I love preaching. I mean I love to preach, and I love to hear preaching, which means “I love preaching” is an accurate description of my interests.
Most preachers I know have a deep sincere desire to preach the word faithfully. They want to spend adequate time in sermon study and preparation so that they can preach a sermon with passion. That doesn’t always happen though. Life happens. Ministry happens. Preachers get busy and their schedules and appointments do not allow them the time for sermons they so desire.
Sunday’s coming. The very public task of preaching on Sunday comes around every week like clockwork. Regardless of how busy the preacher’s schedule was during the week, he better have something to preach on Sunday.
What happens in a few of those cases? The preacher decides to warm up a left-over sermon. He may take a sermon that he preached for a revival two or three years ago so he can preach that sermon for his preaching engagement. A preacher may take a sermon that he preached at a former pastorate to preach at his new pastorate.
The process of warming that sermon back up varies between preacher to preacher and task to task. Some preachers may grab the outline from the file, pray over the outline, and go out there and preach. Others may go a step further to make substantial changes to the sermon while building off his previous exegetical and homiletical work.
My goal is not to discuss if a preacher should warm up a previously preached sermon or not. My goal is to give considerations for the preacher who is going to warm up a previously used sermon. Since preachers call reusing sermons “warming up” and “serving leftovers,” I’m going to use reheating food as my illustrations.
Everyone’s taste in food is different. What I like, you may not like. What you like, I may not like. We all have different tastes so I’m using my personal taste in food to discuss this topic. If you don’t like my taste in food, then let me know below in the comments.
The worst food to reheat. Spaghetti!
I like spaghetti alright; it’s not my favorite. I find the ingredients all tangled up together and it can be difficult to separate the ingredients out. The spaghetti noodle gets coated with sauce and parmesan but it’s still a noodle that will bend and move. If you don’t pick it up and eat it carefully, then it will get all over you. It may stain your face and your clothes.
Reheated spaghetti is one of my most hated foods. It’s a conglomeration of sticky, gooey mess that goes in all kinds of directions. It’s either cold in the center or molten sauce on the inside. It’s never quite as good because it dries out quickly.
The Spaghetti Sermon is difficult to reheat. The spaghetti sermon is a sermon without much structure. The sermon has some good parts. Maybe it has a good illustration, but the illustration doesn’t fit well with another part. Maybe the illustration is a bit outdated. The preacher who tries to warm up a spaghetti sermon will find that his sermon is going in a hundred different directions like the noodles of warmed-up spaghetti. It’s tough to chew. It’s tough to digest. It’s probably going to leave you feeling like you shouldn’t have eaten it (or preached it).
The best food to reheat. Tacos!
I like tacos. I think tacos are better warmed up than they are off the stove. Even if a person takes a cold taco and throws it in the microwave to blast it for 30 seconds or so, the taco still tastes better to me than when it was first made. Why? The shell gets warm. The cheese melts perfectly into the meat. The compliment of cold lettuce or tomatoes pairs well with the taco. The warmed-up taco is easier to fold than the freshly made taco in my experience.
The Taco Sermon is wonderful way to reheat that sermon. The taco sermon has structure and is easily carried and consumed. The addition of other ingredients helps the overall texture and flavor of the taco. To prepare a sermon similarly to reheating a taco, you need some basic components. You need the meat of the sermon. You need the structure of the sermon. You need to build upon the base with new material, so the texture of the sermon is still there. A person who takes a previously preached sermon, reworks the structure, and adds to the previously completed exegetical work with current illustrations and application will find it easier to chew and digest.
I could continue with the food analogies, but I’ll leave that for another time. My point is this: when a preacher has a good base to build from, he can rework the sermon structure, make small or substantial changes to the content, and be able to preach biblically from a biblical passage with shorter preparation time. The base of the sermon and how he reworks it will make all the difference. Even the best of steaks reheated in a quick and hasty way can be tough and tasteless.
Please do not allow this practice to become your go-to practice in sermon preparation. This should be an every-once-in-a-while practice when the demands of life and ministry demanded more of your time than normal.