The Best and Worst Way to Start Sermon Writing

It’s Monday morning. You sit at your desk with the pressure to come up with yet another amazing sermon. Being a pastor is hard. You are expected to hit the ball out of the park every Sunday. And have you noticed how frequently Sunday comes?

Photo Credit: Drew Coffman cc


Great preaching takes time and most pastors have little to spare.

In an attempt to be creative and original, one of the things a pastor will do first is to brainstorm. What would be a creative sermon series? What is a good sermon title? What is a memorable illustration I could use?


I served in a church once where a team of pastors came up with creative series names and ideas first. The result was pathetic.

Yes the videos and graphics were cool. Yes there were creative ideas. But if you were to ask any of us what we were preaching about we would have told you the idea instead of the scripture.

When it came time to write the messages, we had to pull scripture out of context to fit our “great” ideas.

We thought we were creative. We thought we were being cutting edge. Instead we were being poor stewards of God’s Word.

We could have been just as creative and cutting edge after we selected the passages of scripture we would preach on.

Don’t have an idea and then search for a text to cram your idea into.

This is the absolute worst possible way to start.

This is what people in the seminary world refer to as eisegesis. And this is a homiletical no no. Eisegesis literally means “to lead into.”

When you start with an idea, you are forcing your presuppositions into the Bible. You already know what you want to say. You are just finding a passage of scripture you can make say what you want it to say.

As you may know, people can make the Bible say just about anything when it’s taken out of context.

This is a dangerous approach that leads to faulty theology and all-around bad preaching.

Instead do the opposite. Use exegesis. Exegesis means, “to lead out of.”

Think of it as if you are excavating a section  of the Bible. You start with the passage of scripture and you dig and dig and dig until you find all the treasures it contains. All of your illustrations, titles and creative ideas then flow out of what the Bible is trying to say.

Eisegesis starts asking “What do I want to say?

Exegesis starts asks “What does God’s Word say?”

Do you see the difference? Should we start with ourselves or with God? You might want to err on the side of God. He has a tendency to always win.

So when you sit down to start that next message, don’t have an idea and then search for a verse to cram your idea into.

Find a text and mine it for ideas. Then preach your guts out using the wealth of riches you have pulled out.

How do you start the process of writing a sermon?


Get the 7 Step Sermon Prep Checklist, and 9 Sermon Graphics for free!
By | 2017-01-04T00:15:55+00:00 November 14th, 2012|


  1. […] you are a hipster preacher, always start your sermon preparation with God’s Word. Then, use your strength of taking timeless biblical truths and apply them to modern culture. If […]

  2. […] best way to ensure your sermons are awful is to start with your own idea. Why consult God on this one? Put your Bible away. You have plenty uninspired ideas. Pick your […]

  3. […] As you fill in your calendar, just remember that each should be thoroughly grounded in scripture. […]

  4. bwp98h 02/06/2013 at

    How do you combine this important value with the priority of laying out a preaching calendar well in advance? How do you layout the Topical portions of the preaching calendar (as outlined here: without jumping ahead of the necessary exegesis?

    • Brandon 02/06/2013 at

      Good question. Starting with scripture is always priority, even when planning in advance.

      When doing a topical series, still start with the scripture about your topic that you want to preach.

      For example, if I were preaching a marriage series I would look at all passages of scripture in the Bible about marriage and select the key texts I was going to preach each week.

      Then I would decide what main idea I would teach each week based on the scripture.

      This lays out the general direction of the calendar. Then, as it comes time to write the message, I dig a lot deeper into thorough exegesis. Studying, commentaries, etc.

      Just because something is on the calendar, doesn’t mean that I won’t make changes while preparing. The calendar is a guideline. It’s not set in stone.

      Hope that answers your question. Thanks.

  5. […] The Best and Worst Way to Start Sermon Writin…1 comments since November 14, 2012 […]

  6. […] Start with scripture. Find the one key passage. Not two. Not three. Not four. ONE! […]

Comments are closed.