How to pick a text for your sermon
Doctors use discernment when prescribing medication, because different symptoms require different prescriptions. Some texts will fit the occasion better than others. So how do you pick a main text for a sermon?
Thomas H. Holland wrote in his book, Sermon Design and Delivery, "The selection of an appropriate subject is often 'half the job' in sermon preparation. An appropriate subject is one which meets a real need of an audience."
Here are some questions I use when considering a text.
- Is it helpful? Does it answer an actual question people are asking? Does it give a solution to a common problem?
- Does it honor Jesus? Does it highlight his compassion, wisdom, sincerity, love, joy, humility, or patience?
- Is it inspiring? If something inspires me, there’s a good chance it will inspire others. I asked Perry Noble, “When you’re studying the scriptures looking for content to preach, is there anything specific you’re looking for?” Perry said, “Whatever jumps out to me or stands out to me.”
The following questions are inspired by William Evans in his book, How to Prepare Sermons:
- Does the text address a congregational need?
- Does the text cover an important doctrine that has been forgotten?
Dutch theologian Petrus Van Mastricht (1630-1706) gave this advice:
- Avoid a text that would only interest you
- Avoid picking a text merely because you think it will be popular
- Pick a text suitable for edifying the church
Jesus told Peter, “Feed my sheep.” As we search for a sermon text, let’s remember to ask Jesus to help us discern the needs of his people to better serve and feed them.