Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Ask Andy 3 (and a free book offer)

AndyNthPt.jpgI’ve got a deal for you day: free book. Read on.

In this series I’m asking Andy Stanley some questions about preaching but I’m cheating when I say that: I’m reading his book (Communicating for a Change: Seven Keys to Irresistible Communication
) and generating my questions that he answers in his book.
How do you outline your sermons? Let’s hear from you preachers on how you do what you do. We can learn from one another.
Andy’s goal is to organize around a single point, and so he has five sections in his sermons:
Me: Orientation; personal felt needs
We: Identification; generalizing felt needs
God: Illumination: God’s Word says
You: Application; God’s Word applied to personal felt needs
We: Inspiration; imagine what it would be like if we all did this.
Book deal: I will send a free copy of Andy’s book to the top three comments on this post through noon this morning (California time, 2 Central, 3 Eastern), and I will ask two of my pastor friends to judge with me on which are the top three. How do you outline your sermon? Tell us how you do it. (I will contact you via e-mail to notify the winners.)
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Andy M

posted April 14, 2010 at 6:19 am

I am wary of saying that there is any one way to outline a sermon.
For me the starting point is crucial, whether you start with a specific biblical passage, or an issue for instance.
I then ask how this will resonate with those I am preach to, what are the questions they will ask, then I look at the passage and look for the questions that I have. This leads me to seeking what God says both in that passage and through the rest of the bible, and then round off with asking how can we live our lives as Christians differently in the light of what God says to me, and then to those in the congregation.
It is certainly not rocket science, and will certainly vary to a degree week to week, but maybe can be summarized as:
Where are we starting from?
What questions are raised?
How does God answer them?
How shall we live in response?

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Mick Porter

posted April 14, 2010 at 8:29 am

If the Christians are going to proclaim Christ into the culture, the sermon should speak both to the lives of the Christians as well as to the culture (whether there are many visitors present or not). Subsequently my goal is generally to show that Jesus speaks into an aspect of life. By “Jesus speaks into…”, I mean that some aspect/s of the gospel cast a whole new light on the issue. The preparation for that kind fo sermon goes something like this:
– Try to connect with the problem or issue of brokenness. For example, if we’re dealing with guilt – what do people really feel guilty about, perhaps according to popular culture? If we’re dealing with work, what are Adlerian psychologists saying about people’s work lives? If it’s modern-day slavery, read some personal accounts documented by Not For Sale. If it’s marriage, what pain are the 50% of people who regret their choice of spouse feeling, and what pain are they inflicting? Thinking about Paul’s distress at the idolatry in Athens, it’s healthy for the preacher to be emotionally connected with the points of pain and brokennes.
– Consider how the knowledge of God (most fully revealed in Christ) speaks into this. If working from a fixed text, this will involve drawing out the indicatives in the text. If working topically, it will involve selecting text/s that contain these indicatives. This may be a sweep along a longitudinal theme; e.g., the nature of “work” is altered considerably at the fall, Jesus’ life speaks volumes about work, and the resurrection lets us imagine all kinds of possibilities about work in a restored Kingdom. This may also be a specific application, such as 1 Peter 2 and 3 where Jesus’ humility before his accusers is applied to wives and husbands.
– If we’re dealing with the OT, we definitely want to draw it through to the gospel revelation of Christ. This can take a lot of work, especially in areas of the OT that are not widely referenced by the NT writers. I know it’s a whole other area to deal with, and lots of ink has been spilled on the subject, but it’s so important to do this well. One common pitfall is to reduce the gospel to one component (e.g. grace) and try to find that component in the text – we should be able to manage components such as justice/judgment, calls to repentance, redemption from the dehumanizing affects of sin, etc.
– Taking the previous step further, find aspects where Christ is clearly supreme in this area. I want to reach at least one point in the sermon where I feel like I’m going to burst with excitement at how amazing Christ is in some regard – the sermon should be moving towards worship!
– Potentially find areas where the believing community should come to repentance. Then pray about my own life/heart in this respect, and let the weight of the text bear upon myself to be changed in the time leading up to the sermon. It’s less than ideal to hear a preacher discuss his weakness in an area but not demonstrate how the gospel has been changing him.
Obviously there’s lots more in terms of studying the text/s, consulting commentaries, etc., but I’ve tried to outline a few areas that I think some of the available books on preaching have tended to overlook. In particular, I read a preching-focused commentary on Genesis that seemed to assume the whole thing spoke only to the church – there was nothing in it at all for the wider culture, which doesn’t foster mission at all.

