Where Do Sermons Come From?

People often ask me where ideas for messages — and even the messages themselves — come from.

I even get asked if the Methodist Church gives its pastors the topics to address each week (the answer to that is a most definite “no.”)

So where do sermons come from?

For some pastors, sermon subjects come directly from the Lectionary, which is an assigned selection of Scripture readings each week. One reading from the Old Testament, one from the New, and one from the Gospels. Pastors who use the lectionary typically then choose one of the three as the basis for a sermon. If you grew up in either the Episcopal Church or the Roman Catholic Church — well, that’s how your priests chose their sermon topics. Today, many if not most United Methodist pastors use the lectionary as well.

I tried it for my first six months of pastoring — way back in 1990! But I quickly realized that my mind worked better in series . . . and I believe people listen better in series as well.

So these days, I keep an on-going list of possible series. I try to alternate series that are horizontal (dealing with relational issues in our daily lives) with those that are vertical (dealing primarily with our relationship with God). Top Secret, for example, is more of a horizontal series. The next series, to be called Without Limit, is, as you’ll see, a decidedly vertical one.

My favorite series are those which are based on a particular book of the Bible, but see that book through an unexpected lens. For example, Oddballs was based primarily on I Peter and NUMB3RS was an entirely new way of looking at the book of Revelation.

We’ve already planned out the series for 2009 — if I’m not working way ahead, I’m in trouble.

Getting back to the original question . . . where do sermons come from? Whatever the style, whatever the preparation, whether lectionary or series, my ultimate prayer is that they come from God. And that I am open enough to be used in that way.

Tomorrow, I’ll touch on how with God’s help I get a message out of a particular passage of Scripture.