In seminary I was taught that excellent preaching always started with the biblical text (preferably one chosen from among the four Lectionary texts assigned for a given week). I was to exegete the text, apply it to my hearers' lives, and then illustrate it. The process looks something like this:
Biblical text —› Exegesis —› Application —› Illustration
This is excellent biblical preaching. But it also assumes that your hearers are interested in what the Bible has to say and that it has authority for their lives. This is a fair assumption for Christians. But in our increasingly post-Christian culture, many people are not so interested in what the Bible says, nor are they convinced that it should carry any authority for their lives.
So at least some of our preaching must have a different starting point.
In half of my sermon series each year, we start not with the biblical text, but with the human condition. What are the issues, struggles, or questions ...1