The sermon walk

The sermon walk: Rediscovering an ancient practice

Rediscovering an ancient practice for sermon development.

Maylan Schurch, MDiv, serves as pastor at the Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church, Bellevue, Washington, United States.

One day while walking past the church I pastor, I experienced an epiphany. To explain why I found this epiphany so surprising, you need to know that I had been preparing sermons nearly every week for more than three decades, and 98 percent of the sermons were “from scratch.” As I left the church and began my walk, I remembered that I had to prepare not only a sermon for that weekend but also a Friday morning chapel talk for our Adventist elementary school. But I had not decided on either the Bible passage or the topic. Gradually my mind turned to other thoughts.

Suddenly, four blocks later, I realized that an idea for the chapel talk had popped into my mind, and a few blocks later came an idea for the sermon. I had not been thinking about either of these assignments, but evidently my subconscious mind had.

This experience was so dramatic that I tried it again a week later. This time I printed out a passage of Scripture I was planning to preach on and simply read it over and over as I walked. And again, ideas began to come, and preaching patterns began to form into our lives entered the automobile, which required far more concentration to operate. I have not quit driving since my epiphany, but I have added sermon walking to my schedule. Along those sidewalks and paths, I have discovered some practices that work for me. You might enjoy giving them a try as you develop your own.

Where I walk

My church is located at the southwest corner of what I think is the perfect metropolitan walking route. I can walk eight blocks north, eight east, eight south, and eight west again, and the only major streets I must cross are the ones at the corners of that square. The neighborhood where I live also contains many quiet streets on which I do not have to make a lot of navigational decisions. If you have a different geographical reality, you might prefer to find a hiking or biking trail.

What I take along

My Bible passage. I preach mostly expository sermons. I print out my target chapter in two-column format in four literal English versions (NJKV, NIV, ESV, NRSV) plus the original language. I use a 14-point font or larger so I will not have to squint as I walk. A voice recorder. Most smartphones have this capability, but I would rather trust my digital voice recorder, and I religiously change its batteries every month. Not only do I find it great for recording to-do items, board meeting discussions, or wedding- or funeralpreparation conversations, but I can feed my sermon walk ideas into it. Later, I download the messages to my computer, where I listen to them and take notes.

A developing sermon outline. About a year ago I discovered that a sermon can benefit from more than one sermon walk. If the first walk produced an outline, or at least some general notes, I will print these out and take them along (together with the Scripture passage) on a second walk.

A digital camera. Again, you can depend on your smartphone for this. As has been said, a picture is worth a thousand words—especially if the picture is of a sign, billboard, bumper sticker, or license plate with irresistible illustration potential.

Good walking gear. Do not let foot pain draw your attention away from those great ideas you are coming up with. If you suspect rain, wear a cap and raincoat.

Why not try sermon walking? It might help you craft a better message—or work through something else you might be mulling over.

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Maylan Schurch, MDiv, serves as pastor at the Bellevue Seventh-day Adventist Church, Bellevue, Washington, United States.

June 2016

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