How many reference books consult to write 1 sermon

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scooter | Forum Activity | Posted: Sat, May 19 2018 11:58 AM

Neither my friend nor I are pastors.  I explained I read on Logos: commentaries, systematic theologies, monographs, and etc.

He came back, essentially, with the belief that a person should read the pure word of God, so to have nothing between one and God.  I then said pastors create sermons using such that I read.

In very general terms, as a pastor, how many books do you consult for each sermon?  How long does it take to write the weekly sermon, on average??

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Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, May 19 2018 12:14 PM

Good question. For much of my corporate executive life, I had to do speeches, for encouraging, explaining, and making more money. I'd use a key points list or slides. But absolutely never written ... eye contact was the key. No eye contact, no impact.

So, I was surprised religious guys wrote sermons. They don't know their subject??  And even more surprised it took them a day to do it. Doing what??

Then, I asked my (preacher) Dad. A day! That surprised me, since he really didn't need to. 


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scooter | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, May 19 2018 12:28 PM

Denise, even if a person wrote a sermon using no references, and so from the heart, from the whispers of the Holy Spirit to a person's soul, it must be edited, as this pureness has been filtered through a mortal human's faculties.

At the very least, editing is consulting yourself to ensure what is written has internal coherence.

I once edited essays for a friend whose English was not her first language.  I kept track of the time involved:  per 1000 words, 3 edits took 5 hours.  Total essay time = her research, her writing, her rewriting, my editing.  Perhaps essays are sermons' first cousins, so this data means something to the topic at hand.

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Brad | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, May 19 2018 2:41 PM

It really depends on what I am teaching and what section of the book I am in.  For example, I just finished teaching through Hebrews.  I had 3-4 main commentaries I used throughout the book, consulting them at different times depending on issues I ran into with the text.

I am teaching through Ephesians now.  I've got 6 commentaries I will use.

Logos 8 - Reformed Baptist Pastor - Student at MBTS - theologynights.com

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Dan Francis | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, May 19 2018 3:35 PM

I am not a pastor but have pastors as friends. I know some who rarely touch a commentary and others that use several I have known a couple who are of the first ilk who can write a sermon remarkabllay fast. I remember hearing Chuck Swindoll one time state he had 28 commentaries on the Gospel of John and sometimes has consulted with all of them. The Problem with not wanting anything between you and the Bible is a number of times you are trying to reinvent the wheel. Also no one alive has the expertise to know all the historical and linguistic insights. Historically the Jews have always used the scholarship of past teachers to help interpret and understand scriptures as did the Church Fathers. The few times I have delivered a sermon it usually took me 4-6 hours to write and polish it. But I am sure with practice and the resources I have now it may be less.. That said I come from a traction where 15 minutes is the length you want a sermon  Not one of the non liturgical ones where 45 minutes or more is the ideal.

-dan 

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JohnB | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, May 19 2018 3:41 PM

scooter:
He came back, essentially, with the belief that a person should read the pure word of God, so to have nothing between one and God.

I take it that he reads in Hebrew, Greek etc because that is the nearest that he will get the pure word of God.

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DAL | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, May 19 2018 4:28 PM

Depending on the subject I’m teaching sometimes I just use a crossed-reference concordance  and let my own ideas spring out.  If I’m wrestling with a text or subject that is more difficult, then I consult a few commentaries, monographs and other sermons written on that particular subject.  I try to include some original language key words to enlighten my understanding and that of the church.

 Everybody is different. I read an article on the Gospel coalition and the author of the article stated that it can take up to 10 to 15 hours to write an expository sermon or more. Personally, I don’t buy that, but I guess it depends on experience too. 4 hours none stop could be good for me and a few minutes to check it at a later time. And the time to practice so I don’t depend on my notes as much. It varies every time.

DAL

 

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scooter | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, May 19 2018 5:02 PM

JohnB:

scooter:
He came back, essentially, with the belief that a person should read the pure word of God, so to have nothing between one and God.

I take it that he reads in Hebrew, Greek etc because that is the nearest that he will get the pure word of God.

No, he just reads the Bible in English.  Several years ago, I gave him my paper ''Bible Knowledge Commentary,'' as I had it here in Logos; I have never asked him if he has used it, as that does not seem polite, but I do wonder.

Thank you all for your replies.

