are like, no, I’m a progressive and I think that’s bad. Nope. If you’re progressive, you’re progressive. You know, like the Bible is clearly in contradiction to that. But this is not, that’s not new ideology. Jesus is teaching and preaching, the preaching ministry of Jesus Christ was at the height of the Roman Empire, which is I mean, guys would have… Married men would have boy lovers.
And that was commonplace. I mean, John the Baptist was executed and beheaded because he spoke out against an adulterous relationship, but also where a dignitary, an elected official or an appointed official appointed by Rome was being titillated and scandalized by a young girl who was doing. You know, I don’t know what the dance was, if it was a striptease or if it was just something provocative. I don’t know. I’ve never really studied that in depth, but, you know, the scripture is clear that John the Baptist preached and spoke out against that. The Bible is always going to be counter-cultural in terms of secular culture and ideology. And you can’t, if you’re going to preach and teach the word of God, you cannot be ashamed of what the scripture says. And at the same time, there’s a need to be gentle. There’s a need to be compassionate, to recognize that the hearer of the sermon could be someone sitting there. Like if you’re standing there and when I’m standing to preach and teach and deliver a sermon, let’s say it’s at an event with 2000 or 3000 people versus at an event with 50 people. I still, I don’t know who’s in that audience every time. And there could be a person sitting there who’s been severely abused and there could be somebody sitting there who’s in a very rebellious season of life where they want to do what they want to do.
There could be a person sitting there who’s a single mom who’s just drowning in life. And there could be somebody sitting there who’s a super wealthy self-made dude who’s dealing with a midlife crisis. You can’t figure out your target audience, but you also can’t be ashamed of what the scripture says if you know certain things about your audience or the culture is applying pressure in one direction. I can’t worry about that. You rightly divide, rightly handle, correctly handle the scripture. And in doing this, you don’t have to be ashamed. If I open the scripture and as a communicator, a teacher, a preacher, I have studied to be approved by God. I’m a worker, a workman. I’ve done the hard work of labor over that text. Then I don’t have to be ashamed of what the scripture is saying and I can speak it because it’s not my authority. It’s the authority of God. And that’s super important, you know, if you’re going to be a preacher, a teacher, or even a small group leader, a discipler. My study and sermon preparation method comes from Alistair Begg. Years ago I went all over the place. I had manuscripted sermons for a while. That’s where, you know, you’re right and type out the whole thing and just read the whole sermon. And some people are like, man, I can’t listen to somebody just read their whole sermon.
But a person who’s a dynamic communicator can manuscript in a way that you can edified and encouraged by just reading it. I remember hearing Benjamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel, speaking to the US Senate or US Congress, House of Representatives. He was giving a speech and I remember he read the whole thing and I was impressed with his ability to communicate while reading. There’s preachers that can do that. I know some preachers that read pretty much their whole sermon and they do a phenomenal job. Then there’s preachers that do more of what I do, which is they do the hard work of, but there was a season where I manuscripted like that. I worked hard to manuscript and I just read it all. And before I get into the way that I do it and what a lot of guys do, there was also a season where, and a lot of guys do this, where I would just come up with a short outline, a very short index card outline. And then just kind of use my giftings, my natural giftings as a storyteller, a communicator to just basically keep people engaged. And that’s not good ’cause you can do that without doing the hard work of exposition, which exposition, by the way, is where we study the text.
We work hard to make sure that what we’re communicating as the main point of the sermon is also what the text is communicating. God’s intended idea for the text is the idea of the sermon, the main idea. And so there was a season early on where I would just come up with an idea, a thought, and then sprinkle in some humor or stories. Then I was like, man, I’ve got to be really faithful, so I went to a full manuscript. My communication style and my natural gifting doesn’t mesh well with straight manuscripting. There’s times where I’ll read large portions. I was preaching at a church a couple weeks ago, some dear friends and brothers and sisters up in, I was at Oasis Church in Madison Heights, Virginia. And there’s a section in that sermon where I really did hammer, I read for probably four minutes. But it’s powerful, man. The Lord gave me that word and I wrote it out and I read it and the people responded really well. But for me, what works best for me, I’ve manuscripted, read entire sermons, I’ve manuscripted large portions of the sermon. And then I’ve worked with just a few quotes and notes and outlines. But for me, what I do is I was really encouraged to hear HB Charles, a really well-known pastor who’s an extremely gifted communicator, say that he does this.
