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Spirit throughout. Ultimately, we can do nothing without the His leadership and direction in our life. Good preaching… no, great preaching is ultimately repeating God’s thoughts after Him.

10 Proven Steps That Will Take Your Sermon From Good to Great: A Step-By-Step Manual

We want to be able to say, “Thus sayeth the Lord.” Not “thus sayeth Randall.”

I’m a firm believer that good habits lead to good preaching.

I feel like Moses who said to God, “If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place. 16 How will anyone know that you look favorably on me—on me and on your people—if you don’t go with us? For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.” (Exodus 33:15-16, NLT).   That’s the pastor’s predicament. If God ain’t in it, we might as well not even try.     With that being said, let’s unpack how to create a sermon from start to finish.  

You need to develop a reproducible plan of attack each and every week as you prepare sermons. Pastors who have a systematic plan on how to write sermons tend to preach quality ones week after week after week. Without this plan, we depend too much on inspiration hopefully to come from a thousand different directions. One week we’re up because the sermon came together so naturally. The following week we’re in the depths of despair because we have no direction, no inspiration.

Step 1: Begin at the Beginning

We used the Bible for both sermons. No matter WHERE you are, THERE you are.

We prayed for God’s guidance as we prepared both sermons.

Sermons don’t happen by accident. They don’t magically appear.

So why is the quality in one sermon so different than the next?

You have to start at the beginning. Here lies the answer to our question. Without a consistent method of sermon creation, we cannot maintain consistently high sermon quality.

What’s the beginning? You got to pick a text of the Bible. Don’t be afraid of the Bible. Use it as the anchor for your message. The Bible is where you will receive your message. Don’t look for it in other places. Commit yourself to be a man or woman of the Bible. Commit yourself to exegetical preaching.

If that’s been your struggle… everything’s about to change. Here’s a proven basic plan of attack. Here’s a powerful sermon creation strategy.

Yes, I know that’s a fancy, theological word. Exegetical. It means “to draw out of.”

Before I go any further, let me say this. This whole process assumes the role of God’s



It basically means to let the Bible speak for itself. We don’t bring our sermon ideas TO the Bible. We let the Bible bring its ideas TO us.

If you’re reading Psalm 51. Write down your questions. Anything you don’t know, write it down. For example if Psalm 51 was your passage you might want to know:

We draw our sermon OUT OF the Bible. Exegesis does not mean “EXIT JESUS.” (Insert laughter here).

“What did David do that was so bad?” “David wants God to blot out his sins. Is ‘blot out’ the same as forgive?”

This may sound obvious, the idea of picking a Bible passage to serve as the anchor text of a sermon, but you may be shocked at HOW OFTEN HOW LITTLE Bible actually makes it into some sermons.

“What is hyssop and why would David mention it?” “How have his bones been crushed?”

Don’t be one of those preachers. Ask any question about the passage that you need answered.

I recommend two basic ways to pick a text for your sermon:

At this point you don’t even need to find the answers. You just need to write down the right questions. Think about it this way, if you as the pastor or teacher have these questions about the passage, chances are your congregation will have similar questions as well.

(1) Work through a book of the Bible. Last week you covered Matthew 6:1-4. This week you cover Matthew 6:5-15. You get the point. (2) Look at congregational needs and find a central Scripture that speaks to that need.

So, in a way, you are asking questions for them too.

If some in your church have troubled marriages, then find a section of the Bible that speaks to marriage and use that as your anchor text.

Step 3: Track Down Answers in the Right Places This is where you begin to find answers.

Lots of tools exist to help you find appropriate passages.

This is the fun part.

Step 2: List the Questions You Have About the Passage

You can find your answers in 3 basic areas: (1) Context

The quickest way to understand a passage is to list all the questions you have about it.

You’d be amazed at how many of your questions you can find answers to by just reading the Bible! Seriously, read the



chapter or two that surround your sermon passage. You’ll find answers.

This step is not so much for study purposes. It’s not so much for you to understand the passage. It’s for you to use in your sermon a bit later. This is where you will find the Biblical information that you will use in your sermon.

(2) Commentaries Not all commentaries are worth their weight in gold. There are 3 or 4 different kinds of commentaries. In other resources I explain: • What are the different kinds of commentaries? • What commentaries to read and what NOT to read • How to find the commentaries that will help you the most • How to find your answers QUICKLY

The second building block is the Timeless Truth Outline. This building block may only take a matter of 2-3 minutes. It often comes very quickly. This is where you distill the timeless principles from the Biblical Outline you just created.

This step can be a colossal time-waster. So be careful. Make sure you’re reading quality commentaries.

