Getting From Written Manuscript To Preached Sermon

Here is “Page 2” from last week’s “Shame Off You” sermon from the Bouncebackers series.

What?  And what is the deal with all that purple?

Well, here goes: each week, after about 12-15 hours of studying, scribbling, and outlining, I write out a nine page, 2,000 word sermon manuscript.  The manuscript that I write is usually intended for delivery about two months out (this week, for example, I’m working on something for January 14, 2018).

The completed manuscript then goes in a Sermons In Progress file (technically a misnomer, since those sermons are done!).  Incidentally, when that sermon is completed and printing out, I send out a couple of celebrate with me! emails and my mood improves considerably for the rest of the week.

Fast forward two months.  On the Monday before the Sunday delivery, I pull that manuscript out of the file and go over it each morning before I leave the house.  Memorizing, internalizing, personalizing.

Yes, it involves rehearsal.  Repetition. Practice. (“We’re talkin bout PRACTICE?!”)

That’s where the purple pen comes in.  In the internalizing and practicing, I realize what sounds good (a sermon is written for the EAR, after all), what doesn’t, what cadence works, what needs to be added, and what needs to be deleted.  All so that I can stand and deliver a message on Sunday morning without any notes whatsoever.

Seems like a lot of detail, doesn’t it?

Except I’ve discovered a marvelous truth in that process from written manuscript to spoken sermon:  the more prepared you are, the more spontaneous you can be.



A happy consequence of this years-in-the-making sermon process is that my manuscripts have been very close to book-ready.  Each of the chapters in Crash Test Dummies, for example, was originally a nine-page, 2,000 word sermon.  You can pick up your copy of Crash Test Dummies, ideal for use in both sermon development and as a small group study, here.