If you’re a preacher, you’ve got this burden hanging over your head. Every week—and probably several times in the week—you’re expected to talk for a long time about something. It has to be really good, because people think that you only work on Sunday. It has to be entertaining, because people don’t like being bored. It has to be spiritual-sounding, because people want to feel warm-and-fuzzy. And it has to be profound, because people think that you know a lot about the Bible. But there are times when a pastor just can’t come up with sermon topics.
When you can’t come up with sermon topics
Sometimes this brick wall happens right after seminary or Bible school. The graduate waltzes out of the halls of academia waving a sheaf of classroom sermons and papers. He’s good to go…for about five weeks. Then, when his prewritten sermon trove is exhausted, he’s not sure what to do next. Other times the brick wall drops in the middle of a pastor’s career. A sermon series ends. A topical sermon or two sputters out. And then he’s dry. He can’t think of anything else.
What do you do?
There is a way through the brick wall. But first, let’s consider what not to do.
- Don’t feel like you have to be novel. Creativity is good, but you don’t have to come up with something new every time you preach. Fresh doesn’t mean new. If people have heard a truth before, they probably need to hear it again. No, you shouldn’t preach the same sermon every Sunday, but neither should you think that you have to invent some new doctrine or twist on Scripture. If you try it, heresy is probably just a step or two away.
- Don’t feel like you have to be shocking. Some preachers, gazing in star-struck wonder at megachurch preachers think that they have to come up with some super-shocking sermon series. You may not be tempted to go as far as predicting the end of the world (someone just tried that), but you may feel like throwing in a shocker series or two. Actually, don’t worry about it.
- Don’t feel like you have to be entertaining. Preachers and comedians are two different callings. Figure out which one you are, and don’t get the two confused.
If you think you have to be shock jock novel preacher with a side-splitting one-liner every minute or two, you’re definitely going to come up dry when it comes to sermons. What’s worse, you will stray farther and farther from the only true source for sermon topics. So, what is the best way to come up with sermon topics?
For that matter, what is the only way to come up with sermon topics? And sermon series? And a whole church calendar filled with great messages and good ideas?
Here it is.
You and Your Bible
It’s really not that complicated. Simply take your Bible and get alone with God. Read your Bible. Pore over it, not to come up with sermon topics, but to listen to God. Meditate on verses. Track down topics. Memorize a passage. Pray over a psalm. Simply stop and soak in God’s Word—prayerfully, humbly, and simply.
Good sermons don’t come out of thin air. They come from a person who is saturated in God’s Word. They come from a heart of deep devotion. Good sermons are the overflow of a close relationship with Jesus.
It starts with God’s Word. You and your Bible. You and God. Alone.
Then, the sermon topics will start pouring in.
- Focus on the Bible. In the end, it’s not about “coming up with sermon topics.” It’s about telling people what the Bible says about God. It’s about pointing to Someone who is awesome, and majestic, and holy, and good, and gracious, and loving. It’s about glorifying God by telling people what His Word says.
- Take a step back. It’s easy for pastors to get burned out. If you feel like you’re about to drop, you may need to stop for a week or two—get your bearings, take a deep breath, and get back into things.
- Have your devotions. There’s nothing in the Bible that commands us to have devotions, so don’t hold this over your head as some sort of spiritual barometer. However, it is important that a preacher be nourished from God’s Word. Get serious about your own relationship with Jesus. You’ll probably find that your personal devotions are where sermon series begin.
- Pray. Colossians 4:5 says, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” This is how the pastor should function—constantly, watchfully, and thankfully in prayer. Ask God for the help to not just “come up with sermon topics,” but also to glorify Him in all you do.