Logos Bible Software Sermon Prep Part Two: Choosing a Text to Preach
Many preachers prefer to preach a topic found in multiple texts that the preacher expounds during a single sermon. I prefer to look for a single Bible text and that one text will dominate the sermon. In this second part of our series on Logos Bible Software Sermon Prep, we’ll look at how the program can help the preacher choose a text to preach an expository sermon. The first part focused on using Logos to find a good sermon subject, for Topical Preaching or Topical Textual Preaching.This method of preaching will dominate the rest of our sermon prep series.
UPDATED: I added the Lectionary Tool at the end of this post.
What is Expository Preaching
I don’t have the space look at the benefits of expository preaching versus topical preaching. Check out Lifeway’s helpful list of 9 Benefits of Expository Preaching by Tony Merida. However, let me quickly define what I mean by this. Expository preaching includes the following:
- One single text dominates sermon’s content.
- The main message comes out of the text. Some call this the Big Idea, as Haddon Robinson did in Biblical Preaching.
- The text will also dominate the tone and style of preaching. Poetry should have a poetic feel while narrative should include the story as a primary part of the sermon. Positive tone should not result in a harsh sermon.
- The preacher will explain, illustrate, prove and apply the Big Idea of the text while preaching that text.
What Kind of Text Are You Looking For?
Your expository preaching can include the following:
- A single passage or pericope of scripture, like my sermon this week on John 13:31-35.
- Part of a book like The Sermon on the Mount or Jesus’ Farewell Discourse in John.
- A full book of the Bible like John’s Epistles.
I’ve preached through all three taking anywhere from a single message to multiple years. This week I’m preaching on John 13:31-35 but I’m not preaching through John or through one section like the Farewell Discourse of Jesus in John’s Gospel. I’ve preached through the Sermon on the Mount, but not through the book of Matthew … yet. And last year I preached through John’s letters. All of the above sermons or series of sermons were expository sermons and my Logos Bible Software sermon prep benefitted from the tools explained below.
Tools for Finding a Text in Logos Bible Software Sermon Prep
Logos Bible Software sermon prep will use a number of tools to help you choose a single text or a longer part of a book or a full book of the Bible. In our earlier post we looked at finding a topic to preach. Topical preaching isn’t my favorite way to preach. I don’t go so far as some to say it’s sinful or evil. However, we should use it sparingly.
You can use the same tools used in the earlier post to find a single passage for your expository sermon instead of using them to find proof texts for a topical sermon with multiple texts. So head over to that post and use those steps for finding a single text on a particular topic.
To find a text for an expository sermon, you can just start reading the Bible and get inspired by what you’ve read. Or you can hear someone quote a passage or read a book that refers to one. However, you pick that single passage you’ll want to start reading it.
My first step is narrowing the text (choosing where to begin and end my sermon). I start by reading the text in context multiple times. In your Logos Bible Software sermon prep process, open your favorite translation. Go to your library by clicking the library button, second from the left next to the home button on the toolbar. Or click in the command box and type Go to John 13:31-35 or whatever your chosen text might be. Read the text in context as follows:
- Narrative – read the story and read those passages before and after.
- Poetry – find the beginning and end of the poem and if it’s in context of another genre then read the parts before and after. Psalms are a single unit of text by themselves so just read the chapter.
- Proverbs – read the chapter and decide if your Proverb is part of a collection of Proverbs about a subject, then pay attention to the other Proverbs about this topic. If it’s not part of a section of Proverbs on a single topic, then read your single Proverb (note some Proverbs might include multiple verses).
- Didactic – teaching passages like the epistles require us to find the letter’s overall argument and then look for this particular part of the argument to find how your text fits in the overall argument. This overall argument might include the entire book or a large section of the book, like Romans 1-11 or Ephesians 1-3.
- Prophetic – find the overall prophecy, often in poetic genre and other times as part of a narrative. One prophetic message will become one preaching text.
- Legal – read laws in context of their overall application, like laws about the priesthood in Leviticus or the feast days, etc. and choose your text-based on this overall section.
You can do this in any software. Logos doesn’t do it better or worse than any other program. You can even do it in a paper Bible (shudder to imagine it).
Passage Analysis Tool
Checking out multiple translations can help you decide what verses to include in your passage. Logos Bible Software Sermon Prep will benefit from the Passage Analysis Tool. Go to Tools and click on Passage Analysis. Type your passage into the command box in the upper left corner. It will visually show the boundaries of the various pericopes in your top translations. Next to the command box you’ll see a drop down box that reads “Pericope Sets”. Click it to choose your translations by putting a check in the check box of your preferred translations. If you own too many books with pericopes, you may need to scroll to show them all. (What is a pericope?)
After you finish choosing your translations, they will show up in columns in order of your rankings. Along the left you’ll see links to the text that you can click to open your preferred Bible to that verse.
The columns will show boxes that represent a pericope. For example, in the image above, notice that the ESV (dark blue column on left) has more pericopes than the NLT (green column third from the right above). Click on a pericope box and it opens in your top translation, but not that specific translation that you clicked. I’d expect it to open in that translation, but it doesn’t for some reason.
How does this help in choosing your text? You can see how all the various translation teams chose to break up the pericopes. They often vary wildly as in our chosen passage in John 13 above. The ESV, HCSB, NKJV, NRSV and UBS4 all agree that John 13:31-35 forms a single unit or pericope. However, the NASB, NIV 1984, and NLT all include John 13:31-38. If you scroll up you’ll see that all but the NASB 1995 agree that the pericope begins with verse 31 (see below)..
