Do You Just Sprinkle The Bible Onto Your Sermons?

A little while ago, a preacher called me and asked me about his idea for a sermon. He wanted me to critique his sermon idea and give him pointers on how he should proceed. Before he started talking about his idea, I asked him, “What is the scripture that you are going to use?” The preacher then told me, “I have a sermon, maybe you can help me find a scripture so that I can preach it.”

Now I do recognize that sometimes the theme of a sermon comes before you actually have a scripture. But, once you have a scripture, your idea will no doubt be modified. In some places your idea will be amplified. In other places, your idea will be totally changed. In fact, your idea will have to come to struggle with the real text once you find it. In other words, you don’t have a sermon if you don’t have a scripture. Maybe a good motivational talk. Maybe a valid business lecture. You may “wreck the house.” But if you ain’t struggled with the scripture, we have something else other than a sermon…

Let The Scripture Talk

Now, I gave the preacher a few texts that seemed to work with his theme that he was articulating, but I also encouraged him to allow the sermon to change as he seeks to understand that text. Incidentally, I got permission to use his story in this article.

This event made me think of the number of ways we preachers use the scripture in our sermons. Some preachers just sprinkle a bit of it into the sermon that has already been cooked to make it more edible. They simply “season to taste.” The text wasn’t involved in the sermon idea phase. It didn’t help the direction of the sermon in preparation. It is just sitting up on the podium as a prop next to the preacher.

Don’t Just Look For Support

Then there are those preachers who demonstrate that they have not just read the scripture looking to support their ideas, but they have actually struggled with the scripture. They are like Habakkuk who persistently asked God why. You know we Christians like to give superficial and surface answers to really hard questions. And preachers are complicit in this mindset by preaching messages where Christians don’t lose their jobs and if they do they always find a better one quickly and soon after. In some of our sermons, Christians are always healed of their diseases if they would but pray. But no, some preachers go on and ask the tough questions like “why do you look upon them that deal treacherously, and hold your tongue when the wicked devours the man that is more righteous than he?” (Habakkuk 1:13)

Yes…Some preachers ask hard questions that real people ask. And they struggle with the scripture. They don’t just skim the surface, they dig deep. They don’t simply toss it…no, they hold on to the Bible just like Jacob held on to the Angel. They say, “I won’t let go until you bless me.” (Genesis 32:26)

Deep Understanding Of Scripture Drives Great Preaching

They leave time to be quiet and listen to God even when sometimes it comes in sheer silence. (1 Kings 19:12) They construct sermons out of that kind of deep preparation. They come to the preaching event with a message that demonstrates deep understanding of the scriptural witness. They may be limping like Jacob, but they come with a real bread, hot from glory, ready to foster an experience of hope and power in the people of God. No they don’t use the Bible to prop up their ideas….the Spirit uses the interaction with the Bible to drive the preacher deeper….

Fed a steady diet of preaching that comes from this kind of study will grow a people with a very real belief that if they would but struggle with this ancient book and seek to understand and apply it in faithful ways that they will also be blessed beyond measure.



Sherman Haywood Cox II is the director of Soul Preaching. He holds the M.Div with an emphasis in Homiletics and a M.S. in Computer Science.

Posted in Bible Study, blog
20 comments on “Do You Just Sprinkle The Bible Onto Your Sermons?
  1. Darryl Thorpe says:

    I like to comment on the that the preacher had an idea and needed a scripture. I have read another sermon system that addressed this I thought very clearly. The writer emphazised the following. A scripture can come from:

    1. Your daily devotional reading.
    2. Your detail study of scripture
    3. Concordance (via key words of your purpose)

    Note: The author stated that once you have an idea you should brainstorm ideas & you must have a purpose for your sermon (key words of your purpose). However, it is without question you MUST get the PURPOSE OF THE SCRIPTURE to create adn develop your PURPOSE OF THE SERMON.

  2. Sherman Haywood Cox II says:

    Yes, I think it is possible we might be saying the same thing…the key is whether we allow the scripture to speak or whether our idea is in the drivers seat….

    At any rate, go head and tell us who the other writer was and what his system was if you don’t mind…I ain’t got a problem with it…provide links if you can…


  3. Darryl Thorpe says:

    In response to Sherman Haywood Cox III

    The writer is Pastor Walton Marsh, Title of system Preaching with Power; site:

    He his no longer with us. The Lord took him home 2 years ago. I would recommend everyone to purchase this system just for the insights he gives. For example: He talks about creating a “sermon gardern”; a spreadsheet listing all your sermons (date,time, and place preached). It doesn’t specific go into exegesis, but it’s tied into your daily “study” of scripture which he emphazes. If you are like me I am always looking to enchance the task of my preaching skills. This is why I purchased the “ChargeyourSermon” it is the first I’ve seen approaching from the Black Tradition.

    As Pastor Cox III says – God Bless & Keep on Preaching

  4. Sherman Haywood Cox II says:

    I am sorry to hear he has passed on. He did visit and comment on SoulPreaching.Com from time to time so I have heard of him, but I have not studied his system.

    Thanks for adding another perspective…

  5. Dave D says:

    Mr Thorpe;

    I want to know that after you purchased the “Charge your Sermon” series, did you find it to be helpful, problematic or just ok”?

  6. Sherman Haywood Cox II says:

    Note…Mr Thorpe is talking about some elses system…. not supercharge your semons….

