A sermon is more than just a “talk”. It is a form of communication that blesses those who say it and blesses those who hear it. As Christians, we are given the mission to speak of God’s Words to every creation (Mark 16:15). In connection with this, a sermon is one of the best ways to communicate God and His people. But, the tough question is do we know how to write a sermon before speaking it? Some pastors start writing one sermon a month in advance, while others begin writing during the week in which they’re planning to preach. When planning a sermon, there’s various things to do before you write. Truly, communicating God’s Words is both a beautiful opportunity and a heavy responsibility. With that being said, here’s what you need on how to write a sermon.
Strength Of A Sermon: God’s Words With Your Voice
One of the greatest trios in the world is The Creator, The Creator’s Words, and His Creation.
As Christians, we are encouraged to devote ourselves to exhorting and teaching people (1 Timothy 4:13). Now, this might sound like an easy task. But, without understanding the focal purpose of why we do sermons, the message is not passed through effectively. The first and the most important step on how to write a sermon is knowing your purpose.
Unlike other forms of oral and written communication, you are not just someone with a speech on hand. It’s not like an extemporaneous speech where you simply talk about a topic that interests you. Instead, what a sermon does is serving the absolute truths from God into the ears of a crowd who need it. Delivering a sermon is an automatic blessing for you to remind a person’s heart of the Words God wants them to hear. In sermons, we become more than a speaker. Instead, we turn into mediators. So before writing, it is important to know that a sermon is a direct mission to touch, change, remind, and inculcate the Word of God into someone’s lives. God is the purpose, His Words is the truth and your voice is the medium of which it will be spoken.
How To Write A Sermon: Characteristics
In the process of how to write a sermon, there are characteristics that you need to adhere to in order to fully grasp the message you want to convey. Although sermons have a big difference to regular speeches, it is similar to one thing and that’s the audience. Whether it is a sermon or not, the demand for catching the audience acceptance remains the same. Since you are communicating with people from different backgrounds, experiences, and attention span, these characteristics will aid in allowing the crowd in offering their hearts in accepting the message you prepared.
Generally, people listen to things they can relate to. It’s like listening to your favorite song for the very first time, we often admire songs with lyrics we can relate to, right? Taking this into consideration, you need to write a sermon with points that people can relate to. A sermon should be like a friend that understands and supports a person’s worries. It should feel like a comforting embrace after tiring events that could have happened in a person’s life. Well, in the first place, the Word of God has this characteristic and in writing a sermon, it is your mission to capture that warmth the Bible speaks of.
In connection with relatability, one’s authenticity in words is a crucial factor. See, what’s great about sermons is that it’s not a highly academic form of communication that demands fancy words and sophisticated terms. What people need is that genuine touch that can make one realize and envision the same authentic emotion and gratitude your message is trying to put out. Instead of going for fancier words, seek words that can be used daily and understood universally.
Another reason why people like sermons is how they feel human while hearing this. The process of how to write a sermon demands a human=t0-human connection. This pertains to that feeling the audience will get in knowing that God has worked His Ways in your life. Upon standing in front, you instantly become one of God’s success stories and that’s the charisma people need in order for them to feel uplifted. As an example, there are people with a bright charismatic presence that instantly encourages their audiences no matter how upset they were. Their message is well-taken because, through them, God’s intervention is seen. Therefore, you have to write with absolute confidence knowing that if God has shown you his words, He will help you communicate it with others.
Think of it as like an editorial page; journalists put citations from the people in the headlines so that the readers can further understand what the headline is about. A person that wants to efficiently write a sermon needs to back up with Biblical citations. This is a way to earn a sense of credibility in the message you are trying to share. Especially in phrasing a narrative or a crucial verse, one needs to connect that to a Bible verse in order to establish how the sermon is rooted in God’s Words and His Words only.
Wisdom is a target effect of a good sermon. After the sermon, people should be able to reflect on the message in application to their lives. In order to do this, a sermon needs to have a strong foundation for insight. This pertains to how well a message from the Bible is applied in today’s lives. For example, if a sermon is centered on forgiveness, instead of just citing what is on the Bible, applying in on different perspectives (i.e. forgiving other people, forgiving ourselves, forgiving people who are not aware of how they caused us pain) is a way in expanding the relatability and level of wisdom a sermon has. Sticking to a single insight is acceptable but, it does not give space for people to think more and reflect.
How To Write A Sermon: Components
Technically, there are components a person who is learning how to write a sermon should follow. Remember, sermons are actually highly structured and well-prepared for. The Bible is so versatile that it is made to be shared from different stances of different people. Because of this, there are components to follow for a smoother transition and better comprehension for the part of whoever is receiving it. Here, the components of a sermon are listed.
If a person listens to plenty of sermons, they are probably familiar with preachers opening their speeches with a statement or experience that inspired them to tackle a particular subject. There is a reason for that. Just like anything else, we are more effective and empathetic when we can relate to something. Going back, relatability and authenticity are further honed when the subject is something that relates to us deeply.
