My First Lesson in Creative Sermon Prep

I am an unapologetic geek when it comes to certain things. For instance, when I got called for jury duty, I spent half the day marveling at the privilege of participating in “trial by peers”, and thinking about how unique this experience was to the rest of the world.

I know, it’s that bad.

Well, I got picked, and we heard our (short,civil) trial and began our deliberation.

(As an introvert, this is where it got awkward for me: putting me in a room full of people I don’t really know and then asking me to work and speak with them for hours on end… ugh.)

There was an older gentleman there, and during a break he started talking about how he’d worked in newspapers (remember those), and how he was a news junky. Then he asked us a question:

“Do you guys know how to find out what’s really going on in the United States?”

Let’s face it, we knew that we were not supposed to say “Yes.” So we all shook our heads.

He said, “You find out what’s going on in the United States by reading the news from Europe. Want to know how to find out what’s going on in Europe?”


“You read the Russian news.”

He then lead us all around the world: Russia, Asia, etc. (I can’t remember the entire sequence, but you get the point.)

The point he was trying to make was that only when you got a little objectivity could you really see what was going on in a country. The best way to find out about a “thing” is not necessarily to read about the thing from people who know it best, but to read about it from people who aren’t really as connected to it. 

I think it’s a little like that with sermon prep.

I know there’s lots of websites out there that help with sermon prep, but I think a little more objectivity is required.

So to think about teaching the Bible, I go to “Europe”: which (for me) means

I collect and distill ideas and stories into Evernote, and then tag them and store them until they are needed.

Since I feel like the gospel touches all of life, it’s not always a huge chore to connect our inability to walk in a straight line to discipleship, or Nine Inch Nail’s record The Downward Spiral to the story of Samson.

Or, I suppose, to connect jury duty to sermon prep.


One Day in 1999…

I was driving in northwest suburban Chicago, listening to the radio. I stumbled across this crazy radio show that was … just … stories. Just people talking and telling the stories of their quirky lives.

I couldn’t turn it off.

Next week, I went back to the team of folks I used to work with, and said, “I found this weird show, called This American Life. It’s amazing, and here’s the thing: if you’re a preacher/teacher in the church, you really need to listen to this, because it’s gonna be huge. What’s more, I think that this show tells us about the power of story in the church.”

Whether or not they listened or not, I stand by that statement. If you teach/preach in the church, I hope that (a) you realize that we’re entrusted with the best story out there; the most powerful, effecting narrative in existence, and furthermore, (b) you’re learning how to tell it in the best, most creative, most memorable way possible.

Start by watching these (in particular part 3)…


There’s no reason we shouldn’t try to be as creative and extraordinary as the Story that we’re trying to tell, is there?