What goes into a sermon?

Rick Warren is an evangelical leader, best-selling author, and founding and senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California. Along with his wife, Kay, Warren founded Saddleback in 1980 with just a single family to fill the pews. Today the church has a 120-acre campus, 22,000 weekly attendees, and has provided spiritual guidance and source material to over 400,000 ministers worldwide.

He also leads the Purpose Driven Network of churches, a global coalition of congregations in 162 countries. More than 400,000 ministers and priests have been trained worldwide, and almost 157,000 church leaders subscribe to the Ministry ToolBox, his weekly newsletter. His previous book, The Purpose Driven Church is listed in “100 Christian Books That Changed the 20th Century.” Forbes magazine called it "the best book on entrepreneurship, management, and leadership in print.”

Warren received his BA from California Baptist College, his MA from the Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary, and his Doctor of Ministry from the Fuller Theological Seminary. Warren has recently taken on several issues previously ignore by the evangelical community; he is the most prominent signatory of the "Evangelical Climate Initiative," and is the co-founder and co-director (with his wife) of The Global PEACE Fund, which fights poverty, disease, and illiteracy.  Warren has spoken at the United Nations, the World Economic Forum in Davos, the African Union, and the Council on Foreign Relations.

  • Transcript


Question: What goes into a sermon?


Rick Warren: When I write a message, it’s basically like writing a book a week. It takes me about 20 hours to write a message. I actually have a series of steps that I do on how to what I call “craft” a message. And then I ask myself eight questions about how I’m going to deliver it.

One of the important things for a delivery, whether you’re a teacher, or a politician, or a pastor or anything is to think about who you’re going to be speaking to. So many times people ask the wrong thing. They say, “What should I speak on?” Wrong question. Think about who you’re going to be speaking to, and then you will know automatically what you should speak about. Think about the needs of the audience.

And so I spend about 20 hours a week in preparation for a message. And when I first started it took longer than that. But now with the advent of the Internet, there’s a lot of research. Very easy. Even with word processing, very easy; even Bible software programs.

And now I even have a volunteer staff of people who do research for me. I have people who read books for me, give me summaries. I’ll call and say, “I’m looking for illustrations on greed” And they voluntarily help me do it together. So it’s really a teamwork.

I also have a teaching team of three other pastors at Saddleback Church who teach with me, because I teach six services every weekend. And we have two on Saturday night, two Sunday morning and two Sunday night. There will be about 20,000 to 22,000 people there as of this taping. And so it’s very draining to do six services over and over and over with emotion. So I teach half the year. I teach 26 weeks, and then on the big holy days like Easter and Christmas; well this Christmas I’m doing 14 services, so I will speak 14 times in a row. That’s 14 hours.

And I just need glucose injections between the services. They’ll be somewhere around 45,000 people coming to the service this Christmas.


Recorded on: December 11, 2007