For example, say the main point of your Biblical outline is this: GOD TOLD ABRAHAM TO GO TO THE LAND GOD WOULD SHOW HIM.

(3) Bible Dictionaries That’s historical. It’s talking about Abraham. Now you need to understand the timeless principle for all generations.

Bible dictionaries are great (if you get the right ones) because they focus on individual topics. Say Jesus talks about “belief” in your sermon passage. Well, a Bible dictionary will break that down in precise detail about all that “belief” entails.

As you look at that you create the Timeless Truth Outline. Let’s say you decide the main timeless principle is this: FOLLOWING GOD OFTEN INVOLVES RISK.

Good stuff.

That’s step 4.

Step 4: Create the First Two Building Blocks of the Sermon

Step 5: Find the Main Point

You will have 3 basic building blocks of your sermon. You create the first two at this step.

You need to know the main point of your sermon. It will help you GREATLY in a few steps from now. It will help you create strong, engaging sermon introductions. Trust me in this.

The first building block is a Biblical Outline. This is where you outline the basic flow of biblical thought of your sermon passage. Don’t get lost in small details here. Keep it broad strokes.

Look at your Timeless Truth Outline. That’s where you will find the main point of your sermon.



Once you decide on the main point, you MUST take it one step further. Again, trust me in this. You will need it to create a powerful introduction.

You can easily think of some: • “The church just wants my money!” • “I can’t afford to tithe.” • “Tithing is Old Testament law. We don’t need to tithe.”

Once you find the main point of your sermon, you must ask, “What is the main question that this main point answers?”

You need to reference those questions in your sermon… and answer them!

For example, Say your main point is “Following God often involves risk.”

By the way, this question provides tons of energy to a sermon.

What question does that statement answer? (3) Where does it show up in real life? When you have that… you can move to step 6.

Anything where people may wonder, “Ok pastor, what would it look like to obey that scripture? Or where does this truth show up at my work or my family?” then make sure you show them the answers to that.

Step 6: Create the Last Building Block by asking 3 Magic Questions

Step 7: Integrate the 3 Building Blocks to Create Your Sermon Outline

Where do you find content to put in the sermon? Easy. Ask these 3 questions:

This is where you start to see the fruit of your labor. Take the 3 building blocks and begin to draw from each of them.

(1) What does it mean? Anything in the Biblical outline or Timeless Truth Outline that people would go, “Huh? What does that mean?”…. make sure you answer that in the sermon.

Do you remember what they are? Building Block #1: Biblical Outline Building Block #2: Timeless Truth Outline Building Block #3: The Magic Questions

(2) Is it true? Anything that people may wonder, “Is that really true? Or, I know the Bible says that but...” make sure you address those objections.

You will create a sermon outline that capitalizes on each of these. Your biblical content will come from the building block #1. Your timeless principles will come from building block #2. Your contemporary relevance will come from building block #3.

For example, say your passage teaches about giving a tithe of our finances to the local church. Ask yourself, “What potential objections will my listeners have when I say that?”



Conclusions need to do 2 things:

Step 8: Use the Secrets to Guarantee an Interesting Introduction

They need to review. They need to pass the baton.

Remember when I said you needed to find the QUESTION that your main sermon point answers? Here’s where you will use it!

At the end of the message you typically need to remind the listeners what the main point(s) of the sermon was. You need to remind them, “Following God often involves risk.”

The way to open your sermon is by raising the question that your main sermon point will eventually answer.

Of course, as you review you’ll want to say more than one sentence. But you get the point.

For example, let’s say your sermon’s main point is, “Human beings are created in the image of God.”

Next, a conclusion needs to transition your listeners to “What’s next?” Your sermon conclusion should point them in the next, natural direction they should take this message. It encourages them to “Go and do likewise!”

Next, we’ve decided that the main question that the main point answers is this: “Why are humans so special to God?”

Step 10: Use the Tricks to Titling

That’s how you open your introduction. There are 4 basic steps you must do in order to create an effective sermon introduction. We don’t have time to go into those details at the moment but make sure you probe the main question in your introduction.

Sermon titles are important. They are important because they can be an effective hook to encourage people to show up next week to hear the message. Your congregation should always know what the upcoming Sunday sermon title is BEFORE they arrive on Sunday morning.

Something like this, “Some have argued that no life on earth is more important than another. It sounds reasonable at first glance. But some push this logic further. They say all life is equally valuable whether it’s a human life, or a tree or a dog or an elephant or a whale. But the Bible teaches that humans have great worth to God. Humans have a special worth to God. Why? What makes humans so different from the rest of creation? The writer of the first book of the Bible gives us some insight here…”

Now, some titles cause people NOT to show up. So make sure you create the right kind of sermon title. In your sermon titles… Always emphasize the DISEASE not the REMEDY. Always emphasize the QUESTION not the ANSWER.

