I frequently get asked the same two questions about my message preparation:

How long does it take?

An average message takes about 20 to 25 hours from start to finish. I am a slow processor, and I like to sit with things in my heart and mind a while before I put them on paper.

How do you go about putting a message together?

Most of my messages are birthed the same way.

  • Need: We plan series months in advance based on the perceived or realized needs of our people or the directions we sense God wants us to take the church.
  • Bottom-line Idea: I need to land on what the central point of the message is before I can go much further with the message. Hopefully this happens weeks before the week I’m crafting the message.
  • Notes: After I know where I am headed I begin to keep notes on paper, on my computer, on my iPhone, and in scrap pieces of paper in my car or on my desk. These could be Scriptures, illustrations, or thoughts about the central idea.
  • All notes are eventually transferred to my Evernote file.
  • Study: I begin to study passages surrounding the theme/bottom-line I feel God is leading me towards.
  • Passage: Preferably a week or two before the message is written, I land on the passage of Scripture I feel God is leading me to use.
  • Study: I spend more extensive time studying the specific passage I am using in my message.
  • Point of Desperation: Usually the week I am writing the message nothing I have written so far seems to make sense any more. I almost always reach a frustrating point where I am forced to cry out to God for help breaking through the mental and spiritual blockage. (I wonder if this is God-designed?)
  • Breakthrough: God always seems to provide the breakthrough I need to move forward towards a completed message. Sometimes it takes longer than I would like, but He always provides.
  • Outline: I begin to outline my message with the 1) Opening Illustrations, 2) Scripture or Bible Story,  3) Closing Applications and Challenge.
  • Script: I am a manuscript guy, so the week of my message I write out the majority of what I plan to say on Sunday morning.

Of course, this whole process needs to be bathed in prayer and Holy Spirit directed, which means I need to spend quantity and quality time alone with God if the message is to be meaningful.

Pastors, how does this differ from the way you put together a message?