Derek Morris is editor of Ministry magazine and author of Powerful Biblical Preaching.

God wants you to preach powerful biblical sermons. Whether you are preparing your first sermon or wanting to move your preaching to the next level of effectiveness, here is a 12-step process that can help you.


Several factors may influence your selection of a preaching passage: personal impact when reading a particular Scripture text, pastoral concern, societal need, and seasonal setting. Each one of these factors will at times influence your selection of your preaching passage. The length of the preaching passage is determined by the amount of time allocated for the sermon and the depth of your study of the text.


When studying the passage, it is vital that you consider the context. Take for example John 5:39. It says, “Search the Scriptures” (KJV). A careless preacher might eisegete the text in order to preach a sermon on the importance of Bible study.1 However, a careful study of the context will reveal John’s intention in recording these words of Jesus. It may be helpful to read the entire Gospel of John, which will confirm your conclusions regarding this specific passage (see John 20:30-31). 

Also examine key words in the passage. Use of a concordance like Young’s or Strong’s will be helpful. Examination of key words in your preaching passage will provide thoughtful insights for your powerful biblical sermon.


This is a crucial step. What is the big idea of your preaching passage? The exegetical idea is comprised of two components: the subject + the complement. 

The subject is the complete answer to the question “What is the text talking about?” For example, if you are preaching a sermon on Deuteronomy 31:6, what is the context? Who is speaking? Who are the listeners? We discover from an examination of the context that Moses is exhorting the children of Israel: “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you” (Deut. 31:6). The subject of this passage cannot simply be “courage” or “being strong.” Six friends will help us find the subject: What, Why, When, How, Where, and Who. Is the passage telling us when to be courageous, where to be courageous, how to be courageous? No. The subject of this short preaching passage is why the children of Israel should be strong and courageous. 

Next we need to find the complement of this preaching passage. The complement answers the question, “What is the text saying about the subject?” Why did Moses encourage the children of Israel to be strong and courageous? “For the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you; He will not leave you nor forsake you” (Deut. 31:6). Now put subject and complement together. Remember, subject + complement = exegetical idea. Moses encouraged the children of Israel to be strong and courageous because the LORD was with them and would not forsake them.

Obviously, the challenge of identifying the exegetical idea of an entire chapter is greater, but the process is the same.


The preaching idea is the simple memorable sentence that you want your hearers to remember from your powerful biblical sermon and apply to their everyday lives. It should be contemporary, personal, concise, and memorable. Occasionally, it can be identical to the exegetical idea if the preaching passage is dealing with a universal principle. For example, the exegetical idea of Matthew 7:12 is, Treat others the way you would like to be treated. The preaching idea could be the same. The wording is contemporary, personal, concise, and memorable. However, consider the exegetical idea from Deuteronomy 31:6. What change needs to be made in order to craft a preaching idea? It needs to become personal. Moses is no longer speaking. You are the appointed spokesperson for God. You are not addressing the children of Israel but your local hearers. Craft your preaching idea with your hearers in mind: You can be strong and courageous because the LORD is with you. That single dominant thought is the heart of your message. It needs to be crystal clear in your mind before you continue with your 12-step process of sermon preparation.


Why are you preaching this sermon? What are you trying to accomplish? In order to answer this question you need not only to exegete your preaching passage but also exegete your audience. Who will listen to your sermon? Are they well acquainted with the Word of God? What are their greatest needs right now? What changes need to occur in their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors?

Is your primary objective to explain a passage of Scripture, to prove its validity, to apply a well-known truth to the lives of your hearers? Occasionally, you will have all three objectives in mind, but frequently your sermon will have one primary objective. Knowing your purpose is crucially important when coming to step #7 and step #9.


Many preachers, both young and old, have questions about sermon forms. Using the same sermon form each week is boring and may also be inappropriate for the preaching passage you have selected.

Read Romans 12:2. What is the natural division of that text? Not this, but this. Do not be conformed, but be transformed. To use three points and a poem for this preaching passage makes no sense at all. There are two moves: not this, but this.

