Sermon writing. It can be a weekly trudge through the mud. Sometimes the words flow and sometimes they have to be fought for. Every. Single. Word. And this isn’t just the case for people new to preaching. This can be the case for seasoned preaching veterans as well.
So if you have been struggling in sermon writing, understand this from the outset: you’re not alone.
Improvement in your sermon writing is absolutely possible. But the first step toward improving is to recognize what not to do. So let’s get into it.
Top 10 Mistakes Preachers Make in Sermon Writing
1. Don’t outline your thoughts. Just start writing.
If you want to ensure that writing your next sermon is going to be difficult – like going mudding in a smart car kind of difficult – then go ahead and just start writing that sermon without any plan as to how you should organize your thoughts.
2. Include, at minimum, 3,784 individual Bible verses.
Like a college freshman trying to load their paper up with quotes to hit the word count, just throw in as many verses as you possibly can. Make the exegesis of each text merely be another verse until you finally throw in 3 points and call it a day.
3. Keep illustrations to a bare minimum. Maybe just don’t include them at all.
Jesus taught through storytelling. But hey, you’re not Jesus so don’t even bother. After all, everyone is already thinking of two or three illustrations from their weekend that perfectly illustrate the text in their minds already.
4. Whatever you do, don’t build tension into the sermon.
Everyday, we live with tension. Every story is littered with tension points that build and build and build. The best stories? They’re filled with tension. The worst stories? There’s no tension at all. Tension. It motivates us. It captures our attention. But tension has no place in a sermon.
5. Assume everyone knows that Bible passage you’re referencing.
Of course, biblical literacy has been on a nose-dive but that doesn’t affect your people. Especially those first-time guests you have over there in the left section halfway back. They know the story of Korah. You don’t need to explain it, set it in context, or even give it a second thought. Use it as an illustration, a teaching point, or even make your application something like, don’t be like Korah!
6. Presume everyone knows the significance of “Jesus died for you.”
They get it. That’s all you need to say. I mean, sure, the New Testament writers saw it a point to remind people who already followed Jesus of the significance of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension, but that was then and this is now. Don’t explain why it’s significant. They already know.
Oh, and those people who are attending church for the first time? Jesus died for you certainly is a sufficient gospel message. Why did he die for me? Hopefully they’ll come up front during invitation time and find out.
7. Write without transitions. Just yank the steering wheel abruptly.
Everyone understands. You’ve got places to get to. This one sermon “trip” has ten destinations and you need to get to each one in due time. So instead of putting your turn signal on, slowing down, and letting people anticipate where you’re going, just start turning while pulling the emergency break and then smash the gas.
The casting director for the next Fast and the Furious will be calling in no time.
8. Avoid humor at all costs.
That funny story? Don’t include it. That funny one-liner, steer clear of that one. After all, humor is so unholy and no one really likes it anyway. It’s definitely not something to work at if you want people to listen to you.
9. Write your sermon like you would write a paper.
After all, everyone will read your sermon…
10. Write a lot of words without boiling it down to one sticky bottom line.
There’s nothing better than helping people wonder what they’re supposed to take away from your message. When you don’t even know your own take away from what you’re writing, you can bet your bottom dollar that your hearers will be even more confused.
Want Some Sermon Writing Help?
If some of the above sermon writing mistakes hit too close to home, here are a few helpful and less sarcastic pieces of content to check out:
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