No More Channel-Flipping Sermons.

Sermons should not feel like channel flipping.

One text here, one text there, one text over there. Citing 20 verses in a sermon does not an expositional sermon make. Just the opposite.

If it’s narrative, it should feel like a story.

If it’s dialectical, it should feel like an argument.

If it’s poetic, it should feel like singing.

But it should never feel like channel flipping from one verse to another.


Channel flipping sermons don’t teach people to read the Bible. They’ll hear a prosperity preacher do the same thing, and you’ve not taught them to read texts in context.

Channel flipping sermons don’t compel. They are overwhelming and confusing.

Channel flipping sermons don’t keep us faithful to the scripture we’ve selected. We make the text submissive to us when we draw so much outside it. If you need to fish all over scripture to make your point, you’re not making the point of the text.

Channel flipping sermons confuse outsiders. They don’t know the Bible – constant references to sources all over scripture, if overwhelming to Christians, will certainly turn away those who are unfamiliar. It’s a failure to translate the gospel into the language of the locals.

Channel flipping is cheap preparation. Anyone can sit down and list off 46 related scripture verses by looking at the footnotes in their study Bible. That’s not communication. It’s not being clear “as [we] ought” to be (Col. 4:4). And it’s being more lord than mastered by scripture.

So pick a section of scripture, and stick to it. Put down the clicker. Maybe change the channel once, from Old Testament to New, or vice versa. But hunker down. Tell the story, make the argument, sing the song. If I had to make a rule of thumb, I’d say three different texts is plenty, but two is ideal.

But don’t channel flip. That’s garbage entertainment.

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Posted in Preaching, Theology.

Nicholas McDonald is a blogger, pastor, and author of the book "Faker: How to Be Real When You're Tempted to Fake it." He studied creative writing and communication at Oxford University and Olivet Nazerene University, and received his M.Div from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. He currently resides in Lexington, NC, with his wife and two boys, Caleb and Owen.


  1. Are you faking this blog post? Do you know what you are talking about at this time? I agree with the concept of what you say here, but if indeed someone gives a full length sermon that reads scripture verse after scripture verse in various places from the Bible…. are you sure you want to call that “garbage entertainment”?

  2. I believe that a good sermon can include many passages that are related to, and help inform the meaning of, a pastor’s main passage. Plus it shows the congregation that the Bible is consistent in its message throughout–that Scripture is the best commentary on Scripture. I’d rather hear lots of Scriptures in a sermon than just a few verses with lots of man’s ideas and a pastor’s own thoughts. It is God’s Word that is powerful and living and active, not man’s word.

  3. Ahh, the arrogance of youth. Let’s see how many good preachers we can offend by using inflammatory, insulting language and actually call their sermons “garbage”, just because they do not do it YOUR way. John MacArthur is an excellent example of using numerous scriptures to support a point.. Add Charles Stanley, & too many other preachers to count, whose sermons have helped millions of people over the years be more faithful.

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