How do preachers come up with sermons?

Thinking ManWell, I can’t answer this question for everyone, but I can tell you how I figure out what I’m going to teach (aka preach) at Church180.

I find it helpful to plan what I’m going to teach 9-12 months ahead of time. This gives me time to pray, study, think, and apply whatever it is that I will be teaching at our church.

Now I don’t always teach what I plan because sometimes it just doesn’t seem to fit. Like for instance, we just finished a three week teaching series called, “Putting Fear in a Headlock.” Originally I was planning on doing a four week series called “Living at 90%.” However, as I was preparing for that series it just seemed like everything was pointing in a different direction.

By “everything” I mean, the stories I was reading in the Bible, the thoughts that were clicking in my mind, the “gut feeling” that said “this is where we need to go.” So, I changed the series direction and we tackled the topic of fear. Based on people’s feedback, it was the right decision. Isn’t it cool how God knows what the people at His church need to hear?

So how do I come up with sermon ideas?

  • I regularly pray and ask God what He wants our church to hear. It’s not uncommon that an idea will pop up during those prayer times, and will keep popping up until I finally realize, “Oh! This might be something God wants to say to our church!”
  • Often while reading the Bible, a question, idea, or topic will pop up and I’ll think, “Ohhh! That’s something our church needs to talk about!” So we’ll put it on the schedule.
  • Sometimes I get ideas while talking with and listening to people. I listen to their questions, ideas, etc. and often walk away thinking, “That’s something we need to talk about at church.”
  • Movies, YouTube clips (that’s where I got the idea for “Living at 90%”), songs, Facebook posts, and even tweets have all provided ideas that led to a teaching series.
  • I listen to other preachers. Sometimes they have such great material that I think, “Our church needs to have this conversation.” Our current teaching series, “Climate Change” is such a case. I was listening to Jeff Henderson, a pastor at Northpoint Church teach this series. It moved me so deeply that I knew I needed to share it. What happens then? I take his big idea and make it my own. In several cases I used different Scriptures than he used. I, of course, have to make the stories my own (although he tells some stories that are such good illustrations that I considered becoming Jeff for a Sunday just so I could tell his stories 😉 )
  • Many times there are conversations in our culture and in the headlines that we need to discuss. This was the case in our teaching series, “Breaking the Silence” in which we talked about divorce, suicide, and homosexuality.
  • Finally, there are a few things that are so important that we just plan to talk about them every year. At our church we plan on talking about these things every year: Marriage/Family, Money, Men, How to help a friend discover Jesus, Volunteering.
  • Once the big idea is in place I go to work discovering what the Bible says about this topic, looking for stories to illustrate, applying it to my own life, reading other materials about this topic (both Christian and secular), and writing out the lesson so I can best present it to you!


One thing I always say is that God has the trump card. He can redirect any series at any time, BUT I have been preaching long enough to realize that God works incredibly well through our planning! I love it when people come up to me after church, or send an e-mail later in the week and say, “That was just what I needed to hear!” What they don’t know… well, what they didn’t know until they read this post, was that often that sermon was planned months in advance!

Do you know what that means?!

It means that God knew you would be at Church180 on that Sunday and He’s been preparing for your arrival months in advance!

So there you go… that’s how preachers, at least this one, comes up with sermons!

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