What about 1 John 1:9? Here we see an idea explained. What happens when we confess our sins to God? Search for a plural noun that will be appropriate based on the context. Is the passage speaking about problems? Challenges? Concerns? Consider the passage: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NKJV). What plural noun works for you? Results? Blessings? I prefer the plural noun “blessings.” What blessings come when we confess our sins to God? The first blessing is forgiveness. The second blessing is cleansing. Don’t add a third or fourth blessing or a few thoughts about faithful stewardship. The form of the sermon is clear—an idea explained with two main moves

A popular sermon form in the 21st century is narrative. People enjoy listening to stories. But even a story needs structure. What should be included in the story? What should be omitted? You can share the narrative in the third-person where you retell the story, or in the first-person where you relive the story.

Consider Romans 6:23. The preaching passage presents a problem and a solution—two main moves. To add a third move is confusing. You may add sub-moves under the problem. For example, you might speak about the problem of sin in our world and also focus in on the problem of sin in our own lives.

Once you have a powerful preaching idea, a definite purpose in mind, and a clear sermon form, you are well on your way in the development of a powerful biblical sermon.


Jesus always used illustrations when sharing the truth of God with others.2 When sharing a story, make sure it is true and accurate or inform your hearers that this is a fictitious account. Only use illustrations that shed light on your preaching idea—anything else, however interesting, is a distraction. Use quotations sparingly, only when they come with a level of authority that adds strength to your message, or if they reinforce your preaching idea in a compelling and memorable way.


Your introduction should capture the attention of your hearers, connect with a felt need in your hearers, and introduce the body of the sermon. It must be powerful and intentional. You only have a few seconds to connect with your hearers. If you lose them here, you may never get them back. 


In your conclusion, you have several important objectives: summarize, apply, and appeal. Taking time with step #5 will help you when it comes time to craft your conclusion. What are you trying to accomplish? What changes in thoughts, feelings, or behaviors would you like to see in your hearers? Summarize your main moves and apply the message to your hearers. Your appeal should be clear, concise, and specific.


As you birth your manuscript, remember to write in an oral style. This is not an article or a dissertation. You are capturing an oral discourse with your future audience. Keep your hearers in mind as you select words and phrases. Remember you will need to repeat your preaching idea numerous times. You can also use restatement to reinforce that single dominant thought.


Walk through the sermon like a tour guide. Remember the main moves of your sermon, making sure you clearly emphasize your preaching idea. The goal is internalization, not memorization. Take note of lessons learned during your walk-through and edit your sermon manuscript. Think about how you will express your words, and not just what you will say. Walk through your sermon at least five times prior to preaching your sermon in public. During your walkthroughs, think of gestures and visual aids that will help you drive home your main idea. 

Do a 60-second walk-through right before you preach. What is important here? The preaching idea, the main moves of your sermon, your appeal, and finally your opening sentence. You want to stand up with a clear starting point as you begin one more walk-through of your internalized message.


Freedom from your manuscript will enable you to listen more attentively while you preach. First, listen to God. Recognize the Holy Spirit’s presence while you preach. Perhaps He will bring new insights to your mind regarding the preaching passage or new applications. Second, listen to your hearers. They will communicate with you, both verbally and non-verbally. Effective eye contact is essential. Make it clear by your body language that each listener is important. 

God wants you to be a powerful biblical preacher. He wants to anoint you by His Spirit to preach the Word with power. That won’t happen by accident. You must choose to cooperate with God in a process where His Word first changes your own life and then flows through you to change the lives of those around you.3

1 Eisegesis is the process of reading something into the text that you want it to say rather than doing exegesis where you allow the text to speak.
2 Matt. 13:34
3 For more helpful resources on powerful biblical preaching, go to

Derek Morris is editor of Ministry magazine and author of Powerful Biblical Preaching.

Derek Morris is editor of Ministry magazine and author of Powerful Biblical Preaching.