For the Sermon Preparation category

The Three Types of Expository Preaching You Could Use

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Hey Preachers and Teachers!

There are three types of Expository sermons:  Book Exposition, Biographical Exposition, Topical Exposition.

I know that there are various definitions of ‘expository preaching’, so just to clarify, when I say ‘exposition’ I am referring to a verse-by-verse study of a particular passage of Scripture. You work your way through a single passage of the Bible; you don’t jump around all over the place; you teach the Word of God where it stands, letting the text before you form your major points and even form the structure of your sermon. That is expository preaching.  Having said that, even with that definition, there are three different ways you can do this style of preaching.

Let’s look at each of these:

  • Book Exposition

This is the one which most people are familiar with. You take a book of the Bible and work through it from the first verse to the final. In some cases, you may take key passages which communicate the main message of the book. This is sometimes helpful for larger books when you don’t have time in your church calendar schedule to work through every single verse. For example, years ago I worked through the Book of Joshua. The book has 24 chapters, but I took a 9-week expositional walk-through of the book by hitting the 9 Key Faith Themes from Joshua. It was called “Living on the Edge of Faith” and was very good. You can get that series, by the way, at my site.

So that is Book Exposition; well-known and well-loved.

  • Biographical Exposition

This is a bit more tricky and requires some advance prep work before you get into the series, because you have to find all the relevant places in the Scripture where the person is referred.  It could be all over the Old and New Testament, so you will want to find your key themes first, then prep your major points, as your create the Series.  For example, think of how Daniel is referenced in various places in both the OT and the NT. Then, once that prep work is ready you can do an exposition of that person’s life by taking each of the key passages about him or her, and doing a complete exposition on each passage.

  • Topical Exposition

Does that sound like a contradiction to you? How can it be both topical and expository? Well it can, but you have to be careful on how you handle it. Sometimes this third version is called “textual topical” just to emphasize that in expository topical preaching the Text is still primary. You see, in much topical preaching, the teacher simply pulls out a concordance, and locates all key passages where that topic is used and then in the course of one sermon, takes you on a hunt throughout the Bible. While that is always a lot of fun, it is not expository topical preaching; that is just plain ‘topical’.  In ‘expository topical preaching’ you stay with one passage, which is focused on a key topic. For example, think of Paul’s argument about the power of Sin in Romans 7. That would make a good passage for an exposition of the topic of Sin.

Topical Exposition has its own dangers, so we will address those in a future blog. For now, give some thought to each of the three types of Expository Preaching, and give them a try if you’d like.

Yours for great preaching!

Dr. Bill Miller


The Big Idea

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HI All,lightbulb

The Big Idea of the sermon is technically called “the Proposition”.  It is a summary of your entire sermon in one sentence.  Some call it “the sermon in a sentence.”

Getting accurate on the Proposition is the most important step you can do as you begin work on your sermon.  Accurately capturing all you have to say in a single sentence will propel you forward to a successful sermon.  Arriving at the Proposition can be some of the hardest work you do in your sermon preparation.  It may take a couple of days to really nail it; you may have to precede it first with exegetical study of the passage, and an understanding of the culture into which the passage speaks.

But once you have the Big Idea, the Proposition, the Sermon in a Sentence, you are almost half-way there!

A finely crafted Proposition can deliver a powerful punch.

Sermon Example:  Ezekiel 18:1 – 30

This is a very long passage and argument from the Lord God to the people of Israel.  It is difficult enough to explain to adults, but what about mid-schoolers?  How would you explain this passage to teens, ages 12-14??  Nathan Miller of Brooklyn Park EFC taught this passage to just such an age group by really nailing the sermon in a sentence.  Here’s his Proposition, Big Idea, or Sermon in a Sentence for Ezekiel 18:

“Your soul is your responsibility.”

That captures it really well.

Once you have the Proposition, you are on your way to putting together a good sermon. Work hard at it, and you – but especially your people – will be rewarded.