That is once I’ve come to the place of having my sermon prepared, I then work really hard to write myself clear, to condense it and to basically memorize the flow of it and enter the pulpit with very little need for notes. So I’m trying to communicate with very little need for notes, maybe just a few bullet points. But I didn’t just do a one hour preparation and come up with some bullet points to go elaborate on. I did hours and hours and hours and wrote 15, 20 pages of notes that I then worked to condense down, down, down. And there’s been times where I had more than 20 pages, but condense it, condense it, get it down to three, four or five pages, then condense that down to one page and then communicate that one page in a 35 minute sermon. So we were going through a book a few years ago as a team. We were restructuring the way our leadership works at Snowbird. And we went through a book and a program called Traction, and Traction is like an operating… It’s, I don’t know how to say this. You guys that are in business, this will make sense. But Traction is a book that is written. It’s not a Christian book. It’s not a faith based thing. It’s, it teaches an operating system for businesses. And at SWO, we needed to come up with a better operating system as far as how we do business day to day, how we interact, how departments overlap and interact.
So we did and it worked great. I remember in the book, we went through like three days of seminars to implement this. But in the book, I remember the guy talked about how there was this guy that had to do. And I don’t know what, it was like a fortune 500 company. And he had to do a presentation. So he does this presentation for this Fortune 500 company. Right. And then the guy, he has to run it by somebody and he’s like, okay, that’s great, but that’s a whole lot of content. Can you whittle that down? It’s like a 50 page report. He’s like, can you whittle that down into five pages? The guy’s like, what it’s 50 pages? He’s like, I need you to condense it to five pages, man. So the guy does. And then he comes back and he’s like, can you go and just condense that into one page? And what he was getting at is you need to be able to communicate a large volume of information and content in a concise manner where people can hear it, listen to it. And that’s kind of my preaching style, like I want to be able to take a large volume of content that I’ve studied, worked on, put together and then get that down into a presentable content. And so HB Charles, he said that he wants to enter the pulpit with no notes. And there’s times where I do that and I feel really good about it.
A lot of times I have to have something small or like a page of bullet points and that works best for me. My close friend and brother Mitch Jolly, who’s a pastor in Rome, Georgia, he communicates, he does this a lot, where he’ll put all his sermon notes and outlines on his website but then when I’ve asked him for sermon notes before, when he preached on something and I listened and I was like, “Hey, that was really useful. I’m preaching that text. Could you send me you’re preaching notes so I can just have the bullet points?” And then he sent me one page of bullet point-type notes and is real helpful. That was one time I was preaching and I don’t remember what it was now but I was preaching on a text that he had preached.
And I wanted to use his notes as part of my preparation. So let me walk you through my process. And one thing before we do this, to be noted, there is a difference in sermon prep and sermon delivery. There’s a difference in sermon preparation and sermon delivery. Warren Wiersbe, Wayne Grudem, these guys are phenomenal at sermon preparation, if you’re looking at their commentaries, their writings, the way they lay out information, exegesis, exposition. But when it comes to the delivery, they’re pretty dry communicators, likewise, there are some guys who are dynamic communicators but they don’t prepare faithfully. So it’s important that we get sermon preparation right, and sermon delivery right.
1. Think yourself empty…
Maybe I’ll do another episode at some point on sermon delivery but this is about sermon preparation. So I have followed Alistair Begg’s method for several years now, not only does he have a really cool accent, a Scottish accent, but his method works good. And then I’ve also applied the HB Charles method before I knew that was his method. That works good for me. So let me give you Alistair Begg’s approach and this is what I do. I begin by praying, I pray, I ask for blessing, guidance and clarity. Then I dive into the text, I read the text, read the text, read the text, so like this week, as I’m recording this, I’m preparing a sermon on Genesis 50. Every morning this week, I’ve read Genesis 50, multiple times. Pray over that, ask God to guide me as I pray, as I read and I’m just reading. And then as I’m reading, I’m just praying and reading, praying and reading, then the next thing is I pray then I think myself empty. Okay, thinking myself empty involves writing down notes. This is where I’ve got a journal, I’ve got scrap paper, I’ve got the notes app open on my phone, I’m driving down the road, I gotta drive from Andrews to Murphy, which is 20 minutes and I’m just marinating on the fact that I just read Genesis 50 five times in three different translations.
