Obama’s Oslo Speech and Sermon Writing

I heard In Oslo Speech, Obama Must Sidestep Land Mines on NPR last week. I believe that the method for writing a presidential speech could be applied to writing a sermon. Here is an excerpt from the article:

Those speeches are crafted in a tiny, low-ceilinged room in the basement of the West Wing, directly underneath the Oval Office, by national security aide Ben Rhodes. … Rhodes says each big speech begins with the president himself laying out his thoughts in outline form. Then Rhodes starts writing, and the president starts editing.

A back and forth between the pastor who would be preaching the sermon and a sermon writing team with the preaching pastor having the final say could produce a well crafted, theologically sound sermon.

Will you please let me know of any preachers that are using a similar model?

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8 thoughts on “Obama’s Oslo Speech and Sermon Writing

  1. It’s an interesting concept, where the pastor worries about things theological, and the actual writing part is delegated to those whose core strength is wordsmithing.

    I don’t know if anyone takes this approach, but it would certainly be an interesting dynamic. If you think worship planning is crazy, imagine if there was yet another team that handled the writing.

    Maybe crowdsourcing? 🙂

    • Ian – It would need to be well crafted with clear outcomes to prevent it from devolving into a big mess. However, I believe that it could be helpful. I have thought about the idea of crowd sourcing before, however believe that with preaching there needs to be someone that would pull the trigger on what was actually going to be preached and that this person would be the one that was preaching it.

  2. Andrew, this isn’t quite that concept, but it is a crowd sourcing sermon I took part in that you would probably be interested in: http://revsmilez.com/tag/opensource/

    I would enjoy having someone help me nuance turns of phrase – but knowing myself as a preaching – I probably wouldn’t use them if I didn’t find some way to internalize them. If I preached using a teleprompter, maybe…but my manuscript rests in front of me as a safety net only. I rely on it more heavily for our first service, by the third time I preach it in a morning I rarely look down unless I’m quoting someone.

    I feel like I had a bit of this experience with my ordination papers that I recently wrote. It was very helpful to have two non-theologically trained reading simply reading for clarity…and it reminded me of the different perspectives from one side of the pulpit to another. In my papers I consistently said, “ministry with the poor” as opposed to “ministry to the poor” to more closely reflect my theology stance. My newspaper editor friend quickly changed all occurrences of “with” to “to” because she didn’t see the theological significance. While my audience (the Board of Ordain Ministry) would…it was a great reminder to me that when I preach if I say something like that I should be clear about why I’m making that choice. The audience on a Sunday would be much more like my friend and assume I’m making a bad prepositional choice…

    • Rev Sarah – Thanks for the link to the example of this in action. You are right to point out that the person preaching the sermon would need to be familiar with the message so that she or he could preach from their perspective – not as if reading a third party document. The sermon writing team would need to have a familiarity with the language and phrasing of the person who would preaching.
      Your example of ordination papers is a good one. I will likely pick up on your idea as I am writing mine over the next few months.

  3. Andrew, I believe Perry Noble at Newspring in Anderson, SC uses an approach similar to this. Don’t quote me, but I remember reading that it goes something like he writes the initial draft, it goes to a team of elders of the church, and then back to him for final edit.

    As for ordination papers, I found it helpful to have a variety of folks from different views reading mine that I just handed in… a former Board member that has a particular ear for inclusive language, a recent Board member, a retired pastor, two former English teachers-one is now a licensed local pastor. It was very helpful!

    • Dan – Very cool. Thanks for the tip on this in actual practice. Also, thank you for your guidance about ordination papers. I am pulling together the miscellaneous paperwork now before diving in to the deep theological work.

  4. Awesome Idea,

    I also think if I were to start a church I would want to start it with a teaching team rather than one pastor who does all the preaching. It just seems to me that every body of believers needs to hear a multiplicity of voices in order to inform them spiritually. I think our model flows from a Roman/American individualism ethic that is perhaps falling out of fashion. It would be awesome to have a teaching team who all contribute to each others sermons. I think of it more like a supreme court opinion, one person writes the initial draft and circulates it, but it goes through changes and morphs as each Justice puts in his or her two cents, and asserts what they need to be in the decision to support it etc… Ultimately then you have a consensus based sermon which is less likely to be just the opinion of one observer.

    • Chuck – You have an apt comparison with the supreme court opinion. This is a an excellent comparison that I will likely use when describing the idea in the future. Thanks!

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