So...sometimes more books consulted, sometimes less.  And the time frame depends on experience.  People in the past are not afraid to consult.

As well, his pastor must have used some reference works to acquire his Christian education.  The man has been at this one church some 25ish years; the church is large, with a diverse plethora of ministries, and so I say it is successful.

Reinvent the wheel: Dan mentioned one does not want to.  This is the reason I dive unto Logos materials - to get a diversity of opinions.  Pastors need the option to do the same, I figure.

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, May 19 2018 5:51 PM

scooter:
Denise, even if a person wrote a sermon using no references, and so from the heart, from the whispers of the Holy Spirit to a person's soul, it must be edited, as this pureness has been filtered through a mortal human's faculties

Interesting. I've known several priests who preached without having written even notes as a regular practice for weekday sermons. They also were excellent for Sunday sermons when they were called upon as a last minute replacement for the intended preacher. Of course, most of the priests I've known well are Dominicans aka Order of Preachers :-)

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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scooter | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, May 19 2018 6:04 PM

MJ. Smith:

scooter:
Denise, even if a person wrote a sermon using no references, and so from the heart, from the whispers of the Holy Spirit to a person's soul, it must be edited, as this pureness has been filtered through a mortal human's faculties

Interesting. I've known several priests who preached without having written even notes as a regular practice for weekday sermons. They also were excellent for Sunday sermons when they were called upon as a last minute replacement for the intended preacher. Of course, most of the priests I've known well are Dominicans aka Order of Preachers :-)

Are these expository sermons, MJ?

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Rich DeRuiter | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, May 19 2018 7:28 PM

scooter:
In very general terms, as a pastor, how many books do you consult for each sermon? 

Besides Bibles (several in English, plus at least one original language Bible - depends on the text), I'll also consult a lexicon from time to time, at least three, and often more commentaries, a Bible background commentary or two, sometimes a quick peak at a study Bible's notes, often a homiletical commentary and/or some sermons I have in Logos. I usually preach expository messages, so sometimes that's enough. Other times a passage will touch on an important or disputed point of theology that I'll also look up. When preaching from narratives, I usually look at some maps as well.

In other words the numbers vary quite a bit. For this week's message (on John 11:45-57), I just counted 10 resources, though I'm pretty sure I'm forgetting some that I looked at earlier in the week.

Here's why I use other resources: I don't believe God speaks only to me. Nor do I believe there aren't any other people on the planet who have some insight on a passage I don't have. God doesn't call us to Himself as atomized individuals, He calls us into community and structures that community in a way that we will need to rely on each other (1Cor. 12, e.g.). IMO, it's pretty arrogant to think no one else has ever looked at the same Scripture I'm looking at in a way that would add to what I can discover on my own. It's also short-changing one of the ways God usually works: through His people. This isn't to say we shouldn't be discerning about what we read, and how much credence we give it. It just means that when I study the Bible, there's no reason to study it alone. I actually do sometimes disagree with the Bible scholars I read, but when I do I do so from a well-considered alternative.

scooter:
How long does it take to write the weekly sermon, on average??

All week. Smile. Seriously. I'm looking at and thinking about my message all week long. I pull it all together on Saturday. Others I know finish their sermons earlier in the week. I wish that worked for me. I really do. But of all the preachers I know, we all have our own ways of working, studying, and preaching.

That said. Some sermons are easier to write than others. As I'm going through the entire book of John, some passages are a breeze, others are more of a challenge. The hard part, sometimes, is finding a practical application for us in our day. Just repeating facts and giving backgrounds and "what the Greek really says is..." gets pretty dry (and sometimes a bit sloppy). Giving encouragement that God's determination to save His people can't be stopped, even by those trying to stop it (cf. John 11:51-52), is at least for tomorrow, part of the message for us in the passage. At times, teasing that out, putting it into words and giving it "legs" can be a challenge (which is where reading other sermons on the passage can be a help).

I hope this answers your questions in the way you wanted.

 Help links: WIKI;  Logos 6 FAQ. (Phil. 2:14, NIV)

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MJ. Smith | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, May 19 2018 8:14 PM

scooter:
Are these expository sermons, MJ?

Yes to varying degrees depending upon the congregation and the preacher - the purpose of the sermon is seen as to open up the Word of God so that it nourishes the souls of the congregation.

Orthodox Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: "To be a theologian means to have experience of a personal encounter with God through prayer and worship."

