Suggested Steps for Going from Text to Sermon

PREPARATORY WORK (Done prior to the period when you will be preaching the sermon)

  • What is the main point of the book and/or the larger section?
  • What time is it in redemptive history?
  • What questions arise at first glance through repeated readings of the book or section (another supplemental possibility is to have others, preferably from diverse backgrounds, read the book and let you know the questions that arise to them)?
  • What are your initial impressions that come to you through repeated readings of the book or larger section?
  • Pray through the book or larger sections.
  • What are the pegs from the other testament (quotes, allusions, themes)?


  • Select the parameters of the preaching text and pray through it.
  • Memorize the text you will be preaching or at least a vital section of it.
  • Read the text repeatedly. Read the text aloud repeatedly. Listen to the text being read repeatedly.
    • Look for:
      • The life context of the author and the recipients.
      • The immediate historical context.
      • The needs of the original hearers.
      • Repeated words and themes.
      • Themes that reoccur in the preaching text from the book or section.
      • Genre and literary dynamics.
      • The logic of the text.
      • Old and/or New Testament allusions.
  • Translate from the original languages (if possible).
  • Study the key words (Beware of word study fallacies—context is king).
  • Are there textual variants or key interpretive issues?
  • Who was the human author, what was the life circumstance and audience?
  • What is the relationship of the text to the person and work of Christ?
  • What is the relationship of the text to eschatological fulfillment in Christ?
  • Identify the structure of the text.
    • Main thoughts and subordinate clauses.
    • Main movements and narrative seams.
    • Temporal sequence, logical inference, and antithesis.
    • Create a visual outline that works for you.
  • Identify the central intent of the text (At this time only the text is in view).
  • Identify the central intent of the sermon (Now the audience is also in view).
  • Develop a thought outline that parallels the visual outline you created before but this one is roughly applicational (text, audience, and sermon in view).
  • Develop sermon moves (Think of moves rather than points for the sake of continuity).
  • Consider application possibilities and their relationship to the gospel (First to yourself and then to your audience).
  • Step away for a period of time and marinate on all of your work to this point.
  • ONLY NOW introduce commentaries (Wide ranging with a preference for those that stimulate your thinking). Introducing commentaries too early traps your thinking in someone else’s thought.
  • Develop your oral preaching notes.
    • Oral prompts.
      • Moves
      • Thought blocks.
      • Think it out.
    • Ask: Have I internalized this sermon to the point that I could preaching it in 45 minutes? Or 30 minutes, 15 minutes, 12 minutes if asked?
    • Can you take the sermon title and moves, only adding connecter words and adequately explain the text/sermon?


  • Evaluate your sermon notes asking:
    • How does this sermon tell me something about Jesus and something about idolatry?
    • How does the sermon tell me something that is true only because of the gospel of Jesus Christ (challenge self-justifying legalism and justice-denying libertinism)?
    • How will my life and my hearer’s lives be harmed if I/they do not apply their lives to the truth of the sermon?
    • How does the sermon lead me and my listeners to worship Jesus?
    • Did Jesus have to be crucified and resurrected for this sermon to work?
By |September 13th, 2017|Categories: Blog|Tags: |

About the Author:

David E. Prince is pastor of preaching and vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky and assistant professor of Christian preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of In the Arena and Church with Jesus as the Hero. He blogs at Prince on Preaching and frequently writes for The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, For the Church, the BGEA and Preaching Today


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