I’m driving and I’m thinking of thoughts that are coming from the text and I’m voice texting notes into my phone. I’m sitting in a deer stand, I’m sitting in my truck waiting on a kid to get out of the school, whatever, just thinking myself empty and writing down notes, and I can accumulate a page of notes or 20 pages of notes, but it’s just volumes of thoughts. And that’s where a story, an illustration might come from, that’s where I’m just… I’m taking everything I’ve thought about while I’m reading Genesis
Like today, this morning when I read through Genesis 50, it’s the story of Joseph’s death and Joseph’s father, Jacob dies and then Joseph speaks to his brothers and he says, “What you intended for evil, God intended for good.” And then Joseph dies and he says, “Make sure that when you all leave, that my bones are removed from Egypt.” And I thought, “Oh, that’s the Exodus.” So I go over to the Exodus, find the passage where the Israelites are leaving Egypt and 400 years later, they take Joseph’s bones. I’m like, “Okay, let’s go see… “
Connecting those like, okay, connect it, connect it, connect it. Thinking myself empty. I’m thinking myself empty, so I’m praying, asking God’s blessing, guidance, clarity. Then I’m reading, thinking, thinking myself empty. Reading, writing and just kind of unloading, this is where my own commentary on the text will come through. I’ll do a verse-by-verse note taking, read verse one and write my thoughts, read verse two, write my thoughts. If verses one through five really need to be one unit, I’ll read verses one through five, write my thoughts on it and I’ll go through and I’ll write my own commentary on the chapter or the passage, for this week it’s an entire chapter. Sometimes it might be a chapter of like the 23rd Psalm. Well, it’s six verses. Well, this is close to 30 verses. So sometimes you preach on one verse. I remember preaching on Romans 8:18 where, “I consider the sufferings of this present time not worth compared to glory that’s to be revealed in Christ Jesus.” Well, I broke it down line-by-line and wrote my own commentary. Okay, so I’m thinking myself empty, writing notes and thoughts, and then read myself full.
2. Read Yourself Full…
This is where commentaries come into play, read myself full. After I’ve done all of the hard work bringing my personal thoughts, experiences, subjective viewpoints, objective thoughts, and then I go to the commentaries and I usually only use one, two, maybe three commentaries that I know are trustworthy to make sure… Basically to check my work and to fill my brain with two or three more viewpoints or angles on the subject matter. So I read myself back full and what will happen then a lot of times is I’ll come up with some new thoughts or notes that are triggered or that are brought to light from this commentary.
So maybe I’m reading a, like in this Genesis deal, reading a commentary by Allen Ross called Creation and Blessing. So I’ve written myself empty, now I’ll pick up the Ross commentary, I read it, I pick up The Expositor’s Commentary, I read it and I may not take any notes but I may take a few, but I’m just reading myself full. So pray, think myself empty, read myself full. The next thing is, write myself clear. This is where I take that 10, 12, 15, 20 pages of notes, I’ve filled my brain, re-saturated it with commentary information, now I’m gonna write myself clear. I’m gonna condense all of that into about three or four pages of clear, clear thoughts because I’m not manuscripting. This is gonna be three to maybe five pages that if I read it straight through, would take me seven or eight minutes. So it’s where semi-manuscripting would stop, it would bring it into this three to five pages. I’m writing myself clear, I’m taking all of that and condensing it into a clear three to five page document.
3. Pray Yourself Hot…
Then pray myself hot. I pray, pray, pray. So I prayed at the beginning asking God’s direction, clarity, and guidance on the study of the text. Now I’m praying, asking the same thing, “God please give me blessing, clarity, anointing, favor on the delivery of this message. I’ve done the work and I wanna go out now and preach this message.” And when I write myself clear and I begin to pray through it, then just before I preach the message, I’ll try to condense even that clear three to five pages into one page of bullet point notes. But keep in mind, I will have basically memorized the flow of all the content of that sermon preparation, whatever’s been added from the commentary work, whatever. And in that initial gathering of information, that’s where I’m gonna look up Strong’s Concordance Keywords. I use my keyword study Bible and is there something this word teaches me that maybe is lost on the English translation? I wanna do that work before I consult the commentary. So for instance, the word for called, that’s used often in the New Testament, doing the hard work, doing the footwork of looking up that word in the Greek language and figuring out what did that word mean before I get to a commentary that leans more in a reformed direction, or that leans more in a non-reformed direction. I’ve done the work of figuring out what did that word mean in the Roman culture and context? In the Hellenistic world of Greek language what did that word mean?
