How do you write your messages? It’s something every communicator wants to know of other communicators and very seldom have the chance to ask. I have been so blessed to be mentored by some really great communicators. (Thanks Daryl Craft, Ron Edmondson, Eric Thoms, Chad Rowland, Mike Bayne, my dad, and Adam Dressler) I also had gifted communicators that I embraced as distant mentors, guys I listen to, and learn from at a distance. (Carey Neiwhoff, Louie Giglio, Tim Keller, Matt Chandler, and Reggie Joiner) Over time I figured out my own personal rhythm for writing messages, being efficient, and being clear.
I have one strict writing day that is on my calendar and for 8-10 hours I am locked in on the message for that coming Sunday. This is not the first time I have thought about the message, but it is the one focused day where I am locked in and free of distraction. Here are some steps I take each week…
- I work to shift locations so I can break up the day.
- I focus on the text first and work to stay in the text until I have a firm grasp of how the passage will drive the message.
- I limit myself to 2 commentaries for each series, so I don’t have research overload. I also switch out the voices I am using to help study.
- I make sure that at the end of the day on Tuesday, I have a preach-able message. It’s not finished, but it’s on paper and ready to move into the “spiritual crockpot.” I like a message to slowly seep into my soul over the week so that the Holy Spirit has the room to shift and move things in the message. I also have the freedom to add insight as I pray and walk through the week and edit out what does not need to be there.
As a pastor, speaking is one thing I do, not the only thing I do. There are so many other responsibilities on my plate if I am going to shepherd people well. If you became a pastor to be a professional speaker or teacher you are probably in the wrong line of work.
When I sit down to write each week, I jump off work I put in months before. Each semester I take a few days to work on the next 1/2 year’s message series. We always have future series and texts planned out, so we know what we are teaching on. I also share the teaching load with another pastor on our team, so I speak about 33 times a year at our church and share the other weeks. If I am going to share the teaching load, I have to have work done on the front end to pass on what text I want them to teach from. If you have not figured it out yet, we work hard to allow the Scripture and not the topic drive the messages. You can look back at Greenville Community Church’s past messages and get a flavor for what I am talking about. The work I do months ahead of the message shapes everything from The graphic design for the message, the songs we sing, and the message’s preparation. Going into each week with a firm plan of the text to focus on makes my writing time on Tuesday more effective.
I have several moments in the week when I am editing down the message to make sure I am being clear. I am editing when I create slides for the screens we use in our online and in-person settings. I am editing when I teach for our online experience on Thursday and teach the message for the first time. I take an hour on Saturday nights to work fully through the message again and edit more. I agree with Andy Stanley when he challenges pastors to strive for clarity over impressing people. Our goal is not to entertain. Our goal is to engage the people and be clear with the teaching. I have to long to be clear more than I long to impress the crowd. Less of me and more of Jesus.
Find your own voice when communicating, build a personal system, and work on your craft. When we passionately and clearly share the Scriptures, we have a 100% chance they will not return void. Let the Bible roar, be clear, and get out of the way as the Holy Spirit works.