I’m often asked where I come up with ideas for sermons. My conversation with preachers across the country persuades me that for many of us, finding “something to preach” Sunday after Sunday can be a difficult and frustrating task. It need not be so. Perhaps the following suggestions will help.
1. Read the Bible
Though I do not suggest you turn your personal devotional time into a “sermon-finding time”, I do believe you should have a pencil and paper handy as you read the Word of God. The most effective sermons I preach are those that come as a result of God dealing with me about a particular principle from His Word. I am much more fervent when I have been through the process myself. You will not remember it if you don’t write it down!
2. Read Widely
Illustrations, specific incidents and ideas are available in your local newspaper. USA Today, Reader’s Digest and a host of other publications. Again, have some method to record and preserve those things which interest you.
3. Keep a List of Potential Sermon Ideas
Sometimes a truth will be in my mind and heart for months before it germinates. During that time, I think about it occasionally, consider possible applications, and think of possible illustrations. I find it helpful to be sure that the spiritual meals I serve my people are well-cooked. Sometimes, it takes a good while for me to fully grasp the significance of biblical truth. If I give half-baked sermons to my people, I will be likely to produce half-baked Christians.
4. Keep an Illustration File
Use whatever system works for you, but have an easy way to flip through and find illustrations appropriate to the sermon you’re preaching.
5. Read Sermons
The average person could read one of Spurgeon’s sermons in 15–30 minutes. It can be more helpful to read sermons than to read commentaries. Commentaries may help you with the specific interpretation of a passage, sermons will help you with the specific application of a passage. I would suggest a young preacher set a goal of reading one sermon a day.
6. Listen to Preaching
Have sermon CDs from those who have been a blessing to you available as you are riding in the car, working around the house, etc. Many times the sub-point under another preacher’s sermon will form the nucleus of an entire sermon which I will later preach.
7. Stay Close to Your People
Knowing what their needs, burdens, questions, and concerns are will greatly enhance your ability to give them on-target truths. I have often said that I like to answer questions because I know that at least one person is interested in what I have to say. If I deliver a sermon that I know is needed by a significant number of my people, I have much more fervor and zeal.