Forgiveness 2017-08-17T14:24:32+00:00

Past Forgiveness Sermon Challenges

The Office for Science, Theology, and Religion Initiatives (STAR) at Fuller Theological Seminary is hosting a sermon challenge on the topic of 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.

*We would like for you to deliver the sermon in front of your congregation but we also recognize that sermon planning might interfere. We will accept sermon challenge submissions that are just recorded by your phone or computer.

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
  • 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 and $3,500 to their ministry = $5,000 total
  • Second place: $1,000 and $2,000 to their ministry = $3,000 total
  • Third place: $500 and $1,500 to their ministry = $2,000 total
  • 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.

The 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.


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?