February 2, 2024

A Detailed Guide To Preparing A Topical Sermon

This guide aims to equip speakers, whether novice or seasoned, with a structured approach to preparing a topical sermon that is both biblical and relevant. The goal is to provide the tools and insights necessary for sermons that not only inform but transform. 

Stephen Altrogge

Delivering a powerful sermon that resonates with your audience requires both spiritual insight and practical preparation. Crafting a topical sermon, in particular, involves selecting a specific theme or subject and exploring it in depth, drawing from various passages of scripture to provide a comprehensive perspective.

This guide aims to equip speakers, whether novice or seasoned, with a structured approach to preparing a topical sermon that is both biblical and relevant. The goal is to provide the tools and insights necessary for sermons that not only inform but transform

What's The Difference Between A Topical Sermon and An Expository Sermon?

A topical sermon seeks to examine what the Bible has to say about a specific topic. It usually includes Bible verses from multiple places in the Bible, all of which are related to and support the primary topic.

An expository sermon, on the other hand, focuses on a specific passage of Scripture and seeks to explain its meaning and relevance to the original audience and present-day listeners. It delves deep into the context, historical background, and original language of the text.

A topical sermon might discuss the subject of love, and include Bible verses like 1 John 4:8, John 3:16, and 1 Corinthians 13 to support the message. Expository preaching might focus on a specific passage like Matthew 5:43-48 and explore the cultural context of Jesus' teaching on loving one's enemies.

Both types of sermons can be effective in conveying biblical truth and challenging listeners, but they have different approaches and purposes.

You might preach an expository sermon as part of an expository sermon series on a particular book of the Bible. For example, if you are preaching through the book of Romans, you will eventually speak about Romans 8:28, which says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

This passage is a prime opportunity to preach an expository sermon on the sovereignty and goodness of God.

On the other hand, a topical sermon might be more appropriate for a special event or specific issue that needs to be addressed within the church community. For example, you might preach on God's control over all things and reference Romans 8:28 within the sermon, along with numerous other Bible verses.

How To Prepare A Topical Sermon

Now that we're all on the same page regarding the difference between topical and expository sermons, let's walk through the process of creating a topical sermon.

Step 1: Select Your Topic

Obviously, the first step in topical preaching is selecting your topic. There are a number of factors that should be considered when selecting a topic.

First, consider the needs of your church. Are there issues or struggles that need to be addressed? Is there a particular topic that is relevant and timely for the congregation?

For example, say your church is trying to raise money for a particular cause. You could preach on the importance of generosity and giving, as well as appeal to your congregation to give in support of the cause.

Second, consider what is happening in the world. Are there current events or cultural trends that are worth addressing through a sermon? For example, you could preach on the biblical perspective of marriage and family in light of changing societal norms.

Third, consider your own strengths and passions. As a pastor, you likely have certain topics that you are particularly passionate about or knowledgeable about. Use these as opportunities to share your expertise with the congregation.

Lastly, prayerfully seek guidance from the Holy Spirit. As you spend time in prayer and meditation, ask God to reveal a topic that will effectively speak to your congregation. Ask Him to lead you to the right topic. God loves your church and you can be confident that He will do that.

Step 2: Research and Study

Once you've selected your topic, you need to start doing research and study about that topic. Specifically, you need to explore what the Bible says about the topic.

Start by reading relevant passages in the Bible and taking notes on key points and themes. You may want to select a primary text or verse to base your topical sermon on.

Next, research other resources such as commentaries, articles, and books that provide additional insight and understanding on the topic. It can also be helpful to gather real-life examples or stories that illustrate the message you want to convey.

If you are able to read the original Greek or Hebrew texts, it can also be beneficial to explore the original meanings and cultural context of certain words or phrases in your selected passages. This can add depth and richness to your sermon.

Don't be afraid to utilize technology in your research and study as well. Tools like Sermonly can help you identify relevant texts, dig deeper into specific topics, and organize your notes and resources for easy reference during sermon preparation.

Remember, the goal of research and study is not just to gather information, but to gain understanding and insight that will allow you to effectively communicate God's message to your church. So pray for wisdom and guidance as you dive into this important step in preparing a powerful topical sermon.

Step 3: Craft Your Introduction

Your introduction is an important part of your sermon. It sets the tone for the rest of your message and captures your audience's attention.

