Troublemaker (2) How a sermon takes and changes shape

I wanted to share a little bit of my sermon preparation process with you.  The process starts quite a way back. I am currently spending a lot of time reading and thinking about 2 Corinthians which we will be going through in the autumn.

Then in the week before I am due to preach, I will look at the passage in detail, annotating a copy of it, identifying the logical flow of the text, highlighting key words and phrases, looking out for unusual, difficult to understand and challenging statements.  From this I will identifying the main application that we are being asked to focus on this week.  

I usually write a first draft as early in the week as possible. Why? A lot of preachers often draft their sermons on Saturday. I also tend to type up a longhand version of the sermon although I preach from much briefer notes. There are a couple of reasons for this:

  • I share the script with others. This includes the person leading the service, our Sunday Club Plus teachers who will be following the same passage, other elders and preachers but also from time to time other church members too. This means that they are aware of the key application and so are prepared for Sunday too. There may be people that will be challenged or provoked by the sermon and want to pray, seek advice or even question what was said.
  • I welcome feedback from those who have seen the script, they have the opportunity to come and make suggestions and ask questions.
  • I have time to read through what I have written prayerfully
  • I find that once I have identified the meaning of the text and the application that other things take a little time to take shape and mature, especially the specific detail of the application, illustrations, examples and the introduction

The result is that early in the week, I may have something that works as a talk, it gives a reasonable exposition of the passage but it is not going to fly as a sermon to preach in our context. This means that I’m ready to change things in the week.  Now admittedly, the luxury I have is that I am set aside full time for the church, not every preacher has that space and has to fit in preparing with other paid work as well as the busyness of family life. However, I want to suggest that the benefits of early preparation and sharing for feedback outweigh the costs.  My recommendation is that you start a little earlier and the process I work through in a week gets spaced out over a month. So take some time in the first week of the month to be reading the passage, in the second week do your detailed study, week three write the script You can then share it for feedback, hear the sermon the week before and then make amendments during the week you are due to preach.

To give you a feel for how things change, here are the original detailed notes which I prepared for last Sunday.  The sermon I preached on Sunday changed quite considerably in structure from the original script I prepared. So, these are the notes I actually took into the pulpit.

Trouble -maker (2 Samuel 20)


Avengers and Infinity Wars – trouble, trials and temptations as relentless

Opposition to and trouble for David – Relentless (because of  his sin with Bathsheba cf v 3)

John Owen – be killing sin or it will be killing you.

Responding to temptations


  1. I am tempted to believe that I have no share in the inheritance offered by Christ (v 1-3)

Sheba – a worthless man, son of Bikri (ally of Saul/camel)

Israel -you have nothing to gain from David.

The Greatest lie  – you do not belong in Christ. You have nothing to gain from him


–          Past Grace, Present Grace, Future Grace


  1. I am tempted to believe that my agenda is what matters (v4-10)

Joab assassinates his rival Amasa

Distraction from the primary agenda (v6)

Key issue -do we really get how dangerous sin is?

My agenda when -my ministry, my gift comes first  -Jealousy, bitterness, competition (church/workplace/family)


–          Remember who you were. God chose nobodies (1 Corinthians) … grace leaves no room for pride

–          Remember we are gifts to the church


  1. I am tempted to believe that I am dependent on others for my relationship with Christ (v11-13)

Joab demands loyalty to David but it must be proven through loyalty to him

Watch out for those who make themselves mediators – priests/prosperity Gospel

Watch out for co-dependence


Prayer, Bible reading -feeding on Christ


  1. I am tempted to disregard the body of Christ (v 14-22)


Joab is challenged he is laying siege to Abel -but Deut 20:10 -should have sought terms

The wise woman’s challenge – will you destroy one of Israel’s cities.

1 Corinthians 11 -talks about how we discern the body -it’s about our relationship to one another

–          Church consumers

–          Church avoiders

–          Church grumblers

–          Church slanders


The importance of fellowship for mutual encouragement


Spiritual warfare may feel relentless but when we remember that our share is in Christ then spiritual warfare is put in context

There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus

We are more than conquerors.