Book Review: 8 Hours or Less
I’m thankful for Ryan Huguley’s book 8 Hours or Less: Writing Faithful Sermons Faster. I think this book is extremely helpful. I’ll explain why in shorter order. But let me get this out of the way now. I can’t imagine preparing a sermon in less than eight hours. There. I said it. Sorry, Ryan. Nevertheless, I found the book extremely helpful.
Here’s why. One of the biggest challenges is staying on task. It’s difficult to keep focused, especially with all the other demands ministry places on a pastor’s heart and life. What 8 Hours or Less provides is a list of goals to be accomplished, to be checked off, each and everyday. That list is invaluable. After meeting each of Huguley’s goals, you’ll have completed your sermon. You’ll be ready to preach.
What’s A Sermon Anyway?
Huguley starts off in chapter one by giving a helpful picture of a faithful sermon. It should be saturated in Scripture, Christ-centered, culturally-contextualized, directed to the whole person, and proclaimed boldly. This chapter, although brief, is a great introduction to what constitutes a biblical sermon. The author also begins the chapter by explaining what a biblical sermon is not. He debunks some myths and clarifies some misconceptions. After all, 45 minutes in a pulpit does not always or often mean a faithful sermon was preached.
Six Days of Prep
The next six chapters are what separates Huguley’s book from others I’ve seen. He gives goals for each day of the week. On Monday, you “build the frame.” In other words, you nail down the message’s theme and outline. On Tuesday, Huguley encourages you to “open the door,” involving other team members in your sermon prep. On Wednesday, you “sweat the intro.” Since you have the frame, even though the sermon hasn’t been fully written, you should be able to write an engaging introduction. On Thursday, your goal is to “land the plane.” In other words, put together your conclusion. On Friday, you “fill in the frame.” Here you wrap up your preaching notes. Your sermon’s rough draft at least is finished. Huguley recommends you take Saturdays off. On Sundays, you “finish strong.” You take out your notes, make adjustments, and spend time in prayer. In theory, Huguley lays out all the steps a preacher needs to craft a faithful sermon. I don’t follow these exactly, but his goals have been helpful as I’ve tried to better discipline my sermon preparation.
Putting It All In Practice
The author’s concluding chapter explains how to put it all in practice. Key to this method are scheduling blocks of sermon prep for each day, eliminating all distractions while you prepare, and setting timers to better focus your time. Bracketing those tips are a call to prayer and a reminder to keep an active mind throughout the week. Some of a preacher’s best thoughts may come in the shower!
Five Steps in 8 Hours
You can check out my previous review of Tony Merida’s book, The Christ-Centered Expositor here. What I’ll explain in my next post is how I mesh Huguley’s goals with Merida’s steps. And, again, it takes quite a bit more than eight hours.
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