Some ways to craft a strong introduction include:

  • Starting with a relevant quote or statistic related to your topic
  • Sharing a personal story or experience that connects you to the topic
  • Asking thought-provoking questions that engage your listeners
  • Providing context and background information on the topic

Your sermon introduction should also give your congregation a sense of the direction the sermon is headed. You don't necessarily have to lay out every point that you're going to make, but you should give them a general idea of where you're going.

Another important aspect of crafting an effective introduction is to make it relatable to your audience. Consider who your listeners are and what they may be struggling with or interested in. This will help you connect with them on a personal level and make your message more impactful.

Remember to keep your introduction concise and avoid going off on tangents. It should serve as a preview for the rest of your sermon, not take up the majority of your time.

Step 4: Defining The Main Points

After you've done a fair amount of research and study, it's time to begin outlining the main points of your topical sermon.

Start by determining the main point, or proposition statement of your sermon. This is the overarching message that you want your congregation to take away from your sermon. It is the essence of all your research and study distilled into one concise statement. 

Next, break down the main point into several sub-points or supporting themes. These points should support and reinforce your main point, providing further understanding and clarity for your audience. 

Ideally, every point should have at least one scripture supporting it, if not more. You want your church to see that what you're teaching is rooted in the Word of God, not your own opinion.

Seek to arrange your points in a logical and cohesive manner, building upon each other to lead your audience towards the main point. This structure will help your congregation follow along and understand the progression of your sermon.

For each sub-point that you make, ask yourself Does this support the primary point that I am making? If not, consider revising or removing it as it may detract from the overall message.

As you are working through the points of your sermon, don't forget to include practical application. Help your congregation draw connections between the biblical truths and their daily lives. This will give your sermon a personal touch and make it more relevant to your audience.

Step 5: Illustrating The Message

An important aspect of any sermon is using illustrations or examples to help bring the message to life. These can be personal anecdotes, stories from the Bible, or even current events that tie into your main point.

Illustrations help capture your congregation's attention and make the message more relatable. They also serve as a way to reinforce your points and make them more memorable. However, it is important to use illustrations purposefully so they do not distract from the main message.

When choosing illustrations, consider your audience and what would resonate with them. Use a variety of examples to appeal to different demographics within your congregation. Also, be mindful of the timing and flow of your sermon when incorporating illustrations - they should enhance and support your points, not interrupt or derail them.

Lastly, always make sure that your illustrations align with biblical truth and do not contradict any of your previous points. Your goal is to help your congregation better understand and apply the message, not confuse or mislead them. Use illustrations wisely to bring depth and clarity to your sermon.

Step 6: Create Your Conclusion

The conclusion of your sermon should be more than just a recap of the points you made in your sermon. Rather, it should tie your entire sermon together and leave your congregation with a clear and impactful message to take with them. 

You can use this time to challenge your congregation to reflect on how they can apply the message to their daily lives and encourage them to take action. Additionally, you can end with a prayer or a call to action for your congregation to respond in some way, such as by committing to making a change or seeking further guidance from God.

Remember that the conclusion is not the end of your sermon - it is just the beginning of how your congregation will continue to grow and apply the message in their lives. As you end your sermon, trust in God's guidance and continue to pray for your congregation to be transformed by His word. 

Step 7: Polish Your Sermon

After you have an outline of your sermon, go back through it and polish it up. Look for any points that are not totally clear or any transitions that aren't smooth. Make sure your illustrations are relevant and impactful. 

You can also add in any additional scripture references or quotes to strengthen your points. Remember to keep your language simple and accessible to all members of your congregation, avoiding overly complex or academic language.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you polish your sermon:

  • Are all points clear?
  • Are all points supported by relevant Bible verses?
  • Does the sermon connect to Jesus Christ and the gospel in some way?
  • Is it encouraging for the Christians in my church?
  • Does the sermon outline flow nicely from one point to the next? 
  • Is the language appropriate and easy to understand for all members of my congregation? 

Lastly, practice delivering your sermon out loud to ensure that it flows well and fits within the allotted time for your service. By taking the time to polish your sermon, you can ensure that your message is delivered effectively and leaves a lasting impact on your congregation.

Final Thoughts On Preparing Topical Sermons

Preparing a topical sermon presents its own unique challenges that aren't as pronounced when doing an exegetical sermon. It requires the ability to gather multiple scriptures together in a cohesive manner and effectively convey the message to your congregation.

However, with prayer, diligent study of the Word of God, and careful preparation, you can deliver a powerful topical sermon that will impact the lives of those who hear it.  Trust in God's guidance and trust Him to use your sermon for His glory.

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