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posted April 14, 2010 at 8:31 am

Mick #2-
The idea is to challenge the listener.
Here is a related answer Andy gave to Ed Stetzer:
“All Scripture is equally inspired, but not all Scripture is equally applicable or relevant to every stage of life. My challenge is to read culture and to read an audience and ask: What is the felt need? Or perhaps what is more important, what is an unfelt need they need to feel that I can address? Because if they don’t feel it, then they won’t address it….
So how can I make them feel an unfelt need and then make them feel like they need to do something about it? But when you do that, people are like, “Man, that is amazing. You’re brilliant.” No, all you have done is unearthed a need and you talked about it. “I have never heard anyone talk about that before.” Probably, no one has ever made you feel that before. So they talked about it, but it didn’t register because they didn’t make you feel like you needed to hear about it to start with.”

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posted April 14, 2010 at 8:34 am

#2 Mick,
I don’t think you’re going to win with that answer :>)
Serious, as the associate pastor, I get a little more time for sermons to be mulled over, and usually have some freedom of choice. That said, thanks to some posts here I have tried the Narrative Sermons of the Lowry Loop, and story of Fred Craddock and had a much better time of the flow of the sermon. A few times I took larger passages and tried to exegete on the fly lie (Ed Dobson), and that flowed well to, but better for understanding a longer narrative, not a single idea.

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posted April 14, 2010 at 8:43 am

I try my best to make each sermon a bit of a narrative. I attempt to do this by first creating a tension. The tension is often easy to find, either in some biblical text that makes us all uncomfortable or in an interpretation of a text that is uncomfortable. After creating the original tension I try and delve further into the problem, get to a more and more uncomfortable place. Once we are all uncomfortable i begin to give clues to the solution. All in the hopes that I can deliver the solution/gospel at a climactic point. After the climax i ride the momentum in delivering applications, and leaving a bit of tension for everyone to go home with. My outlines are attempts at filling these narrative slots.
I pull this in large from Eugene Lowry’s “The Homiletical Plot”.

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Chris Miller

posted April 14, 2010 at 8:54 am

Outlining is one way to approach a sermon. That’s the way I was taught in seminary. But I have learned over the years that there is no one way to develop a sermon that is for all times. I immerse myself in the Scripture and try to allow the Scripture text itself to dictate my approach. There are some Psalms for instance that are clearly outlineable — even around one point. But there are many texts that “tell” me their message as I begin to write. I don’t start with a discernible outline in those cases because I want to “hear” the text itself and not determine what I think the text is saying.
It would be interesting to do this exercise using Tom Long or Wm Willimon’s teaching re sermons — especially their latest material.

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Andy Holt

posted April 14, 2010 at 9:31 am

I’m a stream-of-consciousness guy. I start writing at the beginning and keep writing until the end. I don’t have an outline because I don’t know where the sermon is going until I know where it’s been. It’s really more like discovering a sermon than writing one.

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Keith Brumley

posted April 14, 2010 at 9:41 am

I also enjoy narrative preaching – my Easter sermon was “Easter Through the Eyes of Nicodemus” where I preached the Gospel of John from a first person perspective.
The Holy Spirit decided to use stories to tell Jesus’ story. Stories connect with people. We should work with the Holy Spirit on telling the story.

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posted April 14, 2010 at 9:52 am

It’s very important to me to start with the one thing. What is the one thing that we will land on? Then, recognizing that my gifting leans into storytelling I take much more of a narrative approach in style. Knowing what the one thing is, and knowing we will weave through the teaching in a narrative approach, I almost always start with questions. The questions are usually to create some tension, raise some eyebrows, and move minds into a specific direction. Being narrative minded, I love watching the Old Testament open up the New, or starting in the New to raise questions and then moving to the Old so as to unearth what happened to lay the foundation for what was just communicated. I do enjoy Andy’s Me, You, and We movement, so will often use that in outlining the storytelling. I also think finding a balance in the message being more inspirational or more challenging is important. My style tends to be 60% inspirational and 40% challenging.

