Write An Expository Sermon

Before You Begin

Before you begin this process, if this sermon is part of a series, please go through the Build A Series process.  Even if you aren’t the person in your church responsible for building the series, there is information there that you need to have.  If you’re not responsible for building the series in your church, ask your pastor to share his responses to the questions on that page.  This will help you follow the overall theme and feel for the series being preached.

The other thing you must do before you begin (and all the way throughout) is… PRAY!  Without bathing a sermon in prayer, and asking the Holy Spirit to tell you what to say, you’re simply talking in front of a bunch of people.  Preaching only has power when it’s infused with the Living Spirit of God!

What’s The Big Idea?

Now that we have a handle on the overall idea of our series, and we’ve begun to pray for the sermon, we need to go over some basics before we begin.

  1. What’s the Big Idea of your sermon?
  2. How does that Big Idea fit into the Overall Idea of the book / series?

Know Your Target Audience

Before we begin writing the sermon, there is one more question that we need to answer… Who is this sermon particularly for?  Christians?  Non-Christians?  COMMITTED Christians?

When you know who your target audience is, you’ll better understand what the needs of your audience is… and what subjects will interest them (helpful in using illustrations).

The Framework

Now that you know the overall idea of the book / series, the Big Idea of your sermon and how it relates, and you know who your audience is going to be… then you can begin framing the sermon.  Each Sermon has 4 main sections.  Here’s how I explain them…

  1. Introduction
  2. Body
  3. Closing
  4. A Call For Response / Action

In the 1st section, or Introduction, the goal is to “tell your people what you’re going to tell them in the body of the sermon.”  It’s introducing the Big Idea of the text.  You can do this in a straightforward way… or you can do this by way of illustration.

In the 2nd section, the Body, the goal is to expound upon that Big Idea.  Many people will use “points” in the body of their sermon.  If you choose to go this route, please keep your points to three or less… as more can muddle things up.  Regardless of how you do it, let the body of your sermon naturally flow out of the text.  Use illustrations (personal are best), but be careful not to use so many that the Scripture itself is overshadowed.

In the 3rd section, the Closing, the goal is to “tell your people what you just told them.”  It’s summarizing the Scripture into that Big Idea.

In the 4th section, the Call For Response / Action, the goal is to challenge and encourage your people to engage with the Holy Spirit in putting that Scripture into practice.  Without this 4th section, preaching becomes little more than a lecture.

So to summarize… Your framework should look like this… Tell your people what you’re going to tell them… Tell them… Tell them what you just told them… Challenge them to put it into practice.

Manuscript Or Notes

Once you have your framework in place, you can begin writing.  It doesn’t matter if you manuscript or use notes… Use the method that suits you, your style, and your ability.  For many, manuscripting makes them feel like their hands are tied.  If this is the case for you, use notes.  Others have problems recalling things that they wanted to say when they only have notes.  If this is the case for you, and you are a good writer / reader, manuscript.

Concerning Length

When it comes to length, the average person has an attention span of 20 minutes, with the ability to re-focus on the same thing multiple times.  However, when it comes to speaking, the average person will only re-focus one time.  So the sweet spot for sermon length is between 20-40 minutes.  I suggest that every 10-15 there is an element in the sermon that will help your people re-engage and re-focus.  Cut out unnecessary material from the sermon to save time and to help people focus.

Practice Makes Perfect

Once your sermon is written, rehearse it multiple times.  This will help you in a couple of ways.

  1. Internalizing the sermon content.  Again, it doesn’t matter if you use notes or manuscript, a good presenter will know the material so well that they don’t have to solely rely on the manuscript or their notes.
  2. It’ll help manage time.  If your sermon takes 30 minutes when you’re rehearsing, it’ll take 35 minutes live.

Don’t Forget…

This is the Bible… God’s Word!  What do I mean by that?

  • Be Interesting & Energetic (Don’t make the Bible boring… because it’s NOT!)
  • Speak With Authority
  • Speak With Joy

Final Thoughts

Don’t be afraid to listen to other preachers on the passage.  You’ll glean thoughts and ideas from them.

Oh… and one more thing… Did I mention to PRAY?

Blessings to you in your preaching!