On Sheds & Sermons

Photo by Josh Olalde on Unsplash
Earlier this year, I went to work on building a shed to double as our homeschooling school house and my library/study. I'm no carpenter, and I only completed the project with generous help from my brothers, my friend C.J., and father-in-law (Thanks guys!). 

Anyway, as we worked on the project, I learned a few lessons that I think are applicable to the task of sermon-writing. You literary types will likely complain that my points below will mix metaphors. If you can look past that, I hope this can be helpful to my fellow preachers. 

1. Don’t make shoddy cuts just because the board is short. 

It doesn’t matter now long the 2x6 is; the cut is the same length. If you’re trimming 1/4 inch off the end or cutting an 8-foot stud, it takes just as long to make the cut. Likewise, it doesn’t matter whether a sermon is for 50 people or 5,000. It takes as much work (or at least it should) to study the text and write the sermon. Don't preach shoddy sermons just because the audience is small or other tasks are more fun. 

2. Use a Chalk Line. Cut it straight.
On this project, I actually went out and got a chalk line. My life is forever changed. It makes all the difference when you’re ripping a sheet of plywood. A crooked cut not only looks awful, it might even compromise the integrity of the structure. In preaching, we have a sober responsibility to cut it straight, to get the text right, to say what God says. Don't just eyeball it; mark it. Do the hard work of exegesis before you do the fun work of homiletics. 

3. Don’t hang weight on finishing nails. Hang weight on studs. 

There's a difference between a framing nail and a finishing nails. If you try to frame with finishing nails and finish with framing nails, you'll be in trouble. Likewise, don’t hang weighty doctrinal truths on minor grammatical details. Typically, details are like finishing nails and trim. They add beauty to the text. Studs are the arguments of the text, sustained by the context and flow of thought. I love pigeon-holing aorist participles as much as the next guy, but it's pretty unlikely that the weight of the argument will hang entirely on the verbal aspect of one word. 

4. Have and use the right tools. 

It really is worth it to have a framing nailer, a roofing nailer, an air compressor, and all the right saws for the right cuts. I suppose that, in a pinch, you could do it all with a hammer, duct tape, and BF&E (Brute Force & Ignorance), but ideally, you'll have the tools you need for the job at hand. 

In preaching, if you can get your hands on good tools like Greek and Hebrew skills, an spectrum  of multiple translations, BDAG, HALOT, BDB, good commentaries of various kinds (critical, exegetical, homiletical, devotional), you'll be able to do a better job. 

5. Follow the Designer’s plan and the Expert’s advice. 

I already noted that I'm no carpenter. I'm also no designer. My brother designed the whole thing for us. It was a simple project, but it really helped to know what the thing was supposed to look like, where the studs needed to go, and so on. As we went along, I asked for lots of advice. "How do I install this door?" "How do I wire the outlets?" "What's the best way to do x, y, and z?" 

In preaching, the greatest task is figuring out the Designer's plan. In the process, we must seek the Expert's advice By that I mean this: prayerfully discover and declare the Divinely-intended meaning of the text as aided by the Holy Spirit. As one of my teachers was fond of saying, "God meant something when He said what He said; and it's possible for us to know what He meant when He said what He said." Don't just start nailing boards together. Figure out what you're supposed to be building. While there are many helpful experts (scholars and the like), the ultimate Expert is the Holy Spirit, the Author of Scripture. 

6. Form & Function both matter. 

I'm a white walls with no pictures kind of guy. I'm not poetic, creative, or particularly concerned about beauty. Just functionality. But the truth is that any structure should have both function and beauty. It might be as simple as having well-placed windows, decorative trim, and color schemes that make sense. 

Likewise, in preaching, the goal is not merely to dump a truck load of exegetical data. It is to present God's truth in a compelling, beautiful, and persuasive way. Build in well-placed windows of thoughtful illustrations. Add the decorative trim of metaphors and similes. Use the color schemes of well-ordered outlines. 


Writing sermons and building buildings are similar enterprises. Both require hard work, careful planning, an eye for detail, and a focus on the final product. The point of any building is the occupants; the target for any sermon is the audience--and the Audience. 

May we be faithful builders. 


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