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posted April 14, 2010 at 10:05 am

How can there be only one way of outlining a sermon when there are so many kinds of texts upon which to base a sermon? Whether one is basing a sermon on a narrative, a poem, a proverb, or an arguement from Paul’s letters…that content must shape the sermon. If it does not, then the sermon is nothing more than an elaborate “procrustean bed.”
Moreover, although the overall goals of a sermon should be to motivate a greater love for God and others…whether one is engaged in correcting a false belief or action, instructing in a new one, seeking to persuade a friendly audience, or mounting a defense against a hostile one…all of these must shape the sermon as well.
Instead of a “procrustean bed” as our model of sermon preparation I think Michangelo provides a better model when he said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” May the sermon-sculptor go and do likewise.

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posted April 14, 2010 at 10:42 am

I outline my sermon by first starting with my big idea. What is the ultimate idea/sentence/phrase that I want even the most ADD individual or the person with the smallest bladder in the congregation to remember. Then I craft everything else around this idea.
Typically I open with an image related to the big idea, create a need in order to draw people in, state my big idea, the text of Scripture and preview where I’m headed. This or something like it functions as my introduction regardless of genre, subject or anything else.
At this point variance from sermon to sermon occurs but typically if my big idea is stated in subject-complement terms I will deal with the subject and then the complement. Sometimes there may be one subject and multiple complements which I then need to deal with. Each idea I try to bring to life by having an illustration that brings it into our culture and people’s lives.
After however many points I have made I summarize by re-stating my big idea, highlighting key applicational points if they have not already arisen and optimally swing back to my opening image to close everything up.
If only it was always this neat, but this is what I have in mind when I outline.

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John W Frye

posted April 14, 2010 at 11:06 am

Remember the outline while faithful to the Text is actually for the people. How are you communicating *from* the Text so that *the people* understand and are motivated, challenged, encouraged, etc?

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Jeremy Berg

posted April 14, 2010 at 11:12 am

Related to my post here last year “The Dark Side of Bible Reading”, I wonder if we spend too much time outlining and manipulating the text to fit our sermonizing goals, when we should flip the question around and ponder, “How does this text provide a new outline for my life?” “How does this text outline me?”
That is to say – even if a bit philosophically mind-bending: How does my life’s current trajectory and ambitions fit into God’s unfolding narrative-shaped outline whereI do not stand detached from and above the text, but where I am, by the grace of God, written into God’s Sermon of redemption?

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JD Eddins

posted April 14, 2010 at 11:26 am

I outline my lessons and sermons starting with the title and the Big Idea. Typically these are the same, but in some cases they are different. Once I know this the rest of the lesson flows smoothly (this also happens to be the hardest part, at least for me, and probably because so much is based off of this).
First I start with the background of the text we are study or the person from scripture that we are looking at. I think it is good to look at one text, but just one text rarely tells you everything you need to know.
Second, I explore what the text says.
Third, time to make application. I like to call it “The So What.” Scripture says this, so what? If we leave without an application for our lives then the lesson really doesn’t matter does it?

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posted April 14, 2010 at 11:32 am

When outlining a sermon I want to be as faithful to the Word as possible. So, in all actuality, I don’t think of the audience I’m speaking to at first. Although it is impossible to fully remove all of one’s biases from preaching, we can take safeguards to help prevent the message from being saturated by said biases.
If I go audience to text I can be guilty of reading things into the passage and forcing the passage to say things that may not be “wrong” but may not be honoring of the text. If I go text to audience, I am forced to allow plenty of time in my schedule to allow the text to marinate my thoughts and feelings. What rises out is a message from the text that delivers powerful inspiration because it has been anchored in the Word.
My outline then is quite simple.
1. Read the text allow for the gathered community to hear. [Possibly, earlier in the service, there has been an interactive element to help the words sink in with the gathered body.
2. Prayer for God’s voice to speak through the text and the preaching of the text that given morning.
3. Something I like to call “Word-weaving”. I like to allow the Story of Scripture, the nuggets of truth discovered from my personal time in the commentaries, etc, to mix with my own journey or the stories of others that I know or common stories from the area. As much as possible, I try to stick with stories that resonate with the body I’m speaking to. For example, if I’m in a rural community, I find it a bit odd to soak a story in “parables” from the urban world. Common people, places, and things can be of immense help in allowing people to ground the words their hearing and tie off to it.
4. If #3 was the what, I feel it important to give the why. Why is this important. In a postmodern climate it is important to not just assume that the audience naturally agrees with you. I spend some more time anchoring the why does it matter.
5. Points #3 & 4 were about what and why. Now we need to move into a time of “how”. This is the time where our community is constantly reminded of spiritual friendships, community, journaling, times in Scripture and prayer, service, etc.
6. The message is ended with a sort of debriefing to capture the imagination of the people. If we know what it is, why we should do it, and how to begin the journey, “what if” we truly grasped this concept?
I cannot say that I’m extremely intentional in thinking so methodically but over time this has developed rather naturally in my preaching style and has been reinforced by homiletics professors and fellow pastors.

