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Sermon Preparation and Judging Guidelines

In this contest, we are looking for preaching that effectively communicates the gospel in a way that invites listeners to be transformed by the Spirit of God.

Sermon Theme

Sermons should address the theme Faith and Work and should not exceed 20 minutes. The following passages are provided to help set up the topic, though these need not be the preaching text.

  • Matthew 28:18-20
  • Colossians 2:9
  • Jeremiah 9:23-24
  • James 2:14-26

Whatever length of biblical text you specify for your sermon, we encourage you to think contextually (both cultural context and literary) as you prepare and, potentially, as you deliver your sermon. Avoiding proof-texting (taking a text out of context) is not simply about not misconstruing the text; it's also about enhancing your insights and teaching by helping your audience see the text in its context, both thematically and historically.


Sermons should be targeted towards an audience ranging between 18-30 years of age.


Judges will be asked to score each sermon based on 4 primary areas:

  1. Clear Structure and Communication Style
    • Does the sermon take you somewhere? Does the sermon have a beginning/intro that invites you to listen? Does it tell you what God has to say about the topic that is introduced? Does it push you towards transformation in any way?
    • Does the speaker seem comfortable in presenting? Are there are verbal "umms" or pauses that distract? Is their use of body movement helpful or distracting?
  2. Solid Biblical Exegesis/Hermeneutic
    • Does the sermon demonstrate contextual thinking (taking into account both cultural context and literary context)? Does it help the audience see the text in its context, both thematically and historically?
    • The authority of the preacher comes from the Word of God. Is the Bible the foundation of what this person is saying?
    • Does the sermon give to the listener a way of looking at the text in a way that is faithful to author’s intended meaning/pattern of thought?
    • Is the sermon using Biblical text simply to prove an idea they came up with, or is the point of the sermon derived from the text?
    • Did the sermon leave you with a greater understanding of God’s Word as it applies to your life?
    • If the Biblical text is not a focus of the sermon, did you feel that the sermon still reflected Biblical truth? (Note: It could be the preacher was aiming at a non‐believing audience.)
  3. Personal Spiritual Formation of Communicator/Audience
    • Did the preacher/communicator reveal at all how this message affected her/him?
    • Can you see how this person’s relationship with God affected this message at all?
    • Did the preacher invite the audience to be spiritually formed in any way by God?
    • Was there personal/communal application for the lives of listeners?
  4. Insightful Understanding of the Audience/Context/Community
    • Can you imagine an audience that this sermon would connect with?
    • Did the communicator make an effort to relate in terms that an audience would easily relate to?
    • Did they use language that was accessible to a relatively broad audience?