The two steps above should help you find a single pericope. You can probably preach single sermon on that passage. Or it may take too long to preach in a single message and you decide to break it up into a series covered over a few weeks.
Sermon Starter Guide
If you’re still struggling to choose which verse to include in your expository sermon in your Logos Bible Software Sermon Prep work, then consider firing up the Sermon Starter Guide. Thanks to Graham Criddle in the Logos forums for this suggestion.
You’ll find it under Tools in the menu. Click on Sermon Starter Guide from the list along the left of the box that pops up. This opens the guide to the passage in your open Bible. You can type in your text and run the guide.
For this step, we’ll focus on three sections of the Sermon Starter Guide. Look at the Sermons, Sermon Outlines and Outlines sections. Under each you can see how other preachers or scholars have divided the passage and preached it or handled it in a commentary. You’ll have to own books that include these three kinds of information. Open them and read over them to see what these other preachers chose as their text.
At this early state, be careful to use these tools only as a guide for picking your sermon text. Don’t read too much of the content because it might push you in the wrong direction and keep you from discovering your own Big Idea or sermon thesis.
Now that you’ve looked at the text in multiple translations, checked out the Passage Analysis Tool and looked over the Sermon Starter Guide, it’s time to pick the beginning and ending of the text.
You’ll want to consider another issue. How much can you cove run the time given. I preach in a traditional Baptist Church and the people typically expect about a 25 to 35 minutes sermon. I can stretch that to 45 on occasion. On Wednesday evening we have an hour and prayer requests take up about ten minutes, so I can easily go 50 minutes since it’s a discussion time and not just my lecture.
Choose the first and last verses and stick with your choice. Prayer will also help throughout the process, before, during and after you preach.
Pick a Book or Longer Passage to Preach
The above steps help preachers pick a passage for a single sermon. How do we find passages or books to preach in our Logos Bible Software sermon prep?
Use the topical search steps from part one of this series and look at the context of the passages that you discover. You may find that an entire section will make up a good sermon series through a chapter of the Bible. For example, let’s say you searched for a passage on prayer. You opened the Sermon Starter Guide and typed in Prayer. It returned the Lexham Theological Workbook. You opened it and found John 15:7. After reading the passage, you decide that you want to cover the entire topic of John 15 on remaining in Jesus. Or maybe you see a group of Psalms and so you decide to pick a few of them to preach through Psalms on Prayer.
Maybe you like to preach through books of the Bible. Search for some topics that you’re concerned about in your church. Use the following steps to search through your commentaries. If you don’t already have a Logos Collection that includes your commentaries, create one using the steps in the company’s helpful Logos Pro Training on the topic.
Open the Logos Search feature from the search button on the toolbar. Choose a Basic search and then click the link labeled Everything, Type the name of your new Collection the box that pops up. Click it from the list that shows up below the search box. Now click in the Search box and type the topic. You’ll find commentaries that include that word. Focus on the Introduction sections of the commentaries. You may find that a book fo the Bible talks a lot about a topic. Consider preaching through one of those books based on this search method.
Logos Lectionary Tools
I neglected to include the Lectionary Tool in the original version of this article because I’m not a lectionary preacher. However, many users will want to use it.
Even if you’re not someone who follows it regularly, it can offer some suggestions for preaching passages when you’re not coming up with any ideas using the above tools or when a topical search (from part one) doesn’t help. The lectionary follows the church calendar, so it’s a good way to keep in step with the rest of Christendom.
Logos includes various lectionaries and you can add them to your Home Page. I’ve done that and you can see it in the upper left corner. Edit your Home Page by clicking on the tiny gear icon in the upper right corner next to your name.
This opens a new window that pops up. See it below. Along the left there’s a list of things you can include on the left column of the Home Page. The list on the right of the pop up will show items to include I the main section of the Home Page.
For the purpose of this article, notice the various lectionaries included. I have my mouse over the Revised Common Lectionary, one of the more popular lectionaries used today. I have the Christian Worship Three Year Lectionary selected. You can choose more than one or just your favorite by putting a check mark in the box next to the name.
Now that you’ve selected your favorite lectionary or multiple lectionaries, click outside the pop up box to close it. The Home Page will refresh to update to the new settings. The lectionary will show up in the upper left. Click on the verse to open a new desktop Layout. You can also open this using the Layouts menu item from the toolbar. Click on Layouts. Make sure the Home Page Layouts section is open in the Layouts pop up. Then choose Lectionary.
The Layout will open your Lectionary on the left to that entry. In the center you’ll get two window panes. The top pane has your top 5 Bibles listed in the Library prioritization list in their own tabs. The bottom pane opens your top Commentary that includes that verse in one pane and your top devotional in the other pane showing the date of that lectionary entry.
The smaller column on the right shows two panes. The top will do a search to find books in your library that include references to the passage from the lectionary. The bottom pane shows a Bible Explorer Tool window open to that passage. The Explorer gives you things like Biblical People, Places, Events, Thing and Media. You’ll also see sections for your content, cross references and commentaries for that passage.
If you’re a lectionary preacher, then you likely already know that you can preach on one of the passages or include more than one. When I have used the lectionary to pick a passage, I just read them all and choose one that I want to preach.