  7. Sylvester Warsaw, Jr. says:

    Elder Cox,

    Once again you’ve allowed God to use you to ask the tough question. First and foremost for me,I, must always remember that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and the Lord of the Harvest. With that said not only do you wrestle with Holy Writ but God as well because you want God through the power of the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the Word He has for His children. And I whole heartily agree that a Word for the people of God can come from our daily alone time with God whether it’s devotions, meditating, praying or studying. How can God’s people be fed if the one feeding isn’t feeding on the Word of God and seeking His face for wisdom, knowledge and understanding so that the Word of God can be preached with clarity, power, authority and under the anointing and influence of the Holy Spirit. Rev. Dr. Gardner Taylor told us one day that sermon preparation began right after Sunday morning Service of Celebration because the people of God will let you know what they’re struggling with and it’s the responsibility of the messenger of God to take the concerns of the people of God to God so He can address their concerns.

  8. Yes. We need the scripture to speak instead of forcing the scriptures to fit in our ideas.

  9. Darryl Thorpe says:

    @ Dave D. I am speaking of someone elses system. Are there any differences? Well from short experience in learning to prepare sermons; I have read several books on preaching even the book that is labeled the classic “On the Preaparation and Delivery of Sermons” by John A. Broadus 4th Edition. And I have gathered that everyone has a method that they use and many are to techncial in their explanation. However, I have been interested in exegesis and “Supercharge your Sermon” and the “Preaching with Power” by Pastor Walter Marsh both address my interest. The “Preaching with Power” method is written plainly speaking of the method he used over his 30 years of pastoring (stresses outlined sermons). Pastor Sherwin as I find has presented a detailed process for exegesis which meets my interest. I have also read that it is a good idea to get pieces from each and create a method that works for you.I will leave you with this. No matter what system you use there is no shortcut. We must put in the WORK!

  10. Minister Evangeline says:

    I enjoyed reading your article. I heard preachers telling their associate ministers to drill over scripture then they will come back and say to get a sermon it may come from just a thought that you get or something you may have heard. It was always confusing to me because I was under the impression that a sermon came from your devotional reading and you prayed and ask God what did He want you to tell His people. So like I said I have enjoyed this article because it was good to have some clarity.
    I also have another question for you. Can you be reached outside of this website. Thanks,

  11. Sherman Haywood Cox II says:

    You can call me at (615) 600-4952.

    I have office hours from 2:30 – 4:30 central time where I try to answer the phone…other times just leave a message…

  12. Gary says:

    I really enjoy hearing the breakdown of the text in direct connection with the Pastor’s topic or subject. As a lay person I often unfortunately find myself very board when pastor’s give a topic, and scripture text and then they preach some topical sermon which conveys more of their person beliefs than the message God want His people to hear.When this happens it sounds as if the preacher is addressing a commencement exercise, or some corporate gathering.

  13. Kenneth R. Jenkins says:

    Glad to have this information handy and to have your wisdom of preaching; you are a preacher’s preacher when it comes down to the machinist of preparing sermons and the “art” of sermon preaching. Thanks once again…….

  14. Minister S. R. Parker says:

    This is a very excellent insight on sermon preparation. My pastor told us some years ago that sometimes a sermon has to be allowed to be marinaded in order to be a message that will touch the hearts of the congregation. I was working on a sermon that took a whole year before I had a chance to preach it. An effective sermon should be initiated through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

  15. The Rev. Dr. Donald Ray Jenkins says:

    Excellent advice!

  16. Vernetia Miller says:

    Well said: “In other words, you don’t have a sermon if you don’t have a scripture. Maybe a good motivational talk. Maybe a valid business lecture. You may “wreck the house.” But if you ain’t struggled with the scripture, we have something else other than a sermon…”

    Sometimes a scripture grabs me first and other times a theme or illustration grabs me first. I write them all in a notebook. As I study I usually discover scripture that the theme or illustration supports, basing my sermons exegesis on the scripture. I keep discarded themes and ilustrations for speaking engagements, teachings, and storytellings.

  17. Brady L Williams says:

    Brother Cox
    You Just preached a most powerful sermon yourself. I could have easily shouted with joy as I read your discourse. But what scripture did you get that message from. Its one thing to preach from a scripture, and I do agree that we need to struggle to get it’s ultimate message. I recently struggled with the concept of Babylon the Great. And when I confronted it I discovered a truly amazing understanding. I discovered that the seven seal, the seven trumpets and the seven last plagues was not only in chorological order but ounce you challenged the order a more precise parallelism gave you a hidden perfection of the correct order thats hidden in the prophecy. Knowledge that unreachable without the struggle. But this struggle must be led by indwelling Holy Spirit like the one that you let use you when you open this discussion. God cannot be contain within any book, read Jeremiah 8:8 but He does dwell in our hearts. God is calling us to a higher calling then has then has ever existed in the past. Keep letting the Spirit lead you my brother in God.

  18. Great post. “Deep understanding of Scripture drives great preaching.” That’s so true, because the Word of God does not come back void, and the word of the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation.
    This post has fired me up. Thanks!

  19. James Morris says:

    Good article I have a great sermon title and some great points I want to preach on but no validating scriptures to support my sermon. I have kept this on the back burner and I believe The Holy Spirit will give the revelation. Like you said it could easily be a good motivational message but I want it to be a conviction first to me and then to others. I’ll pass the salt and wait for the Bread. Thank you for your teaching sir.

  20. Alvin Turner says:

    Great article. Very sound advise. Thanks for sharing.

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