Now I get to the commentary and I see that the commentary that I trust addresses that word and it either supports the study I’ve already done or it sheds light on, you know what, maybe I was a little out of bounds, out of line with that. And so we walk that back and get a little more clarity. So to review, I pray over the text, I read, read, read, read, I think myself empty. This is thinking, writing, typing, jotting notes, talk-to-text, just accumulating a volume of information. Empty, I drain myself of everything I can possibly think to add to my thought process, to add to paper, pen to paper, to comment on this text. I’ve looked up key words, I’ve drilled in and I’ve put everything on paper. Then I read myself full and in that reading myself full is where I go to the commentaries, maybe I do a little bit deeper word studies. Then I write myself clear that’s condensing all that volume of information with the added notes from commentaries and I bring it into a three to five page document that I then bring into a clear one-page document that I can speak, I can look at that one page of bullet points and remember those 15 pages of notes, you know something from that, a paragraph or two or a page that I’ve condensed into one sentence that I can then speak to.
4. “Be myself and forget myself…”
Pray myself hot, ask God’s blessing on the sermon, then walk out, and then this, I love this, Begg says, “Be myself and forget myself.” Be myself and forget myself, so I don’t wanna try to be somebody else, I wanna be Brody Holloway. God made me, he wired me, he gave me a set of life experiences, some of those experiences were my own doing that he’s made the most of, out of His sovereign kindness and grace, and other things are 100% steps that he has guided that would have never happened without God guiding me. Life is a series of God’s providences and my choices and decisions but the overarching authoritative thing is that God is sovereign and so I wanna be myself. My life experiences, who I am as a person, I don’t wanna be somebody else. I don’t wanna emulate a famous preacher or an unknown preacher that… I don’t wanna emulate somebody else, I can learn from somebody else and maybe to some degree emulate an older pastor, if you’re a younger pastor, learn some things and there’s nothing…
Paul says, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” But I wanna be myself but I wanna forget myself, ’cause if I’m gonna be myself, if I’m not careful, I’ll make it all about me, but if I’m gonna forget myself, it’s just be natural and hide behind the cross, the old pastors would say. The old preachers would say, “Hide behind the cross and forget myself. It’s not about me, it’s about Jesus and deliver the message.” Bryan Chapell says this concerning commentaries, “I don’t wanna build the sermon on someone else’s work and experiences knowing the people and the context in which I preach, that’s important. I don’t wanna preach it.” He says, I like this, he says, “I don’t wanna preach a dead or distant man’s sermon” Case in point, I love to read a lot of Scottish guys and a lot of Scottish-American guys, Alistair Begg, Sinclair Ferguson. But I don’t wanna read a dead guys sermon to my people, if that guy lived in London 75 years ago. And I remember Martin Lloyd Jones, I don’t wanna preach his sermon and I don’t wanna preach a distant man’s sermon, a guy that’s on the West Coast, at a Calvary Chapel, who’s a phenomenal communicator but maybe it doesn’t connect with my people in the Southern Appalachian context. And our church is pretty diverse because we’re in Southern Appalachia but we’ve got a lot of people from Florida, and Atlanta, and even from up North.
We’re a very diverse group of people in terms of cultural and sub-cultural background and experiences. You gotta know your people and a pastor should be tuned in and dialed into his people. At Snowbird when I’m preaching at SWO, I might have 20 churches in the building and it could be a Baptist Church from the Bible Belt or an Evangelical Free Church is there from the Midwest, and then a Methodist Church from a large city like Charlotte or Atlanta, and you got this diverse… You got suburban kids, rural kids, Northern kids, Southern kids but they’re all teenagers. Now the common thread with a student ministry event is the age demographic. I don’t wanna preach a distant or dead man’s sermon, a guy that wrote a commentary or did a sermon. I might listen to that sermon. You know what I mean? Like I might listen to a sermon a guy preached but I don’t wanna re-preach that sermon ’cause he preached it to his people some other place, some other time.
Let me say this, continue Chapell’s thoughts on commentaries, commentaries serve to check, inform, and affirm or confirm my work, especially helpful when I’m driving at one main point. This is what Spurgeon said, I like this. Spurgeon said, “It’s harder to drive a single penny nail that sticks, than to drive 25 thumb tacks that all fall out.” But the goal, that’s the goal. So in a sermon, I wanna… I’m working to bring a real good solid sinking point but a lot of sermons people will bring like 25 little anecdotal points and so that idea of driving one main point, that’s where commentaries can really help me. And then I try to do this and I’ve picked this up from other great pastors and preachers along the way, other, I say other, other well-known people, Alistair Begg is someone that I’ve quoted in this. Bryan Chapell is someone I’ve quoted in this. HB Charles, so other well-known guys.
