Preaching Essentials: 4 Steps of Sermon Development

We are going to look at 4 steps for preparing a sermon.

1. Pray

The importance of prayer cannot be overstressed. Prayer is essential. It is not our words that people need to hear. It is not our thoughts, or our philosophy that is going to change people. The Word of God is what people need to hear. The Word of God alone has the power to bring real change.

Prayer helps us get connected with God.

  • It shifts our perspective.
  • It helps us get the mind of Christ.
  • It demonstrates our dependence on God.
  • It creates a platform for God to speak to us, and for us to be ready to listen.

Before we do anything, before we pick a passage, before we study a passage, we should pray. Spend a few moments glorifying the God of all creation, and then humbly put forth your petitions.

Ask God …

  1. For clarity and wisdom as you read His Word.
  2. To guide you as you put together this message.

After you read and study the passage you are going to preach from, pray about the people you are going to be preaching to – by name, if known – and ask God to speak to you about how this particular passage can speak to these people.

Finally, once you have completed your sermon, spend as much time as you can in prayer. You may be tempted to spend a lot of time going over your notes, and reviewing what you wrote down – and that is okay – but try spending more time in prayer.

Ask God …

  • To take away any anxiety, any nervousness.
  • To fill you with peace and boldness.
  • To bring to remembrance all that He wants you to say.

Submit yourself to God; put yourself in a place dependence on Him.

God uses our skills and talents, for sure, but our skills and talents alone can do nothing of eternal value – we need the power and anointing of God.

2. Select and Study the Passage

The next step is to select a passage of scripture to preach from. As simple as it may sound, this is what many preachers often get hung up on. With over 66 books, and more than 30,000 verses, you may find yourself overwhelmed with the decision of which passage of the Bible to preach from. For this reason, I recommend a systematic approach to preaching. In which case, you would preach a series of sermons (verse-by-verse) through an entire book of the Bible. Instead of trying to pick a random passage each time you preach, you just pick up from where you last left off in that particular book.

In any case, whether you preach through a book, or preach from random scriptures, or even if you preach a random topic, you should always have a main scripture. You can use other scriptures throughout your sermon, but make sure you select a passage to be your main text.

When selecting a passage from the Bible, you generally want to use as many verses as necessary to develop an immediate context. If you are reading from a Bible version like the English Standard Version (ESV), you may find that preaching a paragraph of verses at a time, or more, works quite well. For instance, you probably would not want to preach Job 1:4 as a standalone scripture. But rather, you would want to use Job 1:1-5 as a single unit, to develop context. And even then, Job 1:1-5 is simply a background for the story that follows. Therefore, a preacher might choose to minister from Job 1:1-12 or even Job 1:1-22. On the other hand, there are certainly times when a preacher will only use a single verse as the main scripture for a sermon. In general, when dealing with a narrative in the Bible (e.g. the story of Joseph in Genesis), you will find it best to preach larger passages at time. Likewise, when preaching through some of the books in the New Testament (e.g. Ephesians), you may find it easier to develop a sermon from a single verse at a time.

After you select a passage, it is time to study it. You can use the 7 Steps of Bible Study from the “Bible Study Basics” class to accomplish this:

  1. Pray for insight.
  2. Read the passage.
  3. Paraphrase each verse in the passage.
  4. Make observations.
  5. Interpret the passage by asking questions, and finding the answers.
  6. Write down any cross-references.

Write down specific steps for practical application.

3. Define the Main Idea

The main idea is a simple sentence explaining what the passage is about. Ask yourself these questions to help you discover the main idea:

  • What is the main idea or theme of this passage?
  • Or, what is the main point of this passage?
  • Or, what is being said in this passage?
  • Or, what truth is being communicated through this passage?

Essentially, the main idea is like a one sentence summary of the passage in your own words. Imagine if someone asked you what that passage means, and you had 5 seconds to explain it to them – what would you say? The answer to that is likely the main idea of the passage.

4. Create a Sermon Outline

Creating a sermon outline involves 3 things:

  1. Choosing a sermon development method.
  2. Developing the main points.
  3. Crafting an introduction and conclusion.

The structure of your sermon will largely depend on what method, or model, you use to develop the sermon. We will discuss this in detail soon. For now, know that we will be talking about the following methods of sermon development:

  1. Topical Method
  2. Goal Driven Method
  3. Truth-Anchored Proposition Method
  4. Application-Anchored Proposition Method
  5. Bible Study Method