Sermon Prompts 2017-06-06T16:25:14+00:00

Sermon Challenges

The Office for Science, Theology, and Religion Initiatives (STAR) at Fuller Theological Seminary is hosting a series of sermon challenges on the topics of Purpose, Cosmos, and Forgiveness. The challenge is for preachers to incorporate science into sermons. Simply use the sermon prompts and research resources provided below in the development of a sermon, give the sermon, and submit your sermon materials.

Eligibility, Prize, and Submission Information


Applicants must be from a Protestant, Roman Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox denomination. Unfortunately, we are not accepting sermons from other denominations at this time.

In order to apply, all applicants:

  • must have delivered the sermon being submitted in front of their live ministry context
  • must have a ministry context
  • must not have won a previous sermon contest with plpit
  • must be at least 18 years old
  • Immediate family members of the plpit team are not eligible to apply.

Challenge Prizes

  • First place: $1,500
  • Second place: $1,000
  • Third place: $500
  • 3 Finalist awards for 4 – 6th place: $200

Selection Process

Submissions will be judged on their ability to properly integrate related scientific research with theology. Applicants are not restricted as to the breadth or type of additional resources they may use.

Each contest will involve a selected panel of 5-7 individuals who represent both relevant subject matter and communication expertise. The panel will choose the top six sermons to receive the challenge awards based on the criteria below. Each submission will be judged according to the following criteria:

  • Demonstration of how scientific research may supplement scripture
  • Demonstration of how scientific research can work together with theology to create new ‘spiritual information’
  • Accurate and responsible treatment of science
  • Accurate and responsible treatment of theology
  • Effective communication: clarity, interest, and appropriateness for audience

Submission Instructions

Only submissions that contain ALL of the following items will be considered for the contest:

  • Brief biography (100-200 words)
  • Description of the sermon audience and how the sermon fits into your ministry context.  (100-300 words)
  • Video (preferred) or audio recording of applicant delivering the sermon live in their ministry context (15-35 minutes)
  • Sermon text/manuscript ** All text submissions must be formatted accordingly:
    • Times New Roman
    • 12pt. font
    • Double spaced
    • 1 inch margins (all around)
    • PDF or Word document (PDF preferred)

Sermons must be written and recorded in English. Applicants may only submit one sermon per competition. Sermons may be written and recorded for the sermon challenge submission, but may not have been delivered yet to the ministry context. In that case please indicate in the description of the sermon audience when the sermon will be preached (ex: in the summer sermon series on Purpose.) Seminary students are eligible to apply. In the case of a seminary student without a traditional sermon audience please indicate in the description of the sermon audience where you would hope to preach this sermon should you have the chance.  

Once selected, finalists will be required to submit a statement of impact on their congregation, including any testimonials from congregants. Finalists may also be asked to submit additional materials, such as a short (2-3 minute) video biography and/or interview.

**Though we prefer a submission of both a video and manuscript, we understand that some preaching styles are less scripted and so a manuscript may not be available. Likewise, it may not be possible (in some cases) to supply either a video or audio recording of the sermon as delivered. In these cases, a manuscript must be submitted.

Current Challenge

The current sermon challenge is on the topic of Forgiveness. Select which sermon prompt you would like to use, read through the research resources provided, and develop your sermon.

The challenge will be open for submissions June 1, 2017 – August 15, 2017.

Enter the challenge

Recent scientific study on the practice of forgiveness has unleashed a new wave of speculation into the personal and social implications of the virtue. The science of forgiveness, researchers are finding, may be rooted in the correlation between forgiveness and health. Many scientific studies on forgiveness consistently find that those who practice forgiveness report better psychological health, improved relationships, and even increased resilience to physical pain. On the other hand, research has suggested that withholding forgiveness can possibly carry negative health consequences.

Social scientists are also committed to exploring the implications of forgiveness in the larger society. How does a community promote forgiveness? What is the role of religious institutions in teaching forgiveness? How is forgiveness fostered in adolescents? Despite ongoing debate concerning the definition and function of forgiveness, such questions are currently driving a wide range of study on the science behind the virtue.  

Sermon Challenge Prompts:

  • How might Scripture speak into the scientific correlation between forgiveness and health?
  • What unique contribution does Christian theology and practice have to offer as preachers partner with the scientific community to develop a robust definition and proposed function of forgiveness?
  • How can preaching equip the Church to utilize current scientific findings into the benefits of communal or societal forgivenesses?

Past Challenges

The current challenge is on the topic of Purpose or Cosmos. Simply pick which scientific topic you would like to write a sermon about, select which sermon prompt you would like to use, read through the research resources provided, and develop your sermon.

The challenge is open for submissions from February 15, 2017 – May 30, 2017.

Often defined as living according to one’s values while striving to meaningfully contribute to the world, purpose remains an alluring topic of scientific inquiry. Beyond career or social success, studies have suggested that living with purpose can also bring measurable biological effects. Specifically, a correlation has been suggested between living with a sense of purpose and a person’s overall psychological wellness and physical health.

A key question in the study of purpose is how to identify and cultivate the feeling. This is an especially pressing question regarding the fostering of adolescents, young adults, and the elderly who may especially benefit from the increased motivation, confidence, and mental health benefits facilitated by purpose. Research into supposed connections between purpose and other traits like beneficence, meaningfulness, and happiness is also ongoing. While questions remain on how purpose is identified and cultivated, many scientists agree that human health and flourishing is tied closely with a purpose-filled life.  

Sermon Challenge Prompts:

  • How might Scripture speak into the scientific correlation between purpose and human well being?
  • How might churches partner with the scientific community in cultivating purpose in adolescents, young adults, and the elderly?
  • How might the task of preaching be a unique avenue to equip communities to benefit from current scientific research on purpose?
  • The science of purpose often distinguishes between the happy life and the meaningful life. How might scripture demonstrate this and what practical implications might it have for your community?

Our understanding of how the universe works has grown exponentially in the past century. Since the discovery of an expanding universe, scientists have observed galaxies from billions of light years away and developed complex theories about the origin and eventual end of the universe. Speculations about Dark Matter, Dark Energy, Black Holes, Heat Death, and Evolution weave together to form a very different understanding of the cosmos than the biblical authors held. The difficult job of Christians today is to make sense of the biblical truths in light of a 21st century cosmology.

Many have already speculated about what this means. Some have been led to view the cosmos as a god-forsaken and inhospitable space that will ultimately be inhospitable to all life. Others see the cosmos as a miraculous place filled with the presence of God. Some see the universe as a random, purposeless accident. While others see the universe as a fine-tuned creation heading toward a divinely ordained end.

Sermon Challenge Prompts:

  • Using both scripture and science, consider how a 21st century cosmology impacts our lives as Christians.
  • How might current research in physics and quantum mechanics help us understand the ways that God works in the world (i.e., divine intervention)?
  • In what ways might scientific research on the cosmos have practical applications in the day-to-day lives of your community?
  • Several ideas have been presented within the scientific community about the nature of time. How might some of these ideas help us understand God’s relationship to time in the scriptures? What pastoral concerns might this have?

Time and The Universe

By | November 4th, 2016|

Articles Reviewed: The Crystallizing Universe by Kate Becker (April 2010) Rescuing Reality by Kate Becker (October 2016) Other resources reviewed: Is God [...]