A funny thing happened last year when I started talking about preaching with a friend who is a writer: I stopped writing out my sermons and I started becoming a better preacher. I’ve written before about my new(ish) preaching practice of constructing visual rather than manuscript sermons.
When I was student, I received a great deal of praise for my writing. I even wrote professionally for a short time after graduating from college, as the education and business reporter for a small-town daily paper. As a college student, I dreamed of writing the great American novel. In seminary, every paper I turned in came back with the note “Excellent writing!” When I was questioned about my ordination paper, every member of the committee mentioned how much they enjoyed reading it.
2016 came along and I decided to be more intentional about a few things, including my preaching. But I decided to work on my preaching by focusing on writing instead — not writing my sermons, which I still don’t do, strictly speaking, but writing as craft. I decided to integrate my sermon construction work into a larger practice that includes daily writing a la Julia Cameron’s “Morning Pages,” planning out my sermons a year in advance, reading about writing, building a congregational social media and communication plan centered around the sermon theme, and a great deal of non church-related writing in a variety of genres.
I’m interested to see how this experiment pans out in the pulpit. I’m hoping to become better at storytelling, more skilled in organizing the larger storyline, and clearer in my delivery.