The Sermon Prep Breakthrough Moment


I may be totally alone in this, but my guess is that there are other pastors out there that look for this moment each week.

It’s what I call the sermon prep breakthrough moment.

It’s that moment when everything begins to click. It’s the moment where the main idea of the passage aligns with the main idea of the sermon. It’s the moment where the supporting points align with the main idea of the sermon. It’s the moment where a key illustration comes to mind. It’s the moment where a big call to action begins to take place. It’s that moment where my heart is stirred personally.

Everything seems downhill in my sermon prep after I reach this breakthrough moment. For me personally, it takes a lot of work to get to this moment. My best guess is that about 2/3 of my time in sermon prep is working to get to this breakthrough moment, even though I write my sermon almost entirely in the final 1/3 of my sermon prep.

So, how do I arrive at this breakthrough moment?

  1. Pray. Sermon prep has to start here. You can’t prepare a sermon without complete dependence on the Holy Spirit.
  2. Read the passage over and over again. I love to print out the passage on a single sheet of paper. I read it over and over until it seeps deep into my heart.
  3. Study and research. There are many smart people who have either studied or researched so much of the Bible. I know I don’t know it all, so I love to learn from others.
  4. Spend time alone with God meditating over the passage. I love to go on a run with the idea of simply hearing from God about my sermon. My wife will often ask when I return from my run, “What did God tell you while you were running?” I love spending time alone with God while reflecting on the sermon passage.
  5. Write down as much as possible. That single sheet of paper that I mentioned above is where I write everything down. I always have it close by throughout my week because I never know when another piece of the sermon might come to mind.
  6. Pray some more. Just because you pray first doesn’t mean you don’t pray again. Pray some more.

What about you?

Am I alone in this breakthrough moment? For those who prepare sermons, is this something you see each week? If so, how do you get to this breakthrough moment?

Posted on January 21, 2021

Jess Rainer is the co-founder of Rainer Publishing. As co-author of “The Millennials”, Jess provides insights into the next generation of leaders.
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  • Carrie John says on

    Great article!!
    Thanks !
    God speaks to me also as I run .. it’s a great opportunity to be alone with God & our thoughts.

    Bless you!!

  • I’m with you, Jess. Just this morning an illustration came to me regarding my sermon and it was so refreshing. Sometimes those aha moments come when I least expect it, so I always try to write it down when it comes. Thanks for sharing!

  • Marva Usher-Kerr says on

    Its good to know this. I also read the passage right before sleep to keep it in mind. That also brings the break through moment.

  • Thanks for this! Breakthrough moments are awesome, I totally agree. Thanks again for posting about this and reminding us of the essential steps.

  • Pretty similar to you except that I usually write out the passage by hand instead of printing it. The breakthrough moment often comes after a lot of “writing as much as possible.”

    • Quentin Rissler says on

      I agree with the breakthrough moment – best part of the preparation process. I also write out the text by hand, leaving plenty of space to go back through and circle repetitive words and thoughts, add word study findings, add connecting thoughts etc. I write out the text in ways that make sense to me like making it into an outline or recognizing lists, etc.