5. Find Christ in the text…
The big questions that I wanna ask, where is Christ in the text? Alistair Begg talks about asking these questions. The first question I wanna ask is what, what is the text saying? What, what, what, what’s the text saying? Second question is so what, what does that matter? So the text is saying this well what does it matter? So, what, so what, and then, now what, which has to do with how we respond or apply. So in other words, where am I in the text and ultimately how do I respond? How do I apply this, so as a pastor or teacher at the end, after I’ve done the work of putting the sermon together, it’s like, “How does this apply, how do I give a challenge and a charge to the people?” So the three big things I wanna always do in a sermon and this comes out in my preparation is, where is Christ in this text and in this sermon, what is the main point or idea of this text and this sermon, and how are we to respond to this text and this sermon? So while we’re driving at one main point, it’s not as simple as get one point and then just dance around it 10 times and keep pointing at it.
There’s some other things going on. Where is Christ, what’s the main point, how do I respond, what’s the application? So doing all of that work, I think is super important. Time spent, I think I talked about this earlier and key tools. Let me close with time spent preparing a sermon and key tools that I use. For me, the key tools are the Keyword Study Bible and Bible Commentaries. Again, I try to narrow my study of a book down to just a couple of commentaries ’cause I’m gonna do the bulk. Like if I spend eight hours on a sermon, five of those hours, five to six are gonna be me, writing, thinking, praying, scratching notes, note taking, and then maybe one to two hours will be combing through a commentary, that reading myself full portion. So I try to narrow it down to one or two commentaries, probably two, three at the most. When I did a years long study through Romans, I accumulated, I don’t know, eight maybe 10. I think 10 commentaries that I used, there’s just too much, I was going really slow and I wasn’t teaching all that content. My time spent on a sermon, like I said, early in my ministry career, it was 15 to 20 hours, probably closer to 20 hours, now, it’s probably averaging five to six hours but not uncommon to go to eight. And somebody might say, “That’s not enough time.”
For me, I think the longer… This is where I heard McArthur say, someone said, how long does it take you to prepare a sermon? And he said, 80 years, because he’s 80 years old, right? Whatever, 83, whatever he is, he was saying, I’m at a point now where a lifetime of study and accumulation comes into a sermon. So the reason six to eight hours, I’d say six to eight hours is what I’ll spend is because, or five to six even, five hours maybe, if I go past that, I end up with more than 20 pages or 30 pages, then it’s so hard to condense it down into a 35-minute teaching block. Much of the sermon is prepared in the study for preaching it and much of the preparation rides on years of serving the Lord, walking with Jesus, studying His Word. But a lot of guys who fall into sin and unfaithfulness, I think this is a warning for teachers and preachers, a lot of guys that become unfaithful or that walk away from the Lord, they continue to preach because they just run on the years of meaningful fruitful labor that they had but they’re not continually doing the work of preparing mentally, spiritually, personally now.
So in other words, it’s dangerous because you can do this long enough that you can then fake it and that sounds awful but you can. I’ve seen dudes do it. The guys that you go, “Man, that guy was faking, he was living in adultery for 10 years while he’s preaching every Sunday.” Well, there had been years of fruitful ministry. And that’s not always true, sometimes guys are just wolves in sheep’s clothing but I mean, there’s… The fear that I have as a preacher is that I prepare sermons for so long that I get to a point where I can deliver a sermon because I’ve delivered so many. I don’t wanna be that guy. I wanna do the hard work and walkthrough. So to condense everything, the bullet point of how I prepare a sermon, I pray over the text, I read, read, read the text, I think and write myself empty, I then read myself full with word studies and commentaries, I then write myself clear by condensing all that accumulation of notes and knowledge into a small deliverable outline, I then pray myself hot and then I be myself and forget myself. That’s the strategy, that’s the goal, that’s how I try to walk through a sermon and sermon prep.
