Last week we discussed the importance of preaching the Word. If you’re not doing that, you’re not leading a church; it’s just a social, motivational organization. However, staying committed to preaching God’s Word takes a considerable time commitment each week. Contrary to what some of the people at your church may think, you don’t (or shouldn’t) go to and copy and paste. And although the Holy Spirit inspires your message, He doesn’t typically write it. It takes work and some considerable time grinding it out every week.

Since many of you are pastors and/or church planters, I’m going to assume you know the basic of hermeneutics and Scripture interpretation (please feel free to ask me about it if you don’t!). Instead of teaching a sermon prep course, I figured I’d share a few sermon prep hacks I’ve learned over the years. These may or may not work for you, but they’ve worked wonders for me as I’ve picked them up over my last 19 years of preaching.


Have you seen an exploded view of something? It’s a diagram with the item completely disassembled so you know how every part functions and where every bolt and screw belongs. That’s how I like to visualize the sermon prep process. The best way to figure out how your text works is to take it all apart, then put it back together again.


When I begin the sermon prep process, I prefer my text to start off spread out and wide open, ready to be torn apart. I typically type it out in size 10 font, spaced out by 10, which gives me a clean canvas to work on and helps me see the text with fresh eyes.


My mind works in colors. I use red for observation, blue for interpretation, and green for application. I know the red are my preliminary thoughts that may be off. Blue are Scripture cross-references or commentary sources, and green is the practical thoughts where the rubber meets the road.


When you open up commentaries to study your text, don’t go straight to the perfectly-outlined, alliterated, rhyming, hands-on applicational authors and pastors. That’s like flipping to the answers in the back of your math textbook. You may get the answers right, but you’ll rob yourself of the joy of discovering it for yourself. Start with the cultural handbooks, original languages, and “dry” commentaries that just help you interpret, then put the pieces together yourself for the application.


Your phone, iPad, and computer probably have it. Use the “do not disturb” function, close your emails, and get off of social media. If you follow me on social media and notice I often don’t post much on Wednesdays and Fridays, that’s because I’ve got my nose in books instead of Facebook. Call me if you want, but I probably won’t call back till later in the day.


Deadlines help me work hard. By Wednesday at lunch, I try to have observation and most of the interpretation done. By quitting time on Wednesday late afternoon, I aim to have application finished as well as my main (rough) message points and hopefully a title. This makes it where I can dive right into putting notes together on Friday. By Friday night, I want to have my notes completely done and ready to preach for Sunday. Nobody is going to grade me on whether I meet those deadlines, but forcing myself to be done by a certain time is a helpful discipline to practice.


I’ve recently started preparing messages one to two weeks in advance, and I LOVE IT. It’s so helpful to be able to think through illustrations, creative elements, and even to craft this weekend’s message with next weekend’s in mind. For some, that’s too much to have tumbling around in their head, but I’ve learned to juggle it and it’s helped a lot.


We’ve covered a lot over the last few months, but maybe I’ve missed a topic you’d like addressed.

Head to the contact page at or simply respond to this email and let me know what you’d like me to write about!

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