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Danny Parker | Forum Activity | Replied: Sat, May 19 2018 9:35 PM

Sermon process: (expositional preaching -30-40 minute sermon)

1. I spend time with the text itself. Reading it  / segmenting it into its various parts / outlining it (in my head even if not written down). Essentially establishing 'what is it saying' 'how is it saying it'. Use: original language reference books. Original language analysis from handbooks. Focus on the text itself and what it is saying.

2. Build a rough structural breakdown and then further develop it into major parts and subparts - first cut. Consider the universal truths involved in each part of the structure. Begin to word the structure in a clear / concise / appealing way. Use: Sometimes reference various resources that seek to show structure after I complete my own study.

3. Read commentaries  from both a technical and applicational persepective. Tweek the outlines - adding learned insights / reconsidering my own conclusions as I look at other's conclusions about the text. Look for useful wording that can communicate truth in a helpful way. Use: 4-6 commentary and related resources.Sometimes more depending on the text.

4. Take it in personally - how does what it say speak to me - how does it apply to me? How might it apply to others? How do the truths of this text specifically apply to the audience I will be speaking to? What are their needs? How can I best present the truth so that they will most easily get it? What is the desired outcome in their lives? Use: Reference other people's sermons (Keller, Piper, MacArthur, etc.) and especially applicational commentaries looking for key points for application.

5. Finalize the outline and build Powerpoint slides at the subpoint level - highlight key words in scripture. 

6. Work through the entire sermon multiple times.

At every stage, I might go back and revise and change and start from the top again on some aspect. 

The process usually takes parts of 4 days - maybe 8-16 hours total on average. 

This doesn't count the time I am just mulling over the text and its application during the day. Nor does it include prayer time.

After 40 years, I can produce a sermon in an hour if needed (and have). However, just because I can doesn't mean I should. I find that I gain new insight and understanding even when I repreach a particular text as I take time to work through and consider the text. I don't ever get it all. When I am impacted anew, others seem to as well. I am always learning - and I think that helps others to do the same.

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Mark Barnes | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 20 2018 12:29 AM

scooter:
He came back, essentially, with the belief that a person should read the pure word of God, so to have nothing between one and God.  I then said pastors create sermons using such that I read.

Your friend's belief suggests that:

  • He cannot learn anything from anyone.
  • God can't work through anyone, he can only work directly.

Both beliefs are obviously wrong. God doesn't just give me the Holy Spirit and the Bible. He also gives me the church.

But in answer to your question, I'll generally use five-fifteen reference books per sermon. That will generally be three to five commentaries, a topical dictionary, a cross-reference tool, a few Bible or Theological dictionaries, a couple of lexicons, and occasionally a systematic theology or two. A particularly knotty passage of Scripture will increase that. A particularly busy week might reduce it.

But together those ten reference book don't come close to outweighing the importance of the Bible. We don't have to choose between the Bible and other books. We can (and should) use other books to help us interpret the Bible, not as an end to themselves.

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scooter | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 20 2018 5:17 AM

As OP:  thank you all, people who appreciate good preaching, and pastors alike, for taking the time to write replies.  I get a real sense of wisdom here.  We are in Christ; the people you consult when you write a sermon are in Christ.  A disservice would be done to your listeners if these works were not consulted......Its possible, as well, to produce a sermon faster / use no notes because of vast previous experience with that text or subject, and the large number of sermons one has produced in the past.

Now, to application for me:  I read in Logos seven days a week.  Procedures listed above are what I need to produce a package of information on a subject of interest.

Thus not a sermon, nor an essay, neither of which I precisely need, but perhaps the phrase ''briefing packet'' is best to describe what I will use the above information to create.

I did say to my friend words to the effect that, if I was a guest in his church, I would then not be able to trust what he says, because he would have consulted books besides the Bible.  My friend said I could trust the man, to which I agreed.

All during our discussion. I was thinking of Moo on Romans and Carson on John.  I figured that pastor likely would have both.

For those pastors out there, I hope your sermon went well, does go well this weekend.  Bless you!!!

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Fred Chapman | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 20 2018 7:13 AM

The number of reference sources I use really depends on the text. I try to go to commentaries at the end of my prep process, though I know some who regularly go to favorite commentary first.

I do not normally write out a manuscript, but use the Sermon Editor to create detailed sermon outlines.