Step 9: Create the Right Conclusion



Don’t give away the answer to your sermon in the title. You want the title to raise questions, NOT answer them. For example, these are compelling sermon titles that will cause people to WANT TO SHOW UP TO FIND THE ANSWER… • • • • • • • •

What Does the Bible Teach About Birth Control? What’s the Worst Sin of All? When God Forgives But Doesn’t Forget Does the Bible Command Us to Go Green? How Does Temptation Do It’s Work? What Makes Us So Special? How Can I Overcome Roadblocks to Belief? What Does the Bible Teach About Angels?

Well, there you have it! These are “The 10 Steps That Will Take Your Sermon From Good To Great.” Use these each and every time you create a sermon and you will see your sermon batting average increase greatly! The more you use them, the better you will become with them. Go and preach the Gospel!

Your Bonus Training Modules Start On The Next Page…



rehabbed from a career-threatening injury to win the Super Bowl. They may hold our interest, but they do nothing to help your listeners see how the biblical truth you’re illustrating shows up in their lives

Bonus Training Module #1 – Are You Killing Your Sermon By Doing This? I hardly ever use sermon illustrations anymore.

(Unless they are a Hollywood actress, work for NASA or are in the Super Bowl).

I use something much better. Most of the time illustrations hurt your message more than help it.

A better way to go is to use APPLICATIONS instead of ILLUSTRATIONS.

Most illustrations take life from the sermon, instead of give it.

I’m not talking about giving three “application points” at the end of your sermon.

So, your illustrations are probably killing your sermon...

• • •

Donald Sunukjian describes illustrations as a picture from an area outside our personal lives.

Step 1 do this. Step 2 do this. Step 3 do this.

Again, Sunukjian talks about how SERMON APPLICATIONS picture a specific scenario in your listeners’ lives that is equivalent to the one that the biblical author is talking about.

An illustration of perseverance would be to tell the story of how a man endured freezing temperatures, sickness, and despair to win the Alaskan 1000-mile dogsled race. Your hearers might like the story but it does very little to help them.

Let’s say you’re talking about when we face new problems it is easy for us to forget how God helped with us with our old problems.

It doesn’t show them how to apply perseverance to their own lives.

You could illustrate that concept by telling a story about the Civil War or Alaskan dogsleds or even GPS technology.

You might think, “Well, all I have to do is use contemporary stories.”

But that would have limited value. But many of the contemporary stories that make it into our sermons are completely irrelevant to most of our listeners.

Instead of a sermon ILLUSTRATION… try giving a sermon APPLICATION here.

You can tell a modern story about Hollywood, or the thrust system on a NASA spacecraft or how a professional athlete

Show your listeners how this biblical truth shows up in THEIR lives.



technology, orphans in the 18th century or the winning shot in a basketball game.

In the sermon you could say: Let’s say you and your husband are in a difficult patch in your marriage.

It works because your listeners hear it and think,

You feel betrayed because he’s piled up a huge amount of credit card debt. And he’s been hiding it from you.

“Yeah, something like that has happened to me.” Use LESS sermon illustrations and MORE sermon applications.

You think to yourself:

If you do, you will have more and more people showing up to listen.

“I wonder what else he’s been hiding from me. I thought I knew him. I’m so upset right now. I can’t believe he’s betrayed my trust like this.

I just don’t know if we have what it takes to make it through this. Do I even want to be with him anymore?”


But it wasn’t that long ago you wondered: “Am I going to be single for the rest of my life? God, are you ever going to send the right man for me?” And he did. You got married. God brought you someone to share your life with. And now you, and the man God sent you, are going thru a difficult season. Now you’re facing a new problem… and it is easy to forget how God helped you with your last problem. That application will hold your listeners’ interest far more than some illustration about



If you do this I guarantee one thing: You will hold their attention for the entire sermon.

Bonus Training Module #2 – How To Triple The Effectiveness of Your Sermon

And you won’t be dependent on funny stories or cheap jokes to do this.

Often pastors believe as long as they just have biblical material in their sermons then that’s all it takes to make a message effective.

There are several very specific and important steps you need to take here.

But is that really true? I think you know it’s not.

But let me give you at least one you must do if you want people to listen.

If that’s the case, then why can the same pastors preach from the same scripture passage - both have lots of biblical information –but end up with much different results?

