Profits and Perils of Preaching Twice

May 21, 2009

I’m preaching twice this week, which is not typical for me. Here’s what I’ve been discovering:

1) You need to prepare your sermons far more rapidly when you have two.

2) You can actually prepare your sermons much more quickly than you imagined, when you need to.

3) You read four or five commentaries, not ten to fifteen.

4) Point 3 doesn’t seem to matter too much. Is this because most of the commentaries repeat other commentaries? Plus, you can still look up the rest when you get stuck on a particularly trying interpretive problem.

5) You move almost immediately from researching to writing! (ie. little time to plan and plot your outline)

6) Whilst doing other tasks, you find your mind randomly wandering between the two passages, and sometimes you get slightly confused about which sermon you’re thinking about.

7) You can get slightly more excited about one passage over the other, especially early in the week.

8 ) Later in the week, the passage you were least excited about can overtake the frontrunner in your enthusiasm!

9) Writing it out in full still matters, but you have to do it fast (eg. with smoke coming off the keys!).

10) Though you are preparing only twice as much material, you have to trust in God ten times as much. And that, friends, can’t be a bad thing!



  1. Amen! Last summer I preached 3 times in a week while on a mission trip to Brasil. I only had 1 sermon prepared and no commentaries! Sort of like John Wesley writing his sermons while on horseback! Very much trusted God with all 3 sermons!

  2. 3 sermons a week is the standard for some preachers, right… especially evangelicals in the Church of Scotland, and others, who (try to!) follow the Still/Alexander/Philip model of ministry.

    Impossible unless you are of the calibre of these guys, perhaps?

    I was questioned recently about a statement I made estimating 30 hours work to prepare 3 sermons per week. Most Christians have a very low view of preaching and teaching, and really think three or four hours per sermon is sufficient.

    What’s your limit on the number of sermons, including special occasions, that you would attempt to prepare in a week?

  3. You mean sometimes you only preach once? Wow!

  4. Every second week I preach three times, personally I would be very reluctant to preach more than that- primarily because of a pitfall not mentioned above- the danger of just ‘churning them out’ without really allowing the message to challenge and change you personally first. I maybe have a false picture of what it must be like just to preach once a week, but I often think it must be easier to live and breathe the passage when you only have one sermon to prepare?..

  5. Most weeks I preach between 6 and 7 times. Usually only two are fresh messages, the others are reworked messages that I preach in meetings here and there. It seems that my life is all about praying, preparing and preaching. There are worse ways to spend one’s life.

  6. Do you really typically read 15 commentaries for a sermon? After preparing the theme, outline, propositions, etc, I usually look over 3-4 commentaries. I thought this was more than suffice, especially with ones like the new Baker Commentaries…

    Any thoughts?

  7. David, I don’t have any number limit (RE: speaking engagements) but there must be an upper number somewhere! What was it for Calvin – ten sermons every two weeks? Perhaps though (Calvin being an example) it depends on one’s capacities, the time available, and whether its a full fledged sermon with exegesis and application, or just more of a commentary that is being preached. For me, I’ve found on these rare ocassions where there has been two+ speaking engagements in a week that I’m certainly stretched to my limit.

    Ross, it certainly does help to live and breath the one passage, but I suppose most pastors don’t have that luxury! From the summer I’m going to be preaching twice every week, but I think I’ve improved as a preacher because I’ve typically had more time to develop sermons in these earlier years.

    Brian, I never read 15 ‘technical’ commentaries, that’s for sure! 10 wouldn’t be unusual though: about half and half between good exegetical, and more application-focused.

  8. On reflection it would have been a help to me to have had the opportunity to preach once a week regularly, rather than the 2-3 times which is usual! I have consulted up to 10 commentaries, but rarely. In a series I get the ‘feel’ for what is most helpful and what gathers up what is written elsewhere best, and usually only consult 3-4.

  9. Jonathan,

    …that’s a great point about the commentaries. You soon discover where the deepest wells are, and can limit yourself to those few waterholes to save time…

  10. […] Profits and Perils of Preaching Twice […]

  11. I find that three lessons a week–two sermons and either a Wednesday evening or Sunday morning class–are optimal for me. Preparing three lessons a week helped me develop a kind of synergy in that each lesson ties in–sometimes explicitly, sometimes only thematically–with the others. In short, three lessons didn’t take triple the time of one, and the quality of each one, I think, was better than during those times when I had only one lesson per week to prepare.

  12. Thanks for this post! This past weekend, I preached twice in the same day, which was more than I had ever done previously. Next month, I will be at a church serving as pastor for the first time, and I will need to prepare and deliver three sermons per week. I’m both very excited and very nervous to begin this work! Thanks for your advice and encouragement, especially #2!

  13. Colin, thanks for your excellent website. I think you should consider adding dr Peter Masters (Metropolitan Tabernacle) to your list of unashamed workmen. I’m sure you are well acquainted with him and his zeal for expository preaching.
    Chris, Cape Town

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