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posted April 14, 2010 at 11:38 am

I don’t think this will win any prizes, but for the sake of discussion, here is one example of what I did with Ruth. If possible, I enjoy using chiasm or inclusio to organize and frame the story. In the case of Ruth, I actually presented the outline as chapter-by-chapter for the four chapters, as explained below.
I like Ruth. Boaz’s grandmother was Rahab (outsider), his wife became Ruth (outsider), they are in the genealogy of Matthew, in the line of the Messiah.
— Background
The story is set “in the days when the judges ruled.”
One possible chiasm of Ruth goes from A to K, I am pasting a portion of it here.
A Naomi too old to conceive (ch. 1)
I Boaz is the one in position to redeem (2:20)
J Ruth joins Boaz’s workers (2:21-23)
K Naomi and Ruth’s plan to obtain rest (3:1-8)
J’ Ruth requests Boaz’s protection (3:9)
I’ Ruth asks Boaz to act as redeemer (3:9)
A’ Naomi receives a son (4:17)
A couple main plot points arise from this. “In the time of the judges” they are as likely to be exploited as cared for. Naomi and Ruth remind of the barren woman motif in Scripture. The story begins with Naomi old, childless, bitter. It ends with her joyful, bouncing a baby on her knee, the people of the village gathered around her. The heart of the story, according to this chiasm, is Naomi and Ruth finding rest (which I linked to God showing them hesed).
God used Ruth to bless Boaz (“The LORD bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor.). God used Boaz to bless Ruth – he is a husband, redeemer, provider, lover.
God used Boaz and Ruth to bless Naomi – the joy of family and the baby on her knee. The baby connects to David, and if that is not enough, to the Messiah.
This is all a story of God’s hesed. {hesed needs to be defined, explained} God showed his hesed to these two women, needy, “barren”, one an outsider. He brought them a redeemer and a family and placed them in the line of the Messiah.
— What was preached
That’s the background thinking, the heartbeat that drives the story. But it’s a bit detailed to be presented as-is. For simplicity and pacing, I titled the sermon
“Ruth: A Story of Hesed in Four Chapters”
and titled each of the four chapters:
Chatper 1: Bitter
Chapter 2: Sparks (sparks begin to fly)
Chapter 3: Fire (sparks led to something, also, Ruth lighting a fire under his feet)
Chapter 4: Pleasant
I told the story, moving from one chapter to the next. The audience could see the story for themselves and see that the content was there. But which content I focused on and how I chose to frame the plot was all shaped by the chiasm and the theme of hesed. There is more to it but this gives the basic idea of what I did with Ruth.
I was not aware of “Big Idea” at the time but it basically was that in Ruth, God showed his hesed to a person, a woman, a “barren” woman, an outsider. Ruth is thus a story of God’s hesed. This seems weak to me in terms of practical application, but most of us can identify with being an outsider in some way and I think it connects us to God’s hesed and to the Messiah to experience this story. Plus, it ties OT and NT and even gives some insight to an NT geneaology :-)

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posted April 14, 2010 at 11:51 am

1. the text, the text, the text: translate to the center
2. the big idea/word/phrase/truth
3. a story from life that draws people in
4. good news/bad news…the joy and the rub
5. how to respond

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Dr Bob Wenz

posted April 14, 2010 at 12:06 pm

Andy is a good communicator, and his book is certainly of value, but my suspicion is that the best answers to “How I Prepare a Sermon” — and therefor book winners — will be people who might not like Andy’s approach. Obviously there are Haddon disciples quick to pull the “Big Picture” trigger. Begin with text, not the “felt needs.”
And they are right. Certainly the Bible addresses all the felt needs of the human condition, but beginning with needs and then looking for verses is the McDonalds approach to preaching: What does the public want, how can I make it tasty? etc. What do people NEED becomes an afterthought.
And the winner is. . .

