Building bridges, bringing diverse people together to become the body of Christ is my vocation.
I am a bridge builder who reaches across theological, geographical, and cultural divides to relate to people and pastors in many different kinds of situations, always bringing people closer to each other and closer to God. I am someone who listens deeply and responds out of a recognition of God’s giftedness in each and every person before me. I am someone who cares widely and looks for ways to be attentive to God’s ever-abundant grace in our midst.
Resources for your Ministry: Capturing Sermon Ideas
Capturing Sermon Ideas
By Wallace S. Hartsfield II, Ph.D.
Fred E. Young Associate Professor of Hebrew Bible
Capturing sermon ideas can prove to be an elusive exercise for any preacher. Without a method that clearly focuses, samples, and locates theological impressions; preachers often find themselves unable to articulate preaching inspirations and stimulations. This inability to successfully bring to fruition sermon ideas tends to impair the subsequent sermon preparation and delivery process. It is with this challenge in mind that I offer a resource for capturing sermon ideas that is based upon personal reflection and experience as professor and preacher.
Defining a Sermon Idea
A sermon idea is the by-product of a creative theological encounter between a preacher and a text (biblical or any communication event) in a particular time and space. It is the sermon impetus generated as a result of this encounter that needs to be captured and utilized as the foundation for hermeneutical and homiletical development of the sermon.
More simply stated, a sermon idea is the seed from which the sermon burgeons. It is not to be confused with the sermon itself but rather the governing impetus for a sermon. Encapsulated within the sermon idea is the potential for development of a theological claim(s), which lies at the heart of the preaching task. While the task of capturing a sermon idea is often taken for granted or relegated to that of an unconscious activity, an understanding and articulation of this preaching motivation gives precision to the overall process of sermon preparation and delivery.
Components of a Sermon Idea
Textual Focus – the inspiration behind the sermon. I am meditating on…
This is captured with an accurate determination of the text with which the preacher is fascinated. Setting aside a moment to meditate on this matter provides an opportunity for the preacher to sift between the many texts she or he may be engaging and zeroing in on the one, or combination of, text(s) that is the actual source of inspiration. Failure to capture this textual source of inspiration may be misleading to the hearer
Textual Inquiry – specific questioning of the content of the focal text. …because I want to know…
The textual inquiry articulates the preacher’s theological engagement with the text. The positing of this particular question helps to delimit and focus interpretive explorations of the preacher during the sermon preparation phase. With this question in mind, the preacher will not just engage in a general examination of the text, but rather an investigation based upon a particular inquiry.
Textual Relevance – the stimulation behind the sermon. …in order to understand…
This is captured with a theological rationale that sets forth contemporary implications of responding to the textual inquiry of the focal text. Understanding and articulating textual relevance of the focal text is necessary for the development of a theological claim. The theological claim is a theologically relevant response to the textual inquiry.
How It Comes Together
Formulating a statement with the three phrases above forces the preacher to clearly and succinctly state the motivation behind any given sermon.
Focus – I am meditating on……….
Inquiry – because I want to know………..
Rationale – in order to understand……… .
A couple of examples of sermon ideas are:
Focus I am meditating on Psalm 23:4
Inquiry because I want to know why the rod, in addition to the staff, of the shepherd is
depicted as comforting
Rationale in order to understand possible connections between discipline and comfort.
Focus I am meditating on Mark 1:9-15
Inquiry because I want to know what, if any, is the Gospel’s significance of Jesus’
temptation following his baptism and preceding his ministry.
Rationale in order to understand the pivotal role of testing between that of discipleship
Capturing sermon ideas does require effort and practice; however, it can prove to be meaningful in the ongoing development of a preacher. It is a helpful way of planning and projecting a variety of sermons. While not the definitive method, this resource a way to challenge you as a preacher not to take for granted the preparation and delivery of a sermon without first capturing the sermon idea behind the sermon.