Where Do Sermon Ideas Come From?

Man studying the Bible

There are times when the most challenging part of preaching is deciding what to preach. Just as writers sometimes suffer from “writer’s block” and have difficulty creating content, preachers can also suffer from what we could call “preacher’s block.”

One who preaches full-time in a local congregation may preach up to 100 sermons in a year. That means writing two sermons every week. Often he will also have to decide what to preach each time. One who preaches less frequently can still experience the same challenge because he often has full-time secular work and other responsibilities in addition to the sermons he prepares from time to time.

It is a great privilege and blessing to have opportunities to preach the word before an audience. Yet it can also be frustrating when it seems difficult to decide what passage or topic to discuss before the congregation. It is not that the Bible contains a shortage of important messages, but it is sometimes hard to decide what would be best to preach during a particular sermon. So where can we find sermon ideas when we are having difficulty deciding what to preach?

First of all, sermons must be rooted in the word of God. Paul told Timothy, “Preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2). Peter said that we are to “speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11, KJV). Therefore, when we prepare a lesson, we must begin with the Scriptures. In the same way, I want us now to go to the Scriptures to answer our question: Where do sermon ideas come from? Not only does the Bible contain the message we are to preach, it also contains guidance for finding ideas about what we should discuss.

So, what can we preach?

  1. Basic themes – When Jude began to write the epistle that bears his name, his intention was to “write…about our common salvation” (Jude 3). There are certain topics that are fundamental to the message of the gospel. Paul indicated that the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ was “of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). The Hebrew writer mentioned “the elementary teaching about the Christ” that would serve as a foundation to build upon (Hebrews 6:1-2). These topics need to be discussed from time to time.
  2. Pressing issues – Despite his intention to “write…about our common salvation,” Jude wrote about something different because he “felt the necessity to write…that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3). He went on to explain that this was a pressing issue because some had crept in and were perverting the grace of God and turning it into “a license for immorality” (Jude 4, NIV). This was a problem that urgently needed to be addressed. Whenever there are such issues facing a congregation, a preacher needs to take time from the pulpit to show what the Bible teaches on that particular subject.
  3. Questions – When Paul wrote to the brethren in Corinth, after addressing some pressing issues that were reported to him (1 Corinthians 1:11), he turned his attention to some matters about which these brethren had written to him: “Now concerning the things about which you wrote…” (1 Corinthians 7:1). When people have sincere questions about matters relating to our service to God, understanding His revealed will, and our responsibility before Him, they need to be given an answer from the Scriptures. Depending on the nature of the question, this can often be done in a sermon since the study will benefit others as well.
  4. Observing practices – While waiting in Athens for the arrival of Silas and Timothy, Paul “was observing the city full of idols” (Acts 17:16). This led him to speak out in the synagogue and market place and eventually be given an opportunity to speak to the philosophers at the Areopagus (Acts 17:17-22). As we observe the practices of those around us – of our brethren, other churches, various religious groups with their doctrines and practices, etc. – we will often be “provoked” as Paul was (Acts 17:16) and find various matters that ought to be addressed.
  5. Current events – Many people are interested in discussing current events. Jesus used two current events of the day – the fate of the Galileans at the hands of Pilate and the victims of the tower in Siloam that fell – to teach a lesson on repentance (Luke 13:1-5). We do not need to be so wrapped up in current events that we ignore or neglect spiritual things; however, there are often spiritual lessons to be learned from tragedies, disasters, scandals, and other news stories. Jesus showed by His example that we can take news stories that people are talking about and use them to teach important spiritual truths.
  6. What we hear from others – Paul told Timothy, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). The apostle was describing a process by which the gospel could continue to be proclaimed from one generation to another – one who is taught teaches the message to others, then the process continues. Even those who preach “full-time” ought to be hearing others teach from time to time. This can be done through sermons, audio recordings, articles, books, etc. However we receive teaching from others, it ought to be expected that it will spark a thought in us from time to time that leads to a sermon idea. This does not mean we plagiarize and claim another man’s work as our own, but we ought to get ideas from the teaching of others if we are paying attention.
  7. What we taught before – Not long before his death, the apostle Peter wrote, “Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder” (2 Peter 1:12-13). He had taught them and they had already learned the truth, but he wanted to teach the same things again. The reason this was important was because human beings are forgetful and Peter wanted them to “be able to call these things to mind” after he was gone (2 Peter 1:15). Sometimes, we need to preach on topics and passages we have dealt with before – for our benefit and for those who hear us. There is nothing wrong with preaching what we have preached before. In fact, Paul told Timothy that reminding brethren of things is part of being “a good minister” (1 Timothy 4:6, KJV). From time to time, it is good to pull a sermon out of our “archives,” freshen it up, and preach it again.

As long as this earth stands, we will never reach a point in which no more teaching needs to be done. Yet we will experience periods when it is more difficult to think of what we should preach on a given Sunday. During these times of “preacher’s block,” let us remember some of these ideas that we find in the word of God and continue to “preach the word…in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2).

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