At some point in writing a sermon you will get stuck. This also happens when it comes to writing a book. Every pastor and author knows this feeling. We dread it. We pray against it. We do whatever we can to avoid it, and yet on a regular basis, it comes.
We sit in front of a computer watching a blank screen and a cursor that doesn’t move. We look at our Bible and commentaries, read blogs and listen to podcasts in hopes of any inspiration.
So what do you do when you’re stuck?
1. Pray. While you would think every pastor is doing this all throughout their sermon prep, I can say from personal experience we don’t pray as much as we should. There are times when you work from your own ability and ingenuity. So stop and pray. Ask God, plead with God for what He wants to say through the passage. What is He saying to you personally? Not just to your church. A sermon is for the pastor first, then the church.
2. Confess sin. You may have some sin in your heart that is preventing God from speaking to you clearly. Confess that. Think through your heart, your motivations, your desires, your innermost thoughts. Bring those before your Savior. He already knows. Often when I can’t see things clearly in the Bible, whether for sermon prep or my daily devotions, it is because of unconfessed sin.
After working through the heart issues, you can try something else, but don’t skip to #3.
3. Read the passage in different versions. Most pastors preach from a certain version. I preach from the ESV and love it. Reading the passage through in the NIV or The Message always brings out something I didn’t see before or triggers an idea that I couldn’t think of. Simply changing it up brings a new perspective.
4. Do something active. While doing sermon prep, I get up and walk around every 52 minutes. That simple break gets my blood moving, helps me feel better, and the fresh air brings new energy and ideas. I also have some of my best blog and sermon ideas while doing Crossfit. When I run I’ll have great sermon ideas as well. Doing something active helps reinvigorate an idea. This is also a great time to go back to #1 and pray.
5. Talk to someone else about it. Another thing that is helpful is to talk through the passage with someone else. Katie will often read what I am preaching through and give me her ideas on it. I’m also thinking through how to better include younger communicators and other pastors in what I’m preaching and working through the passage as a team. I have a friend that meets every Wednesday with four other men in his church to talk through the passage he’s preaching on. This brings all kinds of perspectives and ideas you didn’t have before.
6. Just preach what you have. Finally, you might be done with your sermon prep. Yes, I know, a sermon is never done. You could spend 80 hours on a sermon. You could also have all that you need, and reading one more commentary, looking for one more thing might not be what you need. You might just need to preach what you have and say, “God, I did the best that I could; You do the rest.”