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4 Critical Questions Before Writing Your Sermon

Every Good Message Begins With Thinking About The Questions First

Over the last thirty years, I’ve spoken in some capacity—whether teaching or worship leading—in well over four-thousand church services because of multiple services on the weekends. I’ve spent the bulk of my life trying to learn to communicate the good news of Jesus. And I still feel like a neophyte despite Gladwell’s “10,000 hours” theory of mastery.

Before crafting a message, I’d ask myself 4 critical questions:

1. What’s the form? If it’s topic-driven, I study as many scriptures as possible relating to the subject…via memory, word searches and conversations. If its text-driven, I want the passage to preach itself: what did the author intend, what was the context, who was it written for, and what’s our cultural application?

2. What is the one action-oriented “take-away” I want the listener to get? I’m convinced that listeners can’t assimilate multiple points into any actionable follow-up. So what is the One Thing I want them to leave with? In other words: what is God saying to you in this message and what are you going to do about it?

3. Who is my audience? I considered the wide spectrum of people listening, such as:

  • Demographics. How will the single mom, factory worker, or executive hear this?

  • Political spectrum. Don’t assume a monolithic political view in your audience. As Andy Stanley says, “I’d rather make a difference than a point.”

  • Age. Consider the average age of your audience; what references will they understand and what’s their generational bias in terms of style.

  • Cultures. I once watched Tony Evans masterfully speak to a group of white leaders with their notepads and pens poised. He spoke in a style radically different from his own church, accurately assessing how they would best hear him.

  • And even if your church isn’t diverse, you’re probably podcasting or posting audio on your website. Please, please, please consider your potentially wider audience…and don’t embarrass the Body of Christ with an offhanded, insensitive remark.

4. During the writing of the message, I have to consciously slow down my brain and ask, “Father, what do you really want to say this weekend?” It sounds simple, but that would calm my furious keystroking and spare me from many a rabbit trail.

And last, remember this:

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7 (New International Version)

You’ve either got a great podiatrist or a calling from God, my friend.

Dave Workman | Elemental Churches


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