Home > Sermons > How to Write Better Sermons – Pr David Petersen – Gottesdienst Online

How to Write Better Sermons – Pr David Petersen – Gottesdienst Online


The Rational

Seminary education in North America has to assume a number of competencies based upon an earned Bachelor’s degree. One of those assumptions is that men entering the seminary are competent in composition. They almost never are. Thus they muddle their way through seminary, vicarage, and then their weekly duties without ever writing decent outlines or crafting thesis statements. To be sure, it is possible, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, to deliver wandering, nearly incoherent sermons that edify and nurture the flock. The Lord works through His ministers and His Word despite the weaknesses of His ministers. The Truth gets out.

Nonetheless, sermon writing is writing. It is not completely unique or distinct from other forms of writing, even if it is closest to speech writing. Preachers, then, can learn from other writers. They can improve their technique. Improving the writing process improves the sermons themselves. Better written sermons are more focused. They are more easily digested and followed by the hearers. There are, however, other benefits. Getting better at the process also makes the preacher more efficient and makes the task more pleasant, less of a chore for him. My suspicion is that our homiletics classes, for one reason or another, have focused more on how to do the exegetical work and how to deliver a sermon than they have on how to write.

The Process

Though the vocabulary varies among textbooks, the writing process, academically considered, is normally broken into four stages: prewriting, writing, revising, and proofing. The first thing to know is that these four stages are meant to describe a creative process. The process is not a list of steps to be mechanically followed. It is a fluid process.

A writer always starts with some sort of prewriting, but he might move very quickly at times into writing and revising; yet, at the same time, he will usually continue to gather ideas and to conduct research right up to the end. The point is that it is a process. All of it needs to be done. When writers try to take shortcuts they normally do more work, in a slower fashion, and produce a weaker product. Some preachers, no doubt, follow the process unaware. When the process is understood, however, and when it is utilized in a deliberate fashion, it will not only make the job easier and the sermons stronger, but it will also free the creative process.

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