Since 1979, I have preached on a weekly basis. Say 50 sermons per year . . . 39 years . . . that’s roughly 1,950 sermons. Makes you sleepy just thinking about it, doesn’t it?
Many church members assume pastors accumulate sermon manuscripts that serve them for decades. Preachers simply open a folder or file and: VOILA—instant sermon.
If only this was true.
Like perishable food, sermons possess an expiration date. Homilies are written in a specific context for a particular people in an explicit time. In my personal experience, any sermon 18+ months old is as stale as week old bread.
Despite this knowledge, I own a couple of four drawer file cabinets filled with sermons going back to Jimmy Carter’s presidency. I’ve faithfully hauled them from church to church in the certain knowledge they would one day prove useful.
I’m not sure why.
Perhaps my future biographer would reference the preserved manuscripts. Maybe literary agents would outbid one another to publish Volume 1 of Bill Burch’s Sermons. Surely my grandchildren would treasure these homiletical masterpieces.
I was wrong.
So I’ve started the laborious task of sorting through the sermons. The process is relatively straightforward:
- Sermons composed on a typewriter—TRASH
- Sermons printed on a dot-matrix printer—TRASH
- Sermons yellowed with age—TRASH
- Sermons with rust-stains from paper clips—TRASH
- Sermons written before 2013—TRASH
- Sermons . . . well, you get the idea.
So I’m throwing away most of my files; however, the process has filled me with a spirit of peace. Sermons are designed to be disposable. Like the daily news, the good news is relevant, fresh, and hot off the press.
I also have a lot more room in my file cabinets.