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posted April 14, 2010 at 12:26 pm

Dr. Wenz #18:
More from that Ed Stetzer and Andy interview, which is related to your comment.
“Ed: Well, like you said, “I want the text to speak for itself.” What do you say to people that say, “Well, Andy, if you want the Text to speak for itself, just work through it verse by verse”? What are the advantages and disadvantages of that, and how do you come down there?
Andy: Well, I think anyone who listens, not to a sermon I’ve preached, but anyone who listens to a bunch of sermons I preach know that I, my favorite thing is to take a passage and to work through a passage word by word, verse by verse. I love to do that. That’s what I was trained to do. So, I think on any given Sunday, I preach exegetically. What I don’t do is pick up where I left off last week with the very next verse. Now, I’ve done that through the book of Jonah, done that to the book of Nehemiah, but typically, we’re picking a topic, and then I’m picking passages that I think speak to that topic, and then I’m exegeting those passages….
…..I think preaching verse-by-verse through books of the Bible is a fun thing to do. I love listening to that kind of teaching. That’s actually how I do my quiet times. My quiet time is verse by verse, take as long as I need to to work through a book of the Bible and write down insights and observations, but in terms of what happens on a Sunday morning, as I’m lookin’ at my audience and as I look at the Text, even the writers of the Text don’t give equal weight to everything, and verses, I mean, and these books of the Bible, especially the epistles, were written to be read holistically….
….I think when I get to heaven, Paul is gonna say, “Wow, you found a whole lot more in there than I originally said because I meant for somebody to stand up and read the whole book of Ephesians at one time to the local church, and gosh, you spent six weeks pickin’ through there.” So, I think sometimes, if we’re not careful, we miss what the author’s trying to say because we spend so much time on three or four sentences that the author said as they made their entire argument. And honestly, I think that’s a little dangerous, and I think both of us would agree and everybody listening to your podcast would agree, we have heard preachers and communicators make more of Text than the author originally intended because they decided, “I’m only gonna cover these five verses or these six verses this particular Sunday.” And I think we can actually miss the message of the author doing that sometimes…..
….But I do wanna say, I don’t think it’s a wrong way to preach or an inadequate way to preach. And obviously, John McArthur and others have made a career and have built very, very mature believers and very strong churches around working through books of the Bible over and over. So there’s, it’s just a preference thing I guess.
And there seems to be a bit of resurgence of that.”

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posted April 14, 2010 at 12:28 pm

My church community and preaching context involves: Reading the lectionary text out loud (I usually preach on the Gospel or NT text of the day, and we often read the Psalm &/or OT earlier in the gathering)- A short homily. – Community discussion and interaction around Scripture, and – Leads into The Lord?s Table every week.
And I usually only have one point, which I try to explore from several different angles.
So a typical outline might look something like this:
1. Describe the Situation
This can be setting up the ?story? or background of the text, but is often about helping our community ask the right questions: Is there a need/problem/situation that calls us to hear Scripture today?
2. Tell the Story
A short narrative theology, explaining what is happening in the text and setting up a question or response.
3. Explore the Implications
This is a community discussion/interaction. I usually ask one or two questions, and then facilitate as the Spirit leads us in different directions based on the questions and needs of the community that day.
4. Our Response
I then try to tie together a few threads? leading us to; ?so what now?? ?How should we then live?? I Don?t necessarily try to wrap everything up in a neat tidy way, but do try to give a short (just a few minutes or so) response that provides closure and then leads us to the Lord?s Table? which means that ultimately I have to somehow tell the ?Big Story? of the Gospel every week.

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Michael Spencer Harmon

posted April 14, 2010 at 12:38 pm

I was told by my last preaching professor that I naturally follow a kind of narrative format. That format can be viewed as kind of a downwards-pointing Jesus-fish. You start with a point of tension, or irony. You gradually explain as you go further what this kind of tension creates, and how the rest of the passage relates to that tension (illustration somewhere in there). Eventually, once you feel you’ve done that, and your audience is with you saying, “You’re right, this is crazy,” you gently hint at the piece of the pericope that holds a “plot twist”; some might call it the “resurrection epiphany.” Next comes the explanation out of the conundrum, relating any difficult abstract concepts with an illustration. Finally, by the time that “ascension” is complete, your audience is with you and motivated to approach life in any number of different, positive ways because of God revealed in the passage.
All in all, very natural, very effective, and very symbolic of Christ’s central act for us.

