How I Write a Sermon: Research

Ah, this is where it all comes together.  Depending on the passage, the research time might be difficult and strenuous, or it will fit together perfectly.  You never know.  I have a pretty standard process that I work through:

  • I begin by reading the context around the passage.  I read the entire chapter, and sometimes the chapter before and after to get a sense of how this story fits into the overall narrative.
  • I also read the text in a few different translations and note any big differences.  I tend to start with the TNIV and then gravitate to the NAS, NLT, ESV, Message, and sometimes the King James.
  • From there I move to Logos – an awesome computer bible study program.
  • In Logos, I find the passage in a Greek/English interlinear text.  This takes the greek version and roughly translates each word below the Greek word.  For the major words, I look them up in a couple of different resources: The Theological Dictionary of The New Testament, Strongs Concordance, and the Dictionary of Biblical Languages.  Side Note-I’m no greek scholar, and I probably only know enough to make me dangerous.  I try not to rely too heavily on anything I pull from the Greek because I’m simply not skilled enough.  If I have a serious question, I’ll call one of my smart friends.
  • The commentaries are pretty limited on Logos, but I’ll use what is there.  My favorite commentary series are the NIV Application Commentary and Interpretation.  Sometimes I’ll borrow The New Interpreter’s Bible or the Ancient Practices commentary from Kyle.
  • Once I’ve gotten an idea of the major themes of the passage, I’ll scan through my Google Reader and see if any blogs I follow have touched on the subject, or I’ll look through my Kindle notes and see if I have a highlight that lines up with the text.
  • Honestly, I spend a long time standing in front of my bookshelf scanning the books that I’ve read, trying to remember if I have read anything on the subject.
  • By now, I should have a couple of pages of notes scattered throughout notepads, sticky notes, a Google Doc, and any other piece of paper that was laying around my desk.

In a good week, I can usually spend a solid day or two gathering up resources, reading, re-reading, and meditating on the passage.  On a bad week, this gets compressed which usually makes the next part (forming the talk) much more difficult.


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