Discover the Big Idea: Step 4 in Creative Digital Sermon Prep

We’re looking at 10 Steps of Creative Digital Sermon Preparation in Logos Bible Software and it’s now time to Discover the Big Idea of the text on our way to preparing an expository sermon. Many preachers will call this main idea, the thesis, the textual ideal or sermon idea of the text.

discovering the big idea 4a
Image by 3D Animation Production Company from Pixabay

Every passage of Scripture has a message for the original audience that we can also apply to a modern audience. We want to learn what the author wanted the original audience to take away from the text and then apply that to our audience today. We seek a wonderful combination of what God inspired and what the original author intended his original audience to learn from the text. Then we want to take that and teach our modern audience what God wants them to learn from this. How do we do that?

How Discovering the Big Idea Fits in Sermon Prep

Discovering the Big Idea of the Text starts with the first three steps we already covered:

  1. Prayerfully Choosing a Passage
  2. Making Observations and Recording Those Observations
  3. Asking Interpretive Questions and Answering Them

Now it’s time to take all that we’ve learned in the first three steps and come up with our Big Idea. We’re answering the question, “What does this text teach us?”

In order to answer the above question, start by reviewing what you’ve learned from steps 1, 2 and 3. Then you will want to answer a few key questions which we’ll look at next. Hopefully, you recorded these findings in your Bible software notes or in a document saved on your computer. Read over that prayerfully asking God what he wants you to preach.

Questions to Help in Discovering the Big Idea

The author of the Biblical passage had a message in mind. We want to discover what that was and state it in a creative and interesting way. To get to that final Big Idea or main idea, we start by asking a series of questions as follows:

  1. What does this passage teach us about God?
  2. What does this passage say about the condition of humanity?
  3. Who was the author of the passage?
  4. Who was the author’s primary audience?
  5. What was the situation or reason for writing?
  6. What are the primary sins this passage deals with?
  7. Are there solutions to the sin problem in the passage?
  8. What is the purpose for this passage for today?

Recording Your Answers

1. Select the text and right-click on it and choose the Reference in the left column.
2. Select Take a note from the right-hand column.

Using Logos Bible Software, you can record your answers in a few ways. You can create a passage note that attaches to the entire passage. Taking a note on a passage, not just a verse, starts with selecting the passage in Logos. Then right-click on the selected passage and choose Reference: Passage on the left and then Take a note on the right. The word passage refers to your text. In my screenshot above I have selected Hebrews 4:11-13 since I’m preaching on that passage this week.

A new note will show up and you can answer the questions listed above. I recommend that you create a document with the list of questions until you get familiar with the list and can do it from memory. You can also save this list in Logos as a generic note unattached to a passage.

1. Click on Tools (step 1 above) and then select Notes (Step 2 above). This opens a new generic note file.

To do that, click on Tools and then choose Notes. Now click on the New Note button in the upper right corner of the Note editor. Copy the list from above into this note and give it a name like Big Idea Questions. Open this each time you want to record answers to these questions for a passage and copy the list into the new passage note we created earlier.

Subject and Complement

Now it’s time to write out the subject and complement of the passage. Together these make up the Big Idea of the passage. I record this in my word document which I will use to write my sermon. However, Logos gives users a Sermon Editor and you can use it instead. I find it clunky, but if you use Proclaim, Faithlife’s presentation software, you might want to consider the Sermon Editor in Logos.

Think of the subject and complement like this. What if someone asked you a question and you chose to answer them by directing them to your chosen passage. What question might someone ask that would direct you to that passage for the answer. For example, let’s take Hebrews 4:12 from my screenshot above.

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Hebrews 4:12, NKJV

Here is a possible question this passage might answer: What power does the Word of God have? That would be one possible subject. It succinctly tells us what the writer of Hebrews wanted to express to the audience.

The compliment then answers that question: The word of God has the power to cut to the heart of a person’s life revealing what they think and desire.

Examples of Subjects and Compliments

Let’s take a look at some possible examples of popular passages:

18- And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19- Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20- teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Matthew 28:18–20, NKJV

Subject: How do Jesus’ followers make disciples?

Compliment: Jesus followers make disciples under the authority of Jesus by following his commission to go to all nations and baptize and teach them to keep his commands with his continual presence.

5- Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6- In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.

Proverbs 3:5–6, NKJV

Subject: How do believers trust in the Lord?

Compliment: The Lord’s believers trust Him with all their hearts by relying on his understanding and direction.

1- I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2- And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Romans 12:1–2, NKJV

Subject: How can we live a life of service for Jesus?

Compliment: We serve Jesus by giving him our whole being as an act of worship and by submitting to his mind instead of the world’s.

We can debate the quality of the above subjects and compliments for these passages. You might choose something else, but we have to tie to to the study of our passage. Also, it has to come from the passage instead of from our own faulty preconceived notions.

Heresy of Misapplication

People will often misapply a subject of a passage, which ends in false teaching. You can get the subject right, but miss how it applies in modern times.

I’m not saying Tim Tebow misapplied Phil. 4:13, but this images illustrates my point.

Philippians 4:13 suffers misapplication by so many athletes today. A lot of us see people write Phil 4:13 on their cleats or in their blackout face paint during football games. They stand in front of a camera with a reporters mic pointed at them and say, “Praise God! He helped me win this game.”

When you study the passage in Philippians 4 you learn that Paul discusses how he lived a life of plenty (“be full” and “abound” in v. 12) and he lived a life of having little (“to be hungry” and “to suffer need” in v. 12). And through it all Christ was faithful to bring him through it. He wrote:

12- I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13- I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:12–13, NKJV

Instead of a subject of “How can athletes achieve great feats of strength in national title games?” it would better be stated as, “How can believers deal with a life of abundance or suffering?” The answer or compliment is, “We can live a life of abundance or suffering by the strength of Christ.”

Stating a Creative Big Idea

Now that we have our subject and compliment, we want to create a creative Big Idea that is …

  • Interesting
  • Creative
  • Simple
  • Relatable
  • Accurate

That will provide us with the content of our next post, which is so important, we’re going to spend an entire post on how to make a creative Big Idea statement. That will come next in part of of Step 4!

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