A friend who in his late fifties took a new pastorate said that he had written the last sermon he ever intended to write, meaning that he planned to use the vast collection of sermons that he had built up over his career and produce nothing new.
I have in my paper and electronic files every sermon I have ever written; I even have the outlines, some of which were lifted straight out of the back of my trusty Thompson Chain Reference Bible, from my first halting efforts, which were quite different than my later halting efforts.
I have at times “re-preached” some of my “greatest hits”; in so doing I heeded the wise words of my wise father who once told me, “If it was worth preaching once it’s worth preaching twice.” And if it’s worth preaching twice maybe it’s worth preaching thrice or more!
Over the last twenty-five years I have written full manuscripts for 99% of the sermons that I’ve preached and 90% of the time I’ve taken that manuscript into the pulpit with me.
Last Sunday I began an experiment that consists of the following elements:
1. I am studying for and thinking about the sermon as always.
2. I am writing down the one main point that I want to get across.
3. I am seeking one good story, biblical or not, that will make the one main point.
4. I am writing down an introduction.
5. I am writing down a concluding sentence.
6. I am taking no notes with me into the pulpit.
7. I am trusting the Spirit and my experience; after all these years I should know both pretty well.
The thing about experiments is that sometimes they lead to helpful discoveries and sometimes they blow up in your face…