I love Top Chef — in truth, I am a bit obsessed and would love to be on the show. ?So I tend to think about life as a series of Quick Fires and Elimination Challenges (all followed by Judge's Table).
Today's challenge came this morning when I woke up. ?
I got off work around 1:45 AM early Sunday morning, got home and watched some TV to unwind, and got to bed around 3 AM. ?I woke up at 9AM when my alarm went off, planning to go to church at 10:30 AM. ?I saw on my phone that my pastor had texted me at 8AM asking if I was up. ?I texted her back at 9 and then called around 9:10 AM. ?Her husband picked up and told me she was sick and would I be willing to do the sermon that morning. ?I looked at the clock, calculated I had about an hour to pull it together, and said yes.
Your challenge? ?Prepare a full sermon on the topic of grace and deliver it 90 minutes from now. ?Your time starts now!
(Oh, and because this is "Top Chef", there is always a twist… there is a child dedication going on this morning, so there will be a good crowd and lots of first time guests!)
Now keep in mind that a sermon normally takes 15-20 hours to write. ?This?includes?hours of prayer, reading, studying and writing. ?When I was pastoring full time, most of my sermons were written over 2-3 months time and often completed a week or two before I gave them.
So here is the question… how do you go about writing a sermon in an hour?
Here is what I did…
The temptation is to go to the "vault" and just pull out an old sermon. ?This can work sometimes, but not always. ?It all depends on what God wants to say this morning. ?So I start with that question in prayer… "Lord, what do you want to say this morning?"
As I continue to pray, I read two things… first, I look over my journal and passages that I have been spending time in lately. ?I also flip through the Bible and see what jumps out at me (as I pray). ?I tend to stick with the Gospels at this point. ?When in doubt, I preach Jesus. ?Also, gospel narratives preach naturally — Jesus is a gifted teacher so simply taking his teaching or parable and allowing it to speak for itself can go a long way.
I pick a passage. ?I generally like to preach out of a single passage, but especially under these circumstances.
4. Big Idea.
Instead of worrying about an outline, I ask "what is the single big idea of this passage/teaching?" ?I need to find one point that I can build the message and the narrative around.
5. Controlling Idea/Image
Similar to a BIG IDEA, I like using a single controlling idea/image/illustration to structure the sermon. ?To find this, I will look through my files of stories and illustrations, as well as do some quick Googling. ?In this case, I found 2 or 3 things that could work… I printed them off and figured I could decide on the spot which to use.
I take a few moments to remember a few key things. ?First, preaching is not about delivering a polished speech or about being funny/dynamic or a great speaker. ?It is about proclaiming God's Word and lifting up Jesus. ?As long as you do that, you will be okay. ?Second, you have to remember who is listening to the message. ?What word of encouragement or challenge (or both) does God have for them? ?And third, the Holy Spirit is really the one preaching… listen to the Spirit and you can't get too far off.
And then I dedicate whatever time I have left to praying and listening to God.
In this case, I got it done and arrived at the service at 10:31 AM, just as the first song was beginning.
I think it went well…. I will post the audio later this week and you can let me know.