So there you go. Some people could probably care less but I’ve had a lot of people ask me about it and I just sat down and put this together to share it with our Institute, so I thought it might be helpful, maybe it’d be helpful for some, especially for some of our lay people. And a lot of our guys that come to Snowbird and that listen to this podcast or have their master’s degrees, have been to seminary, some have their doctor’s degrees, their PhDs or Doctorates. But this is my approach, I call my style Tailgate Theology, drop the tailgate, dangle your feet off and sit by the creek, that’s literally where I’m at right now, sitting by the creek. I’m in my truck because otherwise you would hear the background noise of the creek but I’m sitting right by the creek on the new Yates property of Snowbird Outfitters and I love this place. And Tailgate Theology is just hash it out, work through the Scripture and then check your work by going back and reading yourself full and I love it. I also really get a lot of direction and clarity for feedback, so the guys in my circle, the other pastors here, I rely on their feedback, and then I have friends who are pastors. And I get a lot of feedback from a brother and friend named Doug, who’s a pastor in South Florida, I really rely on stuff like that, it’s really helpful. A friend named Duncan, who’s a pastor out in the eastern part of North Carolina.
And so anyway and I hope it’s not boring to you. I hope it’s been fruitful and helpful. It’s kind of
rambling. I know I had about three pages of notes here and I kinda ended up all over the place but hopefully it makes sense. Okay, what’s next is I wanna kinda give you some, what to look forward to in the coming weeks. My plan right now, is just like I said earlier, is to sit down with Jon Rouleau, we’re gonna sit down and we’re gonna talk through the Katie Cousins episode and we’re gonna talk about things like, what’s going on at Twitter, Elon Musk. By the time that episode drops it’ll be another week from now, as you’re listening to this, which is dropping a week after I record, two weeks after I recorded it or something. So who knows when we’ll be by then. We’ll be getting close to Christmas at that point. Yeah, we’ll be getting real close to Christmas actually.
Man. Do a Christmas episode, definitely do something to talk about the coming of Jesus and I don’t know, I don’t have anything special plan for that. I’ve done some stuff in the past where I did songs and scriptural readings and I don’t know, I’m not gonna do anything like that this year, I don’t think. But me and Rouleau we’re gonna sit down, I’m looking forward to over the Christmas break, sitting down with Tucker, my son, talking about his first year as a Division 1 Power 5 collegiate athlete and the struggles and difficulties of walking with Jesus and where he’s seeing the Lord faithful and just hear about that journey. And I think that’s gonna be fun. I’m gonna be speaking with a retired Secret Service agent who retired this fall, who’s a good friend but he’s also my cousin and I’m excited about sitting down with Mooch and talking about life as a Counter Assault Team member in the US Secret Service. That’s kind of crazy. He’s got some cool stories.
Yeah, got several things lined up, I’m excited about. Let me know if there’s anything y’all wanna hear. I’ve had some suggestions recently, I’m trying to get to those, I wanna get to those but the work of preparing is something that I’ve gotta think about, pray about and then put that work in, and I always take suggestions serious. Other than that, I’m in hog killing mode, we’ve got hogs on the property and so I’ve been shooting hogs at night and plan on doing that again tonight, on the day that I’m recording this and I’m just loving it. Why am I telling you that? Well, ’cause I’m sitting on the property, looking straight into an area of the property that the hogs have destroyed by rooting up. So we got wild hogs, I’ll give you a head count how many we’ve killed by the next episode. Thank y’all for listening to No Sanity Required. It’s Christmas time, Christmas season, I love this time of year. It is the most wonderful time of the year and I love it. And I’m so thankful for your support, much to be thankful for this time of year and I’m thankful for you and for your support and your faithfulness.
Pray that the Lord would bless you richly and that he would use this podcast to bring blessing into your life. Let me share one thing before we go, I wanna give… And this is from a brother who I’ve mentioned on here before and he’s been a faithful listener and supporter for a long time but I wanna read to you what he sent me. A while back I did, we did a run on abortion, adoption, and fostering and stuff like that and then also the stuff we’ve done recently on Biblical manhood and masculinity, “I wanted to tell you thanks for the podcast lately on manhood and abortion specifically. They’ve been so encouraging. My small group of families from our church has been able to facilitate helping out a couple of families locally that have had to adopt or take legal custody of their grandchildren recently. This whole idea came from you sharing your experiences. Thank you.” And I responded, “Whoa, this is maybe the coolest text message I’ve gotten today.” And he responded, “Keep doing what you’re doing, man, you’re making a huge impact for the kingdom.” To which I say, “Soli Deo gloria.” To the glory of God and alone in Christ Jesus, I’m grateful to be a part of this and thankful for the Lord’s favor and yeah, I’m thankful for your support, appreciate all of you. Share this and spread the word about NSR, let’s keep getting the light into the darkness. We’ll see you next week.
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