My Preaching Toolkit
On occasion I'm asked about my sermon preparation, which to answer is far more involved than what I plan to talk about now. However, during those conversations, I'm sometimes asked to clarify not so much the process, but the mechanics of it.
So for those interested, this is what my usual week looks like, and the tools I most often turn to.
During the early stages of preparation, I almost exclusively use a Moleskin journal (my preference is a lined, soft cover edition) to scribble observations, questions, and connections, I find in the text I'll be preaching from. I'm a fairly non-lineal thinking kind of guy, so this stage can look fairly messy. I almost never use pen, instead, a good mechanical pencil allows me to scribble and scrawl to my heart's content without the dread of unsightly blocked out text. In the very early stages, my moleskin is only usually accompanied by my Bible—other reference material comes later.
After the initial blocking out of the text is complete, I start widening my vision to include what other people have seen in the text. Here I tend to favour other pastoral practitioners over scholarly academics, though I certainly have chewed through a few of these technical books on a number of occasions, though my findings rarely feature in the finished manuscript. In recent times I've found that I gravitate most frequently to the 'Christ-Centered Exposition Series' put out by Holman Reference and have found them to be an excellent resource to our church's ministry.
Early in my preaching experience I mostly worked from a notebook or loose-leaf paper with handwritten notes and dot points to preach from. However, over the last decade or so, I have discovered the worth of fully manuscripting my sermon. To do this, I reluctantly left my beautiful notebook and ventured into the digital realm. To my surprise, once I got my head around the medium, I've never looked back.
Using my handwritten notes and observations, I translate my rough thoughts into crafted sentences and copy in any secondary Biblical text (other text apart from the key passage I'm preaching from) using an online Bible site [while I do have a Logos package, I've found that there are many other great sites, many that are free or low cost, that also do a great job].
I've trialled numerous platforms for writing and storing my sermons, but the best I've found yet is Ulysses. It offers huge flexibility in writing style, as well as great storage and retrieval systems, along with minimal editing distractions. It also has the benefit of exporting the text into numerous formats, including PDF if you prefer to preach from paper, or in my case, it exports directly into an eBook format as I prefer to preach from my iPad.
When I preach, I almost exclusively preach with an open Bible in front of me, and my iPad sitting beside it. My personal conviction is that preaching through the text should be visually supported by clearly allowing the church to see that the source of authority comes from the written word of God. This is not to say that it is wrong to read the text from a digital device, yet, if it can be helped, I will always read and reference the primary text from a printed Bible. Other secondary Biblical references (unless they are quite lengthy) I will usually include in my manuscript notes, this allows smoother transitions and keeps the focus on the primary text we're working through.