Preaching Articles

It was Saturday night. I sat down to put the final touches on my sermon for the morning. I wrote the sermon quite a while ago in my process of getting ahead. I dusted my sermon off earlier in the week and worked on internalizing it. Saturday night was my usual time of practicing out loud and making a few minor tweaks. It’s usually very smooth and easy.

But then I ran into a big problem.

I realized that the main idea for my message was based on a misinterpretation of my key passage of Scripture. It was an easy mistake to make. It was only a minor misinterpretation. I could preach it, and most people wouldn’t even know the difference or even care if they did.

It was a stupid mistake that I should have caught the week I wrote the message. But, to be honest, I cut corners on my usual process of study because of how busy the week was.

So there I was, hours before I was supposed to preach, with a real problem.

Do I say, “Too late now,” and preach through the problem with the intention to never let it happen again? Or do I completely rewrite my message only hours before I have to preach it?

What would you do?

I will tell you what I did. After a minor panic attack, I put on my big boy pants, poured myself a cup of coffee and rewrote the entire sermon as best I could in the time I had.

Was I frustrated with myself? Yes. Was I tired? Yes. But was my conscience clean? Absolutely.

Thankfully, my new sermon went well. It wasn’t as polished as I would have liked. It wasn’t as engaging as my other sermon would have been. But deep down, I know that I did my due diligence as the shepherd of my flock.

I don’t ever want this situation to happen again. But at least I slept great Sunday night knowing I did my absolute best to rightly handle the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

What about you? If you found a misinterpretation or misapplication in your sermon the night before you preached, what would you do?

Brandon is the editor of Pro

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Keith Roberts

commented on Jul 26, 2014

I couldn't in good conscience give the sermon knowing that there was a misinterpretation or misapplication in the message. I would pray and thank God that the Holy Spirit brought this to my attention before delivering the message. Also, I would pray for guidance on what to do. I might rewrite the sermon as you did or alternatively revisit a sermon that I gave years ago.

Carlita Cotton

commented on Jul 27, 2014

Bless you, Brandon for writing this. It is 4 am, EST, and I'm preaching at 11 am and my sermon stinks! I was in a panic until my eyes saw this article pop up in my email inbox.

John Daily

commented on Jul 28, 2014

I'd react the same way Keith Roberts would: I'd thank God for the chance to make it right through my hands, and I'd let him take care of it. I haven't quite done the complete 4am re-write, but I have done a 2am three-quarters rewrite and, while I was exhausted while delivering it, I knew it was from God and not me...which makes it all worth doing.

Joe Mckeever

commented on Mar 7, 2015

I love the title. My experience has been more along the lines of "it's Sunday night and the sermon stunk. What to do?" Answer: Give it to the Lord and try to get it right next time. Blessings.

Lawrence Webb

commented on Mar 7, 2015

I've never done an all-nighter of the kind I did for seminary exams, but many a time I've gotten up early Sunday morning and made almost last minute amendments after restless Saturday night sleep, realizing there was something I had left out or something I needed to take out.

Jeff Glenn

commented on Mar 7, 2015

My sermons usually stink anyway, I've just gotten used to it! (I'm just kidding, folks!) Yes, that's happened to me and yes, I've gotten up early on Sunday morning and "fine tuned" it. My worst experience I guess was a technology problem about two years ago when my computer crashed. I rewrote the sermon by memory, which was no easy task. Since then, I now use a flash drive.

Trenda Seifer

commented on Mar 7, 2015

I would share a note of encouragement that one time when I had written a sermon about the Holy Spirit in preparation for Pentecost. While the message was factually correct, I didn't have a peace about it. At 9:30 pm on Saturday night, I sat down once again with it, and prayed over it. I took out most of the sermon and re-wrote it, and like the writer above, went to sleep at peace. The next morning in my second service (2 churches), I was getting really funny looks from two ladies in the congregation. I started silently praying that I would not "mess up" the message of God's holy word. After the service was concluded this mother and her adult daughter came to tell me that they had been up until 1:30 am talking about the Holy Spirit, and it was as if I had eavesdropped on their conversation. They were aghast that I answered every question they had the night before. I told them, "Here's the kicker." The Lord had me change my message at 9:30 pm, so He heard your questions before you even asked them." Do we serve a great God or what? Sometimes we need to change our messages in response to the prompting of the Holy Spirit -- just because He says so. We don't always have to know why. May we ever be messengers and not editors of the Word of God.

Steven Farless

commented on Mar 7, 2015

several times I have stood up and just spoke from my heart about an issue, or a devotional thought; in "lectures to my students' Spurgeon actually encourages the practice to keep preachers spiritually sharp and ready.

Kristin Green

commented on Mar 7, 2015

I would also put my big girl pants on! Thank you for your integrity in handling God's Word. Very encouraging :-)

David Parks

commented on Mar 7, 2015

Wow. look how many responses. Looks like you hit a problem that every truth seeking preacher runs up against. Well done. But what do you do when the rewrite stinks too? Go back to one of your best sermons from 20, 30 or 40 years ago. Restudy it, update it, and preach it. If it was worth preaching once, it was worth preaching twice. Jesus preached the same sermon more than once and adjusted it to the audience consider Luke 12:22-34 and Matthew 6:25-34 and other examples.

Gary Maskell

commented on Mar 7, 2015

I have done that very same thing. Rewrite with a heart to be a good steward with God's Word. Our congregations deserve the best we can give with God's help.

B Armstrong

commented on Mar 7, 2015

Yes I have been there. Up late adding some things that needed to be added, and adjusting the message as the Holy Spirit leads. God's people must be fed right, and not thrown just any thing. But it is comforting to know that other fellow yokemen run into some of the same challenges at times in preparing the message.

Danny Cochran

commented on Mar 7, 2015

I would have a major problem because my sermon notes are printed as bulletin inserts and prepared for video display. The only thing to be done is to correct the notes while preaching. That is done by stating what is in the notes and then stating what was discovered on later reflection.

Daniel Nuer

commented on Mar 8, 2015

Thanks fro the reminder. I lead a small fellowship and sometimes have to come up with an exhortation at short notice or change what I have to say just a few hours before I speak (I've been in a position where I only had the back of an envelope to jot down notes). It can be difficult being careful at such times but I have always held that the words I speak reflect God and so must be a true reflection of what He wants to say and not me. God has been good in providing the right words of encouragement at such times so I do not go out of line. (Daniel Nuer, Accra-Ghana)

Thomas Clocker

commented on Mar 8, 2015

Guilty! This Week! Went to review Saturday afternoon (3/7). Trashed everything. Left late Saturday night knowing that it still needed a lot of work so got up early Sunday and put 3 more hours in. I even missed a congregational fellowship event Saturday night. I've learned when His Spirit troubles my spirit about a message I trust His leading! Fortunately this dramatic late change doesn't happen often!

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