Summary: Guidelines in Constructing a Topical Message - John 15:7
Hints for Constructing Topical Sermons
1. Compare and contrast Biblical doctrinal truths to the topic. Study the great doctrines of the Bible with balance in your theological perspective. For instance help people see that Calvinists and Arminianists have different views on various theological issues in the scriptures. Also different cultures view things differently. For example in the U.S. one of out every three adults are single. In Nigeria, nearly everyone is expected to get married and have children. This will affect how your audience will view certain topics such as ``Single For the Kingdom’s Sake.’’ Anticipate what some of the objections might be when you are addressing a topic like celibacy in Nigeria. Naturally, many people will say that people who are not married are not responsible, they do not deserve as much respect as someone who is married with children. You may counter that argument with truths that Jesus never married. Paul’s entire ministry life was successful as a single man. Jesus said, ``It is not what is on the outside of man that defiles him, but it is what comes out of a man, evil desires, greed, and lust.’’ These feelings are not just reserved for single people!
2. Bring in contemporary topics of interest that people will naturally pay keen attention to.
For example, the March 6th, 1990 edition of the Standard newspaper in Jos led with the headline, ``Jos Under Siege.’’ They went on to say, ``Underworld men rule in the night.’’ You could draw parallels to these relevant facts with the truths taught in Eph. 6:10-18. Learn to be a keen observer, reader, and learner of what goes on around you.
4. Use different forms of intuitive and logical approaches in presenting your topical sermons: deductive (general to specific), inductive (specific to general), past-present-future, (chronological), sequential (a-b-c-d), simple to complex, cause to effect, effect to cause, and least to most interesting. The most popular form of logic used by many preachers in Nigeria is story-principle logic. For example, after describing how Joseph fled from the clutches of Potiphar’s wife in Genesis, one Preacher shared a story about an unfaithful Pastor. Apparently, one Saturday night, the Pastor visited his secret mistress to have relations with her. However, as the Pastor was in the bedroom with the woman, her husband suddenly returned home. Quickly, the Pastor jumped into the cupboard so the husband would not see him. Suspecting that the Pastor would return that night, the husband spent the night. The next morning, the husband heard the Pastor pleading to be let out of the cupboard, but the husband wanted to publicly expose the Pastor. He quickly ordered some of his workers to carry the cupboard containing the Pastor to the platform of the Pastor’s church. When it came time for the sermon, the husband stood up and demanded that the cupboard be opened in front of the entire congregation. Out rolled the Pastor, with only his underwear on. His sin had found him out. He was swiftly dismissed from his office. The Pastor used this story to illustrate that even supposed Godly men can fall into serious temptation. He stressed the principle, ``Be sure your sins will find you out.’’
4. List some of the words that are related to the topic with the help of a concordance, dictionary, a book of synonyms, thesaurus, and a Bible encyclopedia. For example, for the word ``love’’ you could use synonyms like affection, patience, kindness, passion, cherish, endearment, fondness, agape, eros, phileo, stergo, warmth, or opposites like hate, indifference, jealousy, rudeness, bitterness, resentment etc.
6. Count and analyze Bible references for the most important words and begin to compile information on your topic through a concordance. The word love is used over a hundred times in the New Testament and over 75 times in the Old Testament. Compare and contrast their uses by different authors, in different contexts, with different topics.
7. Examine each reference individually to see how the context, author, and purpose of the book relates to your topic. For example, the way Paul uses faith in Romans 5:1, ``Therefore, being justified by faith... is different than the way James uses faith in James 2:17, ``Faith without works is dead.’’ Martin Luther became so upset with James’ use of faith, that at one time, he tore the book of James out of his Bible. Paul was talking about ``Saving faith’’ where James was talking about ``faith that works’’ (The fruit of faith). (Warren, p. 108, 1981)
8. Compare, contrast, and group your references into a structure that display the principles in an outline that will best allow you to present your topic most thoroughly. For example, ``How To Have Your Prayers Answered!’’
a. Confess and forsake your sins. (Psa. 66:18)
b. Abide in Christ (Jn.15:7)
c. Have faith that God will answer your prayers. (Mk. 11:24)