Wednesday, September 24, 2008

How long to prepare a sermon?

It seems a perennial question for ministers. How long to spend in preparation? The more time spent with God's word, the more piercing our presentation of the text is likely to be ... unless we're so disconnected from the congregation it becomes irrelevant.

I just finished preparation that took about 12 hours though it needs another couple of hours editing before it's a really effective sermon. But I remember one lecturer telling a class, "If it takes more than 12 hours to prepare your sermon, you're not worth feeding." And this I read Mark Dever saying he spends 30 to 35 hours! All well and good in a mega-church situation...maybe. But where does wisdom lie.

The other problem is that the previous generation of preachers (ie. now retiring) had a different philosophy again. One told me that if it took more than 4 hours to prepare sermon, I was wasting time. I needed to be out with my congregation. (I asked a few questions and it seems he was mainly describing the time taken to prepare notes for preaching. He actually did his exegesis the year before and would spend 1.5 hours every morning during his quiet time first on personal reflection but then on developing exegetical notes. By my calculation, he may have spent more like 14 hours.) And then another minister told me he spent 1-2 hours! I'm not seeing them as models. But they are some of the modern generation's strongest critics. And they have a genuine concern. When do we spend time with people. When does the pastoring happen if we're cloistered in our study?

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