The Good Sheperd & Sermon Prep

Over the past month, I’ve been preaching/teaching my way through a series called The Good Shepherd. I wanted to write out the prep, just for reference, but also in case anyone stumbles across the concept and needs reference & reading ideas. My practices have evolved over the past seven years, but this is where I am now.

Where did the idea for the series come from? The series idea came from my personal time in the Scriptures last year. I had been studying Ezekiel, and I picked up on the shepherding language. When I hit chapter 34 and peeked into the fulfillment of the passage in Jesus in John 10, I was hooked. I ordered a couple of books to dig a little deeper, thinking I might also like to preach the concept down the road.

The Good Shepherd by Kenneth Bailey
A Shepherd Looks at the 23rd Psalm by Philip Keller
The Spirit of the Shepherd by M.P. Krikorian

Which passages were included? As I started my reading, I chose four Old Testament passages, knowing that with each I would make an application to the New Testament fulfillment in Jesus. The specific portions changed throughout as I studied & wrote, but I settled on:

Psalm 23
Jeremiah 23:1-8
Ezekiel 34:1-31
Zechariah 11:4-17

Book Covers 2How much reading was involved? Every series for me is a bit different. Though I preached four particular passages, the series was somewhat topical as well. Topical series, for me, typically require a bit more reading to flesh out the ideas concisely. I treated each sermon textually, but the reading provides background, context, and application that extends across the series.

Shepherds After My Own Heart by Timothy S. Laniak (cover-to-cover)
Longing For God in an Age of Discouragement by Bryan Gregory (2nd half)
NIV Application Commentary: Haggai, Zechariah by Mark Boda (reference)
NIV Application Commentary: Ezekiel by Iain Duguid (previously read)
Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi by Iain Duguid (1/4)
Desiring God by John Piper (I happened to be reading portions, and they were helpful)
Commentaries on Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, and John by John Calvin (each as reference)

Having Logos, I also accessed quite a few commentaries, linguistic tools, reference materials, maps & charts, etc. I am thankful for Logos! It was a wonderful investment years back, and as I’ve expanded my library and upgraded, I’ve found it to be a resource that is growing finer with age. For this series, I found great words from Bob Utley, Andrew Bonar, John Wesley, Warren Wiersbe, Matthew Henry, RC Sproul, John Newton… so many.

I also love following the cross-reference trails in study Bibles, as well as checking out the notes. ESV Study Bible, Faithlife Study Bible, Holman Christian Study Bible, Gospel Transformation Bible, etc. are just a few of my favorites. One additional resource that helps immensely – the hymnal. Never discount the hymnal as a source of poetic, prayerful wisdom!

What does prep look like? Since I answered the call to ministry, I’ve tried to limit my sermon prep to one week, knowing that if I found myself in “series mode” I would only have six days to prepare. I have settled into scripting my sermons entirely, which I’ve found has helped me to care for my words and say more with less.

Monday: Very little if any prep work. This is a decompression day from the previous week.
Tuesday: Original langauge study coupled with multiple English translations. A day for just my heart, my brain, and the text; no outside commentary.
Wednesday & Thursday: Reading, reviewing, referencing & taking tons of notes. Write Introduction.
Friday: Finish rough script. My average sermon script contains 4,000 words.
Saturday: Refine & Review.

With a series like this, I had been reading books off and on for a month prior. This means I’m always thinking. Always jotting down. I keep a sermon notebook that I use to capture anything useful, no matter when it hits me. And obviously, ministry requires deviation from the plan when various things happen. But these are the daily benchmarks, for what it’s worth.

What do I use to preach? I have a paper copy of the script in the pulpit for emergencies, but I preach from my tablet/laptop hybrid. It has a 17″ screen, which means I can load the text in the Reading Mode of Microsoft Word and just swipe through it. It has taken practice, but I don’t read my sermon. I do pretty well keeping eye contact with the people while staying faithful to what is on the screen. I always prefer to read Scripture passages directly from my Bible – there’s something valuable about holding the book – but I also have the biblical text in another window ready to go, particularly if I’m reading from a translation that isn’t ESV.

Again, I’m not sure if this is helpful to anyone, or just a note to myself that I’ll read in 5yrs – but either way, my head clears of excess thinking if I write it down.