Typically it takes me about 10-15 hours of prep for a sermon. As some have said, I can put one together quicker, but that does not mean I should. 

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Denise | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 20 2018 7:31 AM

scooter:

....  A disservice would be done to your listeners if these works were not consulted ...

No intent to argue with you, scooter. Just a different perspective. And you could easily disagree with me:

- Commentaries, etc is mainly a modern approach. One of the frustrations with modern apologists, is the NT writers don't seem to cross-reference each other (I'm sure a disservice?). They don't even bother to barely quote Jesus himself (letter writers).  Strangest of all is the next generation, who presumably could quote from the NT. But didn't

-It was not too long ago, a preacher that had to carry or check other preacher materials was young and inexperienced. Still had a ways to go.   And even today, our pastor clearly uses commentaries, etc but never gives credit. He can't. 

- And I'd argue the so-called bench-warmer problem is a result of a church-system that rewards fancy music and fancy sermons. People think that's evangelism. And it might well be, if people could discuss it minutes later ... they can't. I checked. I doubt it even gets in one ear.

- There's wisdom in Didache .... suspicion of the teachers. When you take ownership of Jesus' commission.


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EastTN | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 20 2018 12:25 PM

I think there are at least a couple of different issues at play here.

  1. The first is making sure that you understand the Word of God correctly before you attempt to proclaim it to others. The amount of time necessary here will depend on each individual's background, level of prior preparation, and familiarity with the particular text or topic to be discussed. There is great wisdom in beginning with the Word itself. But once we've analyzed it to the best of our ability, there is also wisdom in checking our understanding against what others have found. We will understand the word better if we use all of the tools that God has provided us. But in terms of any particular sermon, the Lord has blessed the church with many who understand Scripture well enough to stand up and explain it at a moments notice if needed. That's not to say that they couldn't do a better job with some time to prepare, and it's not to say that all of us are blessed with that level of knowledge.
  2. The second is making sure you've organized your sermon in a way that will clearly convey the message of Scripture to your particular audience in the time available. The amount of time necessary for this will depend on each individual's skill as a communicator and whether you've taught the same material before. The Lord has blessed the church with skilled communicators, and years of experience, who can stand up and craft a well-structured sermon on the fly. Again, they could likely do even better with some time to prepare, and most of us don't have that level of skill.

Personally, I spend a significant amount of time on both pieces. I don't have the same level of skill, experience and prior preparation that many others have. So, it takes me longer. I need to recognize that, accept it, and put in the time necessary for me to be able to give the congregation the Spiritual food it deserves.

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Keep Smiling 4 Jesus :) | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 20 2018 2:36 PM

scooter:

JohnB:

scooter:
He came back, essentially, with the belief that a person should read the pure word of God, so to have nothing between one and God.

I take it that he reads in Hebrew, Greek etc because that is the nearest that he will get the pure word of God.

No, he just reads the Bible in English.

English Bibles are a commentary on original language text that reflects intersection of original meaning & English target audience & translation bias. Some English translations have significant eisegesis ("into" reading of meaning) issues, where biased beliefs appear in English that lacks much of original meaning. Thankful can compare various English Bibles for insight of original meaning range.

Thankful for Faithlife applications and apps having ability to hide uninspired Chapter and Verse numbers.

Thankful for Reverses Interlinear tagging in many English Bibles so can "see" range of Greek verbal expression, including free Basic packages.

Thankful for digital library with wide range of passionately held opinions so can prayerfully consider text plus opinions over many centuries: Truth remains Truth over time.

Keep Smiling Smile

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Jack Caviness | Forum Activity | Replied: Sun, May 20 2018 4:07 PM

scooter:
He came back, essentially, with the belief that a person should read the pure word of God, so to have nothing between one and God.

Later you indicated that your friend consults English translation(s). He doesn't want reference works, but he allows a translation committee to come between himself and the "pure word of God." 

If you understand the historical situation, the culture, and the  language as it was to the original readers of the text, then you can forego reference works. Otherwise, you have become a fountain of false interpretation. I live in the Southeast US, so I have seen multitudes of well-meaning church people led astray by pastors and teachers who claimed that they had no need for anyone to teach them. All they needed was a "King James Bible" to understand the truth. 

The absolute worst—and most pathetic—form of deception is self-deception.

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