For great preaching,

Dr. Bill

How to Prepare a Sermon: Part 2, Textual vs. Topical

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This entry is part 3 of 11 in the series How to Prepare a Sermon in Ten Steps

A sermon should be text-based. By that, I mean that you would be teaching the Bible. That is the philosophy of ministry, and church tradition from which I come.  People don’t come to hear me, they come to learn from God’s Word.  Other churches may have other feelings, but this is

I am of the firm belief that almost every sermon should be clearly centered around a certain text of the Scripture. Now I do not object when other supplemental texts are brought in to enhance the message, but I believe that the primary reason why people come to church is to hear a message from God. And there is no other clearer way to demonstrate that a message is from God than by using a good-sized chunk of Scripture in your message.

I am very aware that there are some very famous preachers out there who use a lot of little verses to support what they have said on a certain topic.  And I do that occasionally also.  But for the sake of congregational health, I believe you want to do what you can to deliver portions of God’s Word to the people when you preach.  Here’s why:

1.  People read less Bible during the week than you think they do.

Most people in ministry enjoy reading the Bible and spend time every day in the Word.  For many of the people out there in the seats, that is not the case. Their weekdays are often filled with rushing off to work, first thing in the morning, and then coming home to busy activities with the kids and family, before falling into bed exhausted to do it again.  This is not to excuse people who do not regularly read the Word. It is just reality, and I believe that it is good for preachers to be aware of reality.  So when they come to church, I like to give them the Word.

2.  People need to understand the Word in context.

When you teach from a portion of Scripture, you are better able to explain the context.  Context includes historical, cultural, linguistic, and Biblical context. If you speak to a lot of different texts in your message, it is very difficult to provide that much explanation for each of the many verses you pursue.

3.  If the sermon is more text-based, then there is likely to be less of my thoughts, and more of God’s thoughts.

Frankly I don’t have a lot of faith in the high-quality impact of my thoughts. But I have a lot of faith in God’s capacity to speak to the depths of the human heart.  “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”  (Hebrews 4:12) So I like to give them a nice portion of God’s Word in my messages.

4.  It is easier to prepare a text-based sermon, than a topically-based sermon.

If you believe in expository preaching, then you know that your sermon outline should simply reflect the outline of the passage. This makes preparation much easier than trying to develop your own set of mains and subs.  Let the Bible speak for itself, with its particular emphasis. The end result is that your message will be more powerful.

5.  A text-based sermon delivers sustaining power long past the sermon.

If I preach on a topic, they may forget the message.  But if I preach on a passage, then the next time they read that passage, portions of my message will come back to them. It could be the application of that message, for example. But as they read God’s Word, their understanding of His Word will increase, because they have already had someone teach them the contextual, historical, linguistic aspects of that passage of God’s Word.

This is on on-going topic, and while I lean towards the textually-based sermon, I have done both textual and topical.  But if I had to choose in terms of sustaining impact and power, I would choose the textually-based message every time.

For powerful preaching,

Dr. Bill Miller

Three Mistakes Made by Good Preachers

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Top Three Mistakes Made by Good Preachers

(Yes, even good preachers make these mistakes!)

(and how SermonBase Message Planning Software can help.)

If you´ve already got the preaching skills…

There are 3 more things you need to do to power up your preaching.

Avoid these 3 common mistakes made by even good preachers.

These are common mistakes which happen, not because they are poor teachers or bad communicators. These mistakes happen because…

WHY? They don´t have the right system or tools to get the job done well.

What is a system? A System is the means to make genius routine. It helps you to keep doing it right, again and again, so that you are consistenly putting out great messages because you are doing the same right things every single week.

First Mistake — Poor Planning

Poor planning means you have very little real strategic planning for your messages & series.

Questions to ask:

  • How are all the Series tied in together with each other?
  • How far in advance do you plan?
  • How do you know that the topical selection for all Series, and all Messages within those Series is balanced and exciting?
  • Have you linked your Messages in with the music, drama, & video teams, and planned it far enough in advance for them to find content?


SermonBase® helps you to plan out your sermons months in advance, and your Series a year or more in advance.


  • ´Strategic Planning´ section for each Series
  • ´Year-at-a-glance Calendar View´, so you can see exactly where your Sermons & Series are heading for the entire year or more.
  • ´Drama/Video Report´ helps you to coordinate planning with your creative planning teams

Second Mistake — Fuzzy Thinking

Fuzzy Thinking means not really knowing what kind of LifeChange is desired.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What am I trying to achieve?
  • What is my Intellectual Goal?
  • What is my Emotional Goal?
  • What is my desired Action Response?

Also, do you have an integrated goal for the entire Series and for each of the Sermon in that Series?  SermonBase® will help you to figure all of this out.


SermonBase® helps you to ask the question (and answer), “What am I trying to achieve in terms of intellectual understanding, emotional impact, and actual life change?”  SermonBase® will help you to ask that question every single week as you put your messages together.

SermonBase elements:

  • Message Goals
  • Clear listing of Topics, Scriptures, and Series Goals
  • Balanced Introduction & Conclusion guides

Third Mistake — Disorganized Records

Content is Key!

If you can’t find that great material when you need it, then it doesn’t matter how good you can speak.  Where is that great illustration?  or joke?  or article on your subject?

Good organization can lead to a good Message.

And after it’s over, “Where did I put that that great Message?” For example, did you file that message about Patience under the Topic of ‘patience’, or under the Scripture of Galatians 5:22 (the fruit of the Spirit of ‘patience’), or did you file it with the series you did on ‘loving relationships’, or under the Title of ‘Developing Patience’?  “Where is it??” That great Message is gone, if you can’t find it again.  It was a one-hit wonder, never to be used again — unless you are using SermonBase®!

The SermonBase Solution:  Organized Archives

SERMONBASE elements:

  • Search for Messages by Title, Topic, Scripture, Speaker, Date
  • Access all related files in one location:
  • In SermonBase®, you have access to every one of the files related to your Message.

Word Documents, PowerPoint files, graphics, articles, jokes, illustrations, etc.

Power up your preaching!

Now, each one of these three mistakes listed above – which even good teachers can make – is solved by SermonBase®!  SermonBase provides you with a set of power tools to manage your sermon library more effectively.

How do I know?

Because I´ve been preaching for 25 years, and I created SermonBase® to help me be a well-planned, focused, and organized teacher that can quickly locate my best teaching and put it to use in new and creative ways.

But don´t just take my word for it, check out the Testimonials from pastors using SermonBase & download a free Demo today. You have nothing to lose, and a whole lot to gain.

The Sermons is too important to not plan and execute it well!

A lifetime of work all in one place – it´s a beautiful thing!

Try the free Demo of SermonBase right now!

How to Prepare a Sermon: Part 1, Praying about Your Sermon

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This entry is part 2 of 11 in the series How to Prepare a Sermon in Ten Steps

Do you pray for your sermon?praying hands

If so, about what do you pray?  Do you ask God to give you wisdom on topic selection? Do you ask Him to use your sermon in the lives of your listeners? Do you pray that you won’t mess up?  Where does prayer for the sermon fit in your weekly sermon preparation?

The fact is that if we are engaged in a spiritual enterprise, then we need spiritual power. So the process of writing your sermon should have focused prayer built right into it, just as much as other factors in sermon preparation, like researching the text, or writing the introduction.  So where and how does prayer fit in our sermon preparation plans?  “Oh, I pray all the time.”  Do you? But how, specifically is that prayer directly focused upon your sermon for the week.

I would love to hear your answers as to how you pray for, about, and in prep for your sermon. Leave a comment if you please.

Here are my thoughts on this topic:

  • Pray for wisdom on sermon text & topic selection, before you begin (whether that is Monday morning, or sooner if you plan ahead, or use a great sermon planning tool like SermonBase Message Planning Software.
  • Pray through the text as you read and prepare that God would speak to YOU in the text. That will lend lots of power and focus to your message.
  • Pray for the audience you will be speaking to, that their hearts will be receptive to God’s Word.
  • Pray for yourself in terms of your presentation that you will not detract from the message which God has for the audience.

So there are four areas of prayer for your sermon prep week. Hope that helps. God’s best to you this week as you step into the pulpit!

Yours for Great Preaching!

Dr. Bill Miller

How To Prepare A Sermon: Part 8, Write the Conclusion

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This entry is part 9 of 11 in the series How to Prepare a Sermon in Ten Steps

Hey Up-and-Coming Preachers!

We are working on our ten-part series on How to Prepare a Sermon.  We’ve already given you all ten steps of sermon preparation, and Part 1, Praying about your Sermon; Part 2, Textual vs. Topical; Part 3,Study the Passage; Part 4, Read the Commentaries; Part 5, Arrive at the Proposition; Part 6, Develop the Mains; Part 7, Provide Supporting Material, and today, Part 8, “Write the Conclusion”.


This is where you want to take it home. The conclusion must be powerful, personal, and memorable. This is where you touch the heart.

Now, please note that writing the Conclusion, actually comes before writing the Introduction. (We cover writing the Introduction in Part 9.) Why does the Conclusion get written before the Introduction? Because it is at the Conclusion that you bring the full force of the intent of your sermon into play. You have written your sermon, and worked on the goals (especially if you have SermonBase Message Planning Software), and now as you come to the Conclusion you want to provide the final application to people’s lives.  You need to know what that application is before you begin writing the Introduction to your sermon. If so, then you will be able to find an interesting story for your Intro which highlights the application you intend to bring in the Conclusion. So the Conclusion must come first.

The Conclusion to your message must be Powerful, Personal, and Memorable.  Let’s look at each of these:


The Conclusion must touch the heart. It needs to punch through the final last gasping breaths of resistance which any heart still might be holding out against the demands of God’s Holy Word. The Conclusion is your chance to grab their heart and to have them bow in submission to the Lord Jesus Christ in their life. It is in the Conclusion that you seek to help “every knee to bow and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord”. So it must be Powerful. This power can be communicated through many means. It could be the volume of your voice; it could be the passionate intensity of your demeanor; it could be the unique vocabulary reserved for the Conclusion; it could be a heart-touching illustration, or an example from your own life. There are many different means to power up your message at this point, and it should vary from week to week. But you need to use the Conclusion to express to every listener just how important this message is to their lives. The Conclusion must be powerful.


While most of the sermon may be about Biblical history, characters, theology, truth, principles, etc., the Conclusion is eminently personal. In the Conclusion, you should be using the word “you” a lot. You should be talking to each person individually and personally. They must feel that you are addressing them individually as though no one else were in the room. They need to hear the voice of God through your voice during the Conclusion. It is here that you express to them your loving care and concern for them; that they would make the right choice; that they would get their life together; that they would experience the joy of obedience or walking with the Lord. The Conclusion must be personal.


If there is anything you want them to take home with them when this sermon is over, then include it in the Conclusion. You want the listeners to remember what you have said. Most Conclusions, then, will include a summary of your Main Points. It will also often include a restatement of your Proposition. You may have a memorable story to include in the Conclusion, if it brings the main idea home, and doesn’t distract. You as the preacher need to remember that when you say your final “Amen” for that service, that people will switch over to their next activity for Sunday, or start planning their week, or whatever. Your sermon needs to be Memorable so that it can break through that clutter throughout the week, with the powerful Word of God. Just as a side note, this is why I do not have our weekly announcements after the sermon. Some churches move the announcements to the end of the service, but in my mind, that absolutely destroys the entire intention of the sermon. Why would I work all week to bring a memorable word from God, and then immediately after having delivered it, to distract them with some other announcements about this or that church event?

The Conclusion is an important part of your message, and it should be planned out carefully. It must summarize and concentrate the entire content of your sermon in one final, powerful, personal, memorable punch. Note please, that the Conclusion is not the place to introduce any new material. Do not distract from the main proposition and mains of your sermon at this point. Be sure to focus and apply what you have already said, not to introduce an entirely new concept or idea. Anything you share in your Conclusion, should already be either directly or indirectly referenced in the rest of your sermon.

Once your Conclusion is written, you can then get to work on the Introduction, which will be the focus of our next part.

Yours for Great Preaching!

Dr. Bill Miller

The Importance of Transitions

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It’s all about Flow

The difference between a sermon with “flow” and a sermon that feels chunky and disjointed is the word “transitions”. The ‘transitional statement’ is the statement which alerts your listeners that you are now moving the logic of the sermon forward in some way. It may be words like “so then”, or “therefore”, or “because of this we can see”. It could even be “in summary”. The main thing is that you give your listeners a verbal clue that something new is happening. You are letting them know that they should listen closely because something new is about to be entered into the content or logic of the sermon.

When transitions are executed effectively the sermon just feels like it is moving along nicely, with a good flow. People are moved gradually from point to point until you bring them inexorably to the conclusion and application which you have in mind for them. They may not even be aware of the progression towards and ultimate climax but they realize once they are there that they have arrived in a perfectly logical and commonsense manner. The whole sermon just “makes sense” as you have moved them from the content of the text to its ultimate conclusion upon their lives.

An Example of a Transitional Statement

If transitional statements are not well executed then the listeners will find themselves listening to a certain point, and asking, “How did we get here?” For example, you may have a three-point sermon with the proposition, “God has shown His love for you.” Then your mains would be: 1. He created you; 2. He cares for you; 3. He called you to Himself. If you just jump from point to point, when you are done with point number one, you would just say, “2. He cares for you” without any introduction. After going through all your supporting material in point #1, the listener is jerked back to the Mains without any warning.

On the other hand, a helpful transitional statement would be added to the mid-point at the end of your first Main, and just before your second Main Point:  “Not only has God shown His love for you by creating you, but He also shows His love to you, secondly, by caring for you. So my second point is that God Cares for You.” Or, just before the third Main Point, you would say something like, “Not only has God shown His love for you by creating you, and by caring for you. But third, He Called You.” See how that feels much smoother? You are taking them on a quick trackback through the Mains of the sermon, before you move onto the next Main Point.

The Power of Flow

Do not underestimate the power of a good transition to keep your sermon flowing, and to give the listener verbal warnings of “sudden turns” or new topics ahead. Transitions can help you to be a more polished presenter of the Word of God.

Yours for great preaching!

Dr. Bill Miller

How To Prepare A Sermon: Part 7, Provide Supporting Material

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This entry is part 8 of 11 in the series How to Prepare a Sermon in Ten Steps

We are working on our ten-part series on How to Prepare a Sermon.  We’ve already given you all ten steps of sermon preparation, and Part 1, Praying about your Sermon; Part 2, Textual vs. Topical; Part 3,Study the Passage; Part 4, Read the Commentaries; Part 5, Arrive at the Proposition; Part 6, Develop the Mains.  Today is Part 7, “Provide Supporting Material”.

PROVIDE SUPPORTING MATERIALGreek building with columns

This is the main content of your message which supports each of your Mains. It is here that you are teaching the Scriptures, explaining, illustrating, applying, comparing, contrasting, etc., all to make a point. If you do a good job of studying and researching in preparation for your sermon, then you will have some very quality content to provide to your listeners.

So once you have established your Proposition, and your Main Points, what really constitutes the bulk of the supporting material? Some of this would be:

  • Explanations — For example, explaining the meaning of difficult Biblical phrases; original language nuances; aspects of OT semitic culture; socio-political realities of the Roman era; historical background;  – all with the express purpose of a better understanding of the Biblical passage at hand.
  • Illustrations – stories from one’s own life, or the life of others; testimonies; anecdotes; quotations; contemporary parallels; examples from literature, movies, or songs, etc. – all with the express purpose of a better understanding of the Biblical passage at hand.
  • Comparisons — locating other Biblical passages that explain the passage at hand; parallels; related passages, ideas or themes; – all with the express purpose of a better understanding of the Biblical passage at hand.
  • Contrasts – sometimes the best way to explain a Biblical passage is by telling the listeners what it does NOT mean. If a passage of Scripture sounds like it is telling you to do something that seems to contradict something else in Scripture, you have to lay the two passages side-by-side, and contrast them with each other, so that a true understanding can be reached.  The goal, after all, is better understanding of the Biblical passage at hand.
  • Applications – then, of course, the point of most passages is so that we can obey God, so application will necessarily have to come into play at some point. Some people feel that one should provide application after each main point, while others feel that it should be delayed until the Conclusion. It really depends on the passage itself, but I tend to make application an inherent point of the entire message. That is, I will often entitle a message something about “How to…”, and then include a verbal command in each Main Point. But it is really up to you as you feel led by God.

Why is application important? Because Jesus said in the Great Commission that we should be about “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:20). Jesus wants us to teach them to “obey”, not just to “know”. We are not in the business of just tickling ears with fanciful ideas which people love to hear. Jesus wants us to help people to obey Him as a result of what they have learned.

If you want to really “teach” the Word, and not just “exhort” the Word, then you will need substantive supporting material which really helps to explain the passage to your people in a more understandable way. This will take research and study. Get as much learning as you can about the Word, so that you can be a workman who correctly interprets and applies the Word of Truth.

Blessings on you as you open and teach God’s Word! In Part 8 of this study we will look at writing the Conclusion, which is a really important part of the message preparation process. (It actually comes before the Introduction.)

Yours for great preaching!

Dr. Bill Miller

How To Prepare A Sermon: Part 5, Arrive at the Proposition

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This entry is part 6 of 11 in the series How to Prepare a Sermon in Ten Steps

Hi All, especially up-and-coming preachers!light shining down

We are working on our ten-part series on How to Prepare a Sermon.  We’ve already given you all ten steps of sermon preparation, and part 1, Praying about your Sermon; Part 2, Textual vs. Topical; Part 3,Study the Passage; Part 4, Read the Commentaries.  Now, we need to talk about the Proposition.

This is key. The better you do here, the easier the rest of the sermon will fall into place. What is the Proposition? The Proposition is the entire message squeezed into one sentence. It is the ‘sermon in a sentence’; also known as “the Big Idea”. And please note that I said that you “arrive at the proposition”. You don’t create the main idea of the passage; you discover it. You don’t go to it; it comes to you. It IS the message. Then the Mains and supporting material are just unpacking that single idea.

The Proposition is the sermon in a sentence. Sound ridiculous to think you can pack an entire sermon into a sentence? If you cannot say what you intend to say in one sentence, then you do not have a clear idea of what you are talking about. Now, obviously all of the depth of meaning, the expanded content, and the specific application cannot be included in that single sentence; else you would have quite the run-on sentence. But yet, a well-designed proposition captures the essence of the sermon in its grasp.

The Proposition, or Big Idea, or Sermon in a Sentence is something you “arrive at”, you don’t create it. It comes to you as you study God’s Word. God the Holy Spirit reveals it to you, and then you write it out. The Word of God has a message for you and for your congregation. Because the Word is “living and active, and sharper than a two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12), it has a very specific application for your unique church situation. Discover it, and you have discovered the Big Idea for your sermon. How do you know if you have arrived at it? If someone says “give me a quick summary of your sermon”, you can actually give a quick summary, in just a sentence.

Once you have the Proposition, then the Main Points support and explain it more fully. Main points will not add anything new to the big idea of your sermon; they will merely expand upon concepts or themes which are inherent in your Proposition.

Once you have the Proposition, you have a significant part of your sermon already done. Now please note that we are at point 5 in your sermon preparation, and you have just arrived at the Proposition. So you have done quite a bit of research and study already. But once you get the Proposition down, the rest of the sermon will come together relatively quickly, because you already know everything you need to say. You just have to unpack it.

So that is the Proposition. You can read more about the Big Idea here if you like. We are half-way through the process of writing a sermon. Stick around for the rest of the series.

Exercise: Select a passage of Scripture, anywhere from four to ten verses; read it through several times; study it; then try to express its meaning in one sentence.

God’s best to you as you prepare to teach God’s Word!

Dr. Bill Miller

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