ALWAYS ANSWER THE QUESTION: “What does this biblical truth I’m preaching about look like in real life?” Your congregation hears your sermons and wonders:

After hearing one sermon, people say, “Wow. God really helped me! I never saw that before in that passage.”

But after hearing a different sermon on the same passage they may say, “I know it is God’s Word, but I really had troubling following pastor today.”

Am I supposed to tell my son to turn the other cheek when he’s being bullied at school?

Let’s be honest. We’ve all heard sermons that were hard to listen to. Some of the ones that had trouble keeping our interest may have even had lots of biblical information.

What would it look like to honor my father even though I don’t want my children around him because he’s such a bad influence?

What would it actually look like to obey this scripture at the office with the guy who’s constantly telling dirty jokes?

So what was the problem? What is it that can move a sermon beyond just conveying biblical information to causing transformation?

They hear your sermon and constantly ask, “What would obeying this scripture look like in real life?”

The single most important thing to do is to

If you do this consistently, you will see the effectiveness and level of interest in your sermons increase dramatically.




You’ll be shocked at how this changes everything. There are several things you can do that will make this step MUCH, MUCH easier. But enough for now. More on that later. I want you to take this incredibly valuable information and put it to use in your next sermon. You'll see the impact your message has on your congregation.



it takes a whole lot less convincing to get them to show up to hear your next sermon.

Bonus Training Module #3 – How To Attract People To Show Up To Hear Your Message.

So preach good sermons. Through the resources on the website and in this manual, I will teach you the steps to create biblical and relevant messages that will increase your preaching potential.

You know the riddle: “If a tree falls in the forest but no one is there to hear it, did it make a sound?”

Attracting people to show up to hear your message isn’t complicated once you have the habit of consistently preaching effective messages.

You could ask the same thing of a sermon. If you preach a sermon but no one is there to hear it, did you really say anything?

I spell this out in great detail in an upcoming product, but here’s a snapshot.

Let’s face it. You could preach the greatest sermon in history, but if people aren’t there to hear it, it won’t make much difference.

Here’s what you do to encourage your congregation to show up next Sunday to hear the message:

Believe it or not, attracting people to show up to hear your message isn’t that difficult.

1. Use the current Sunday and the following week to promo the next Sunday’s sermon.

It doesn’t even take a lot of effort. I’ll tell you how to do this in a moment. But before I do let me state the obvious: the greatest way to attract people to show up to hear your messages is to develop the habit of preaching great sermons.

In your bulletin, announcement slides/videos, congregation sermon notes, etc. put a brief (just a few sentences) snapshot at what question or issue next week’s sermon will tackle.

If the previous 52 (or 102, or 300, or whatever) sermons were good, it makes it much easier to convince people to come hear your next sermon.

Later during the week use email or text or facebook or twitter, etc. to remind the congregation again.

Here’s a good rule of thumb:

2. Emphasize the DISEASE not the REMEDY when you promote the sermon.

The ease of getting people to show up for your NEXT sermon is directly proportional to the quality of your LAST sermon.

This is key. If you don’t do this, your promotion and communication will actually accomplish the exact opposite of what you want.

The point is this: If your congregation is used to hearing messages that are biblical, clear and relevant



Many pastors promote their sermon in ways that actually cause LESS people, not more, to show up the following Sunday.

What makes it even more awkward is that the entire church got to watch.

In their sermon title and promotional communications, many pastors mistakenly give away the answer, the solution, or the remedy to the problem that their sermon covers.

This ought to be good. Emphasize the disease instead of the remedy… and people will show up to hear what answer the Bible provides.

DON'T DO THIS. There You Have It! Start Implementing The Strategies You’ve Learned and You Will Be On Your Way To Taking Your Sermon From Good To Great!

It’s the anticipation, the question, the wondering of discovering the answer to the problem that attracts people to the message. Here are some examples that have worked effectively for me: •

This Sunday at 10:30AM: What does the Bible say about suicide?

Do those who commit it ever have hope to be in heaven?

We'll try to answer these difficult questions and others as we study the 6th Commandment: "Do Not Murder."

The Bible says to honor our parents. But how does that change as we grow older?

And what if your parents are manipulative? Or toxic? Or mean? Or hurt you badly growing up?

Your Sermon Coach, Randall Garing

We'll dig into all these questions Sunday at 10:30am. •

There's no other way to say it... this Sunday we're going to talk about when the two most influential leaders in the early church, Peter and Paul, have a confrontation.


Take Your Sermon From Good To Great  

The 10 Proven Steps That Will Take Your Sermon From Good To Great

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