Building a Sermon

I would currently describe my sermon writing style as “following breadcrumbs.”

Sitting down on Monday, I read the text I picked for my sermon repeatedly and from different English translations. Then, I start a list of observations and ideas from that reading. Then I see where it goes.

Each new idea is a little breadcrumb I pick up and digest along this journey.

What does that word mean? What does it mean for us, and what did the original word mean to the first readers? Is there any other place that word is used in the Bible? What concepts does this passage reveal or help us to understand? Are there any other passages we need to view to help us understand this one better?

Then comes the application breadcrumbs. What would happen if we lived this idea as believers? What would that look like? How would I explain it to people? Are there any analogies or anecdotes that would help people to understand this part of faith and put it into practice? 

I no longer sit down with a firm idea and then use the Bible to prove I am correct. I don’t try to force a three-point outline like some cookie-cutter shape for sermons. I don’t try to use every passage of scripture that touches on a particular topic. Instead, I try to listen to what the Bible says, follow the Spirits leading, and communicate an idea that the people in my congregation might need to hear. 

Some weeks this process leads me to Bible dictionaries and commentaries. Then it will lead me to an hour-long Google search on the stages of grief. And finally, I will handwrite the four movements of a person, from hearing the gospel to believing it, trying to identify how grief might keep us from Jesus.

All those breadcrumbs become a sermon. I write it. I edit it. I re-edit it. I leave it alone for a couple of days. I reread it. I practice it, and finally, I preach it.

I no longer view sermon writing as an exact science but as the art of taking God’s word and pulling together various thoughts until I can share them with God’s people. And I do it one breadcrumb at a time.


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