“Have you preached that sermon before?”

Leave a comment

15/11/2017 by Chris Green

‘Have you preached that sermon before?’

I’ve just been asked the same question, by two different people, about two different sermons. Set in a context of warm appreciation they both asked, ‘Have you preached that sermon before?’

What was it about those sermons that attracted the interest?

The answer, you see, was that in both cases I had not preached them before.  They’d been prepped in the week, and served up on the Sunday.  The usual drill.

And although I’ve no particularly strong views on the subject, I tend not to re-use old material.  Unless something has been prepped for a wider crowd, I tend to believe the old saying that ‘Every sermon has a date and a postcode.’  It’s been written for this congregation, at this moment on our journey, and it feels strangely fake to re-use it somewhere else.  I don’t think that means anything beyond the fact that I know I’m not built for an itinerant ministry.

Now, leap with me into the kitchen.  If someone says, ‘That chicken was delicious – what did you put in the sauce?’, you’ll probably run of some ingredients and, if you’re English, mumble something about it not being that special.  Meanwhile, you’re mind is tracking back, thinking ‘Ooh – that worked.  I must remember the difference that not crushing the garlic makes.’

In other words, when you hit on a secret sauce by accident, it’s worth jotting down what went into it, so that next time you can make it on purpose.

So, what was it about those sermons that attracted the interest? What was in the secret sauce?

  1. They were both relatively unfamiliar passages to most.  So that’s an easy win – when you show people a part of the bible they don’t know, and show them how even that part tracks to Jesus, you’re one goal up in the game.
  2. They were not unfamiliar to me.  That’s not a boast – it’s saying that early on I was persuaded of the value of systematic, daily ‘all-through-the-bible-in-a-year’ reading.  Lots have bibles had a reading scheme at the back, and some denominations have that habit built into their daily services (although watch out for ones which edit or skip without telling you!). That means that Id read them many times, made comments in the margins of my reading bibles, and given them a chance to occupy my mind. There is a huge advantage for you as your familiarity with the whole Bible accumulates year-on-year.
  3. Neither passage was an epistle or gospel, where the recipe for making a sermon is more familiar. One was OT narrative, the other OT prophecy, and both therefore required more work from me in helping people cross the preaching bridge. it’s always useful when we have a heightened sensitivity to the need to help people into the passage, and to help them home again afterwards.
  4. Because of those literary styles, I was consciously trying to connect not just intellectually but imaginatively. A story needs to be allowed to get under people’s skin as a story, and doing that well means that we don’t just recount the events, but that we pay attention to the story-tellers arts of tension and release, maintaining interest, drawing characters and so on.  Likewise, poetry has nuance and power from the way it concentrates imagery.  In both those cases, then, I was aiming to do far, for more than impart information, because the nature of the material required me to think about how to move people.
  5. Both sermons had had a number of months on the back burner, because I knew they’d be tricky.  When the series were divided up and I knew these two were coming my way, they’d starting rattling round my brain at odd moments. And so they’d had longer to simmer, and for me to spot connections, allusions and applications along the way.  These weren’t cobbled together on Saturday night.



The lesson is the importance of keeping on reading the bible freshly.

The challenge is to repeat that lesson on the next, new, box-fresh sermon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Shortlisted for “Most Inspiring Leadership Blog, 2018”

New resource

Pastors are busy, and leading a church is a demanding task.  That’s why I wrote this e-bookchecklist: The Pastor’s Checkup – The Top 10 Questions every pastor needs to answer (and helpful stuff if you can’t)

There’s only way to get it is by subscribing to my  (occasional) email newsletter here.


God, Suffering and Joy

A conversation between me (with cancer) and Michael (with Multiple Sclerosis)

Legal stuff

This blog does not share personal information with third parties nor do I store any information about your visit to this blog other than to analyse and optimise your content and reading experience. I am not responsible for republished content from this blog on other blogs or websites without my permission. This privacy policy is subject to change without notice.

I welcome your participation on the Ministrynutsandbolts site, and invite you to share ideas elsewhere on what you learn and read here. At the same time, I ask that you respect my intellectual property rights in the process.

You are welcome to link to my site or any specific post on my site, extract and re-post less than 200 words on any other site, provided you link back to my original post, or print my posts in any non-commercial publication (e.g., company newsletter, class syllabus, church newsletter, etc.), provided you include this copyright notice: “© 2017 Chris Green. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.ministrynutsandbolts.com.”

Please do not do the following without written consent: Re-post one of my posts in its entirety anywhere else on the Internet, use this content for commercial purposes, including selling or licensing printed or digital versions of my content, or alter, transform, or build upon this work.

If you have some use for my content that is not covered here, please contact me. If you would like me to do a guest post on your blog, email me at ministrynutsandbolts@gmail.com

Copyright does not apply to the titles of books, but transparency means I should own that the title of the blog is taken from the excellent ‘Ministry Nuts and Bolts: What They Don’t Teach Pastors in Seminary ‘ by Aubrey Malphurs (Kregel: 2nd edn. 2009)

© 2018 Chris Green

%d bloggers like this: