For the Sermon Preparation category

How to Prepare a Sermon: Part 3, “Study the Passage”

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This entry is part 4 of 11 in the series How to Prepare a Sermon in Ten Steps

Hi Preachers, and Preachers-to-Be,open bible

We are continuing on this series of How to Prepare a Sermon. I’ve already given you the Ten Steps to Sermon Preparation to lead off the series. Then step one, “How to Pray about your Sermon“, and step two, “Select your text and topic“. So today let’s talk about studying the passage.

Studying the passage on which you want to preach is key. Listen, you can’t have quality preaching without putting in the time to study. It doesn’t matter how much you think you may know about the topic or text, there is always more to learn. Shallow study makes for shallow preaching. so put in the time and do it right. But how do you study the passage?

Number one rule, don’t run to the commentaries first! Study the passage on your own, and let God speak to you through it; then later on you can apply the commentaries to get the historical, grammatical, cultural facts you would not otherwise know.

So, what are the steps to studying a passage of Scripture in preparation for preaching a sermon on it?

  • Read the passage multiple times.
  • Read the passage in a few different translations.
  • Read the entire book.
  • Read it in Greek or Hebrew, if you are familiar with the original languages.
  • Identify the key verbs.
  • Identify key themes.
  • Look for repeated words, comparisons, contrasts, conclusions, assumptions.
  • Look for historical references to previous Biblical history and locations.
  • If necessary, diagram the passage.
  • Outline the passage.

To begin to make sense of all this Biblical data, you can ask and answer three questions:

1.  What does this passage say?

2.  What does this passage mean?

3.  What does this passage mean to me?

Once you have organized the sermon by answering the above three questions, you are ready to move on to Step Four of sermon preparation.

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 10, Create the Title

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

Hi Preachers!blank billboard

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 Part 8, Write the Conclusion, Part 9, Write The Introduction.


Finally, you can choose the title. The only point of the title is to advertise and promote the sermon and let people know in a very brief way what it is about. If you choose your title too early, you may find yourself preaching to the title, rather than the text. Don’t confuse the two.

The Title that you choose can simply be descriptive, like the one I heard this weekend for Sanctity of Human Life Sunday:  “The Privilege and Responsibility of Being Human” by Dr. John Crocker at Crossroads Church in Albert Lea, MN.

It could be a portion of Scripture, like “Songs in the Night”, the famous sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon of the London Tabernacle.  The phrase “songs in the night” is from the Book of Psalms.

The Title could be a very directive title, How to be the Spiritual Leader of your Home, a message which I taught a while back, mainly to fathers, but also to single moms.


Once you have taken the time to write the sermon, you want people to come and listen to it!

So make sure you spread the title of your sermon far and wide so that everyone knows what you will be teaching on. This is your chance to use the title of the sermon to encourage people to come and hear the Word of God being taught.

What are some ways to do that?

sermon sign

  • Whenever I am teaching in a series, I always put in a little teaser near the end of my sermon, about what I will be teaching in the next one. That way people can see how the series is tied together, and will keep coming back, it is hoped.
  • Also, list next week’s sermon in this week’s bulletin.
  • If your church advertises in the newspaper, list your weekly sermon title in there. Many people out there do not want to come to a strange new church unless they have at least some idea of what it is all about. For example, if your sermon title is on parenting, “How to be a great Dad”, that is one thing. If the title, on the other hand, says something like, “How to pick up snakes during worship”, that would tell them something else.


Your job is to preach to the Biblical text, not the Title.  The only purpose of the Title is to let the people know what you will be speaking about. It is just there to advertise. Don’t get distracted by it; stay focused on the Biblical text.

Well, there you have it. That is the last of this ten-part series on How to Prepare a Sermon. I hope you enjoy it, and find it useful, as you teach God’s Holy Word!

For great preaching,

Dr. Bill Miller

How To Prepare A Sermon: Part 9, Write The Introduction

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This entry is part 10 of 11 in the series How to Prepare a Sermon in Ten Steps

Hey Up-and-Coming Preachers!     hand shake

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 Part 8, Write the Conclusion. Today: How To Prepare A Sermon: Part 9, Write The Introduction.

Yes, the introduction often comes right at the end, after you have written the Conclusion. The main goal here is to get their attention and to introduce the topic, thus “introduction”. Once you know the main thrust of the sermon and the main points, it is much easier to write the introduction.

Consider the Goal

The Introduction must fit strategically with the rest of your sermon. Too many pastors think that ‘attention-getting’ is the only goal, and thus try to do something lame like just share some cutesy humor or joke which they discovered on the internet. But once you have written the Conclusion, then the Introduction is the most natural next step. This is because, having written the Conclusion, you know where the sermon will end up, and so you begin with the end in mind. If your Introduction and Conclusion have a similar theme, then your sermon has parallelism; there is a natural matching between the two. People’s minds will come back to what you began with and begin drawing conclusions, which is what you want to happen. This is why in our SermonBase Message Planning Software, it is possible to view the Conclusion and the Introduction on the same screen so that you can view the connections and similarities between these two parts of your sermon.

Connect with the Listeners

During the Introduction, you must identify with the listeners. If you can make an emotional connection with the listeners in the Introduction, then they will be prepared to receive what you have to say in the rest of the sermon. If you are going to say something challenging in the sermon, then it is all the more important to relate to the audience so that they can connect and identify with you as a person.

Form a Natural Transition

The Introduction must lend itself naturally to the topic of the sermon. There must be an easy and logical flow from the topic of the Introduction to the topic of the sermon. It must make sense. Don’t give the listeners whiplash where you are talking about one thing over in this direction, and then suddenly we are facing the other way and talking about spiritual things with no warning. For example, a personal story about a recent sports injury may lend itself naturally to talking about physical and then spiritual health.

Introduce the Text

The purpose of the Introduction is to move people’s minds from the everyday mundane to the sacred Scriptures. So the topic must lead to the Scripture text upon which you intend to teach. Now it is important to note that in the Introduction you introduce text, you do not explain the text. That comes later during the Main Points of your sermon. Just introduce the text at hand, and explain why it relates to what you are going to discuss for the day. Then move quickly from the Text to the Proposition to the Main Points.

Don’t go too long

Some preachers spend way too much time on the Introduction. Use it as a tool to get you to where  you need to go, which is the Proposition. Then launch into your sermon. Preachers make the mistake of going to long when they lose sight of the purpose of the Introduction, which is “introduce”, not “explain”.

If you have already followed through on the other eight parts of the sermon preparation process, then the Introduction portion should come pretty easy. For by this time, you have a clear sense of purpose; you have the Proposition, the Main Points, the supporting material, and the Conclusion. The Introduction will then almost jump out at you as to how you might begin the sermon.

The final article in this series relates to the Title, which can trip you up if you don’t know its true purpose.

God’s best to you as you prepare to share God’s Word with His people!

Dr. Bill Miller

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


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

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