Passage Selection – Stage 1

A little milestone was reached yesterday as the hit counter passed 100k. So I thought I’d take some days to offer a brief summary of the 8 steps of sermon preparation, suggesting some links back to posts that are particularly relevant to each step. Remember, you can see all the posts related to stage 1 by clicking on the “Stage 1 – Passage Selection” button in the menu. Thanks for visiting this site!

Step 1 – Passage Selection

Before you can design a message, you need to have studied at least one passage on which to base the message. Before you can study, you have to select the passage. There are two issues to bear in mind at this step:

Issue 1 – Which passage will you preach? If you are mid-series, then the next passage is already chosen. If you are preaching a stand-alone message, then you have to pick a passage to preach on (perhaps influenced by the occasion, the needs of the congregation or even your personal motivation). So sometimes selecting a passage is not an issue at all, but issue 2 always matters . . .

Issue 2 – Are you studying a complete unit of thought? This is always important to double check. Once you have you passage, you need to make sure it is a complete unit of thought. It is often possible to study and preach two or more units of thought that stand together (for example, two gospel stories presented together, or multiple paragraphs in an epistle), but it is very risky to try and study or preach half a unit (half a psalm, half a proverb, half a speech, half a story, half a paragraph . . . half a thought!) So for each passage you decide to study and preach, be sure to give thought to the true beginning and end of the unit of thought.

Previously – Concerning the first issue, selecting a passage, here’s some advice on how to select a passage, and another one. This post suggests preaching series, and in some churches there’s the practical issue of multi-speaker series, see also part 2.

Now concerning issue 2, the complete unit of thought. Here’s a post in which I point out that we can’t simply rely on the chapter and verse divisions, we have to select our passage personally. There is some helpful advice here in a post on longer narratives. And the issue of preaching several passage is addressed in this post on topical preaching. Finally, two posts on why I suggest generally sticking in one passage: A low fence and part 2.

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