The Lesson I Learned When My Laptop Crashed During Sermon Prep

Today my Macbook Pro crashed!

It was a BIG crash! The good people at the Apple store told me my hard drive is not recoverable. Ever have that happen? Believe it or not, this is the first time I have ever had a computer crash in this way… But here’s the bigger problem:


So, apart from backing up my sermon as I wrote, or writing it on a web-based application like Evernote, here is my BIG lesson I have learned:

“Owning” The Message And Preparing Well Is Helping Me Now:  It’s a pain to have to write it again, but ownership of the message will make it easier to write again.  In Communicating for a Change,  Andy Stanley talks about the importance of “owning” a message and internalizing the core of the message. He even goes so far as to say, why should people listen to us if we don’t own it ourselves? Since reading the book I have tried to ensure that I prepare in such a way, I could preach without notes if needed.

So, even though I have to write my sermon again. And even though I am crammed for time to do it before Sunday, I am thankful that I feel fairly confident that I own the message and have the big idea (and most of the points) in my head… Owning the message is imperative for our audience, but I found out today how helpful it is to write the same sermon again!

For now, here are 5 simple things I do in my writing process to help me “own” the message:

1) Pray: Obvious, yes. Crucial, for sure! Good prayer time saves time!  It’s easier to discern what God is wanting me to say. So often it’s easy to jump into research or even writing without considering what direction The Holy Spirit might want me to look in.  

2) Prepare: Lots of reading of commentaries around the passage or topic. (This really helps to solidify what I own and know). I use Logos for Mac.

3) Plan a Map: This is where I outline a starting and ending point for my message. In many ways, we take people on a journey with us. It’s important that we consider how to get them on the journey, how to keep them on the journey, and how they land at their destination.

4) Put it Together: I don’t write every word, I write an outline that is a detailed version of my map. (This is the part that is lost on my hard drive at the Apple Store).

5) Practice: This is perhaps my best way to own the message and internalize God’s Truth for myself as I preach. It also helps me to iron out transitions and make tweaks as I go. When I practice, I actually talk out the whole message from start to finish. I particularly focus on the take off and landing…

So, there you go. Not rocket science, but perhaps you have struggled in putting sermons together in the past. These 5 points really help me a great deal. Hope they can help you too in case you don’t backup your sermon as you write it!

Phil <><


  • My Macbook Pro will be in repair for a few days getting a new hard drive
  • I backed up my Macbook 3 weeks ago…
  • I started using a our student ministry Macbook Pro to finish my sermon… It crashed. Not kidding. Can’t get the thing to work!
  • I wrote this post on my lovely wife’s laptop. Unfortunately the laptop is not very lovely. I need to buy her a new one!

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5 Responses to The Lesson I Learned When My Laptop Crashed During Sermon Prep

  1. Jay Higham July 15, 2011 at 9:04 am #

    Wow, a MAC crashed? I didn’t think that was possible…

  2. Phil Bell July 15, 2011 at 10:14 am #

    Jay, actually, for me yesterday, TWO different macs crashed! Can you believe that? The second one was a few years old, but wow!

  3. Scott Tinman July 15, 2011 at 10:38 am #

    That is great that you had time to write this Blog post too 🙂

  4. Chris Wesley July 15, 2011 at 10:40 am #


    Sorry to hear about your Mac crashing, the end must be near if two crashed in the same day. Great post, it’s so true that when we “own” the message we set ourselves up for success during these times.
    Another thing I try doing is visualizing the message, I visualize myself giving it, I visualize the page turns, the paragraphs, etc. When I’ve lost a message in the past I’ve used it as a sign that God wants me to communicate something else…or learn the lesson of backing things up properly. I’ll be praying for you.

  5. Phil Bell July 15, 2011 at 1:42 pm #

    Chris, I like that! Visualize! I have never tried that!
    Scott, yes, I wrote that post at 4am, after I had finished writing a big chunk of the previous sermon. I used Evernote this time…

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