An exercise that helps improve this component is “picturing”. Basically, we have to form a mental image of either a memory or a story of a person that has created an impact on our memories and lives. When we have a clear image of this subject, we know what the crowd is feeling, and we know which of God’s Words are suitable for the season they are in. For instance, if a sermon were to tackle failure with a writer and fully understand what it is like, searching for the right words comes in automatically.
The introduction brings a sermon to life. Effectively, it shows hope before even getting into the body of the sermon. If done correctly, anyone who receives it knows that they are going to leave with a reminder from God. Here are some ways of starting an introduction.
These types of introductions start off with a question. The bright side with these types is how it can easily attract the receivers. It is the type of introduction that’s best to use if you were to deal with topics like stress or loss. For example, if you were to start with “have you ever been so upset that you simply could not talk?”, the result would most likely be that whoever is listening will immediately remember an instance of when they went through a similar situation. After this grasp of attention, conveying what God wants to say about this matter should come by easier.
Unlike asking a question, a narrative introduction tells a story or a short event that can be connected to the subject or Bible verse the message has. Similarly, these types of introductions allow an immediate mental image to the receivers when they experienced a similar situation. The focal goal of an introduction is to make the audience feel like the entire sermon is directed towards them – introductions like these are good for that.
This type of sermon introduction starts with citing a Bible verse. For topics that are heavier (i.e. sins, immorality, etc.), Bible verses serve as guides that dictate the foundation of the subject matter. As stated, it gives a strong foundation for credibility. As a result, it allows people to be instantly reminded of an instruction God has directly stated in the Bible. Nevertheless, this can be mixed with the other two in creating an introduction.
Everything that is written and spoken needs an outline. Under this, a person who wants to know how to write a sermon needs to have an organized plan in delivery and structure. Don’t worry, it does not have to be highly technical. However, one needs to identify the introduction, body, and conclusion.
Of course, the introduction, body, and conclusion are simply the primary structure and anyone can add as many branches of sub-topics as they want. Still, the purpose of an outline is to make sure that everything is kept on track. People should not be confused about the arrangement. Outlines help to plan and organize the writer’s thoughts and the flow of the sermon. Remember, a sermon is inserting chunks of instructions and wisdom so confusion must be avoided and an outline helps that success!
“Write as if you are speaking” – This is not applicable only to academic written outputs. Upon writing the sermon, you have to do it as if you’re speaking. Avoid stiff transition words and wordings you would not use on a face-to-face conversation. Having a balanced speak-write ratio allows the audience to feel like the sermon is spontaneous. So, write as if you’re already delivering the sermon and the selected writing material is your audience.
In writing a sermon, you have two major resources; the Bible and the people. First, the Bible is the primary basis of any message a sermon has. It is highly essential to include Bible verses because the Word itself is what you are trying to communicate. However, this should not be a problem since the Bible has verses made specifically for different topics. Adding Bible verses allows a sermon to exude a sense of instruction and reminder, it’s important to have verses at the core of the sermon.
Second, one can also make use of statements from other people regarding the subject. A sermon is more flexible and content-rich when there are many resources aside from the writer himself or herself. Doing this adheres to the characteristic of insight that offers a wider array of reflections done by other people. An extra benefit of this is how anyone can get extra pointers from another sermon. More resources mean more basis and inspiration!
Once the resources are done, examples come in handy in elaboration. This can be anything that touches the subject matter. It can be narratives from experiences the writer or another person experienced or it can be an instance that took place according to the Bible. Actually, it can even be a song or a poem that hits the subject. It can be anything!
The importance of adding examples is how it aids in making people relate to the topic more. Also, it gives a clearer message to whoever is receiving the sermon. Like how a Math class is easier with examples, adding them helps.
Biblical terms are widely used in the Bible. The writer should keep a fair consideration that the audience might not be well-endowed when it comes to these words. Therefore, words that either come with multiple meanings or unfamiliar terms should be defined. Especially in citing stories, the words used can be words that aren’t used today so, adding the definition clears this.
Call To Action
Now, this is the most important part of the sermon; a call to action pertains to the core message that you want the audience to start or stop doing. This can be topics like starting to trust God fully or ending financial attachments. The call of action is the concluding part that a sermon builds up from start to finish.
Doing this portion requires a smooth transition between the introductory phase, the body, and the call to action. There should be coherence and connection that builds up gradually in order to strongly reach a call to action. If one were to tackle about forgiveness, the call to action is the phase where the sermon talks about living without bearing grudge or spite in order to forgive. This should be the final call that convinces and reminds the audience of the message God has for them through you.
The process of how to write a sermon isn’t hard. However, a lot of thinking, planning, and researching has to be done for it to be done effectively. Being able to write one or to hear one is one of God’s great blessings. Remember, the audience of a sermon isn’t by coincidence if one were to write a sermon, it is because one is blessed and chosen to share The Word.