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posted April 14, 2010 at 12:40 pm

Warning – I am not a preacher and have never preached – so I am not going to give an outline method, just an observation. Rick’s extended quote though sets me off on a topic.
I am sick of “theme based” sermons and sermon series. Sermons that pick a topic, pick passages that speak to that topic, and exegete those passages.
Bottom line – after some 40 years + sitting in a church service almost every week (twice on Sundays through my childhood) I almost never come away from such a sermon or series having learned anything new. They almost always repeat the same “on the surface” points – pick the low hanging fruit. The “what do we do” message almost always repeats things I/we are already trying to do.
On the other hand – a through a book series that hits the popular and unpopular parts – in these series I almost always learn something new, and often find a new and important application or exhortation.
Preach the hard parts — topic based approaches don’t do it.
(end of rant …)

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Jon Snyder

posted April 14, 2010 at 12:58 pm

When I preach in “big church”, I use the same basic principles as when I am teaching our youth group, but format it for a spoken message rather than a dialog. Here is the skeleton of my lesson structure:
1. Find the point. Whether expository preaching and highlighting one passage, or teaching thematically, find out what the purpose of the teaching is. Write the introduction
2. Consider the text/s used. Learn as much as I can about the text, consider the average level of the audience and teach one step above that. This includes deciding on word studies/cultural contexts/grammar studies/etc. When teaching the passage, focus on the primary meaning of the text for those who are less biblically literate, intersperse with examples/illustrations/deeper insights.
Highlight how the text relates to the main point, the main point of the text should be the main point of the sermon.
3. Consider practical applications for the audience to practice the following week. Make sure some are concrete.
4. Include discussion/discussion questions to be talked about through the week (at youth meetings, where discussion is our primary teaching tool, discuss)
5. Conclusion: summarize prevoius points, demonstrating how each one fits into the purpose of the lesson.
6. When preparing, keep eyes and ears open for illustrations/quotes/visual aid/interactive aids. Make sure sermon engages visual, aural, oral, and kinetic learners as well as: collaborative, dynamic, common sense, and analytic learning styles.

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posted April 14, 2010 at 1:06 pm

1. start with the text – don’t do 5 weeks on marriage, do 5 weeks on the bible and allow your congregation to make their own relevant connections. Define language – define history – and let the bible be the most important speaker in the room.
2. What is the thing behind the thing? Jonah may have been about disobeying God, or evangelism but that doesn’t hit home with everyone – rather the thing behind the thing with Jonah is loving your enemies, THAT MESSAGE hits home so go with that.
3. Make it personal – this is the time to add a real life story or testimony from someone. Bible stories don’t always connect because stories need a connecting thread. I don’t know Jonah, but I know you.
4. Make it tangible – what is the take away? How can you add shape to this lesson? Can they touch, taste or smell it? Can they journal, watch a movie clip, stand up, move, see it acted out, hear it in a poem, – find another medium beside the lecture that can tell the story in a different way.

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posted April 14, 2010 at 2:24 pm

This is a little different, but here are some elements I tend put in any sermon or teaching I do. When preparing, I’m usually asking the following questions which become the outline, but the chronological order of each element varies:
– What aspect of Jesus, of God, is God wanting to reveal or communicate in this sermon/teaching? What biblical pictures or texts or stories reveal this? (I may know either of these first.) What biblical or historical details are necessary and appropriate?
– How does this fit in to the larger picture/movement of God’s character, his goals, his mission (without getting off on a bunny trail)? (i.e., how does this fit in the Story/mission?)
– How can we best help this particular group of people to see/discover this aspect of Jesus for themselves? (Can we do an exercise on the spot, ask certain questions, tell a story, use an item of their culture or history, etc.?)
– What response(s) does God hope for? How can I facilitate and/or encourage that response for the shorter and longer term?

