As much as I’d like to believe that this is a universal truth, it’s not always the case: a preacher’s primary source for sermon content is the Bible. You really shouldn’t use another book, a magazine article, a newspaper clipping, or a TV show as your primary content. You should also be wary about using your own personal experiences as your main content in a sermon. As preachers, our simple task is to declare to people what God has already revealed to us in His Word.
One of the greatest benefits of having the Bible as your source is that you don’t have to invent anything new. It’s already there. You just have to pour in the time and effort to discover, understand, and apply that content. You shouldn’t be fumbling around every single week trying to figure out what you’ll be preaching about on Sunday. Preach the Word! Here are some ideas that will help you get started in using the Bible as the source of your sermon content:
(1) What does the Bible say?
Gathering your content always begins with that simple question. It’s not, “What do I say?” It’s also not, “What do my friends say?” And it’s certainly not, “What should the Bible say?” It’s, “What does the Bible say?” Come to grips with what the Scriptures already reveal to us. If you can answer that question with clarity and accuracy, you will have something to preach about on Sunday morning. Of course, answering that question entails more than just a cursory glance at the Scriptures. You will need to pour in several hours to understand a passage well. That study falls within the realm of hermeneutics (or Biblical interpretation). In the next article, I will suggest a book that will help you in your pursuit of good content.
(2) Choose a single passage.
Whenever possible, choose a text that is self-contained. That means there’s a good “break” between the passages before and after it. Choosing a single passage helps you focus your study on those particular verses (that should save you some time and effort!). It also gives you a bigger picture of what’s happening in the text and helps ensure that you’ve got the right context in mind. Choosing a single text is also beneficial for your audience. As much as possible, avoid jumping around excessively from one passage to another when you preach. Oftentimes, that just confuses the audience. This, of course, does not mean you shouldn’t cross reference your work with other parts of Scripture. It’s important for you to compare Scripture to Scripture to see if your conclusions are consistent with the rest of the Bible.
(3) Good content takes time and effort.
Don’t be disillusioned by shortcuts to studying a passage. Don’t also think that you can come up with something substantial on a Saturday night to preach the next day (sure, the Holy Spirit can help you when it’s crunch time but let’s not test God in this way). Good content takes a lot of time and effort to gather. Therefore, plan ahead. If you’re preaching on Sunday, begin your study the Monday before (or even earlier). Break up your study into several days. I find that some of the best insights come after several days of swimming in the passage.
(4) Content is half the work.
Just because you’ve come up with good content doesn’t mean you’re ready to preach. Gathering content is only half the work. The other half entails preparing that content to be preached and preaching it well on Sunday morning. It’s much like cooking a dinner for some friends coming over. Cooking the meal is just half the work. You’re not planning to serve that dinner in pots and pans, are you? You need to prepare the cooked meal in a way that’s presentable to your guests. The same goes for your content. Take your good content and prepare it in such a way that will be presentable to your listeners. And that’s what this blog aims to help you do.