Summary: Preach a topic not directly addressed by a single passage of scripture.
To teach preachers how to handle subjects not directly addressed in the Bible and still have a biblical basis.
There are subjects that a preacher will eventually want to preach on, that are not directly covered in any one passage of Scripture. Parenting, marital relations, a Christian approach to politics, church history, dating, missionary stories, church programs and a host of other topics are examples. How do we handle these topics without wandering off into worldly values and principles which contradict Scripture?
Let's look at preaching a topic that the Bible does not specifically address, ask if there are biblical principles which can still apply, look at some of the strengths and weaknesses of topical sermons, and examine some kinds of sermon outlines we can use.
1. You don't have to Cite Chapter and Verse to be Biblical
There are many ways to relate biblical principles to a subject without continually quoting chapter and verse. In fact, the constant citation of chapter and verse every time the Bible is quoted becomes very tedious and persnickety. You may for reference's sake put the verses in your notes, but not voice them. To remind you not to read the chapter and verse aloud you could put the citation in parentheses.
Example on the topic of Grandchildren: Our sins affect our grandchildren (Exodus 34:7), and our obedience blesses our grandchildren (Psalm 103:17). Living long enough to see our grandchildren, is a blessing from God (Psalm 128:6). Old people are no longer