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Rick D.

posted April 14, 2010 at 2:27 pm

Effectively communicating the truth of the Scripture with a broadcast method on a Sunday morning to a general audience is an uphill task at best. That being said, it is the construct within which the North American churches operates, so we must navigate it as best we can.
Your question specifically was “How do you outline your sermons?” I’ve used the “Ook” method in the past: Hook-Book-Look-Took. Stanley replaces the Hook, which was traditionally some interesting story or pithy anecdote, and replaced it with the “Me/We” which adds a level of credibility to the message as it acknowledges the listener and connects the preacher with his audience. This is good, but I combine the two and call it “convince.” Why? Because I recognize that I am bringing my sermon to the people, and that means that in order to have nay level of engagement, the message has to be more than eloquent – it has to be important to them. My first job is to convince them of this. And that is not always about meeting needs, but about eternal and temporal relevance. Next I explore the Scripture and bring that to bear on issue/topic at hand. I tend to stay with a primary text, and use others to support what the text communicates. After that I work to connect the dots for the people. This is the bulk of the sermon, and it provides not only information but also historical and personal perspective on the Scripture and the issue/topic at hand. It involves exploring the theological and practical aspects of the content of the text. Then I move on to clarify the message, which is exploring the logical implications, where the theology impacts daily life – yours and mine. Finally, I try to bring all the thoughts and ideas to a crescendo of sorts, and ask the question, “If this is true, how shall we then live?” (Thank you, Francis Schaeffer). The challenge is not so much on behavior modification, but on the question, “Do you believe this is true?” I say “coerce” because that reminds me not to prescribe outcomes, but to challenge the people to address the impact that truth should have on a life that reflects the beliefs of the heart. I leave them to work out the specifics with the Holy Spirit.
That’s the long answer to the question. Here’s the outline:
Interact as you please. This is not inspired.

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posted April 14, 2010 at 2:44 pm

I believe that the form of the sermon should not be the same for every genre of passage.
Whatever you tell people, you want them to be able to find it the next day when they look at the passage themselves without you there.
I also believe that it’s important the original audience would be able to agree with your statements as to its original significance.
It follows that the same method does not work for all passages. Narrative passages should become stories that live for people, complete with rounded characters and at least some physical descriptions. Epistles will usually more naturally present a logical flow of thought. Prophetic and apocalyptic genres are mistreated if they are held up as primarily curiosities, adventures in future-telling. The form of the sermon itself ought to be influenced by the genre and original setting of the passage at hand.

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Jim Martin

posted April 14, 2010 at 3:57 pm

I like Andy Stanley’s clarity. I can also see how his five sections can be very useful.
I do think the genre of the text under consideration might impact the approach to the sermon. For example, the way I would preach a Psalm is probably going to be somewhat different than the way I preach Paul’s epistles because of the difference in the literature.
(I have found Tom Long’s Preaching and the Literary Forms of the Bible to be Very Helpful. I have also been greatly helped by Eugene Lowry in his The Homiletical Plot)

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Mick Porter

posted April 14, 2010 at 7:24 pm

#4 Phil,
Sure thing, but here’s my testimony:
I started preaching in a church that was part of a cultish movement of legalism of the highest order. We knew that Christ had to be preached, but had no idea what that looked like.
Through wrestling with everything from Craddock and Lowry to Piper, and a whole lot in between, we found a lot of good in all of them. I am unashamedly influenced by Reformed guys like Bryan Chapell, and unashamedly influenced by Brueggemann’s “The Prophetic Imagination”.
So for 5 years, on top of a full-time secular job, I preached – which involved many nights walking the streets at midnight crying out to God to connect me with the hurt and brokenness out there. I’m afraid there just aren’t enough books that tell us how to weep over Jerusalem like Jesus did, and most of them assume a preacher has lots of daylight hours to prepare.
The outcome was largely fruitful; many people became exceedingly missional and went from anger, depression, etc., to joyful mission and delight in Christ. Some have gone on to third-world slum mission, some to joyfully adopting messed-up children, others to helping their current churches engage with issues of global poverty etc., and more than anything – to helping people engage with the gospel.

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posted April 15, 2010 at 11:12 am

#29, Mick,
absolutely, I was only playing tongue in cheek with the first short paragraph of the shorter response. I’m speaking out of the the 3 part sermon, and especially the short topical sermon series. Although I am not reformed I do think they excel at bringing Christ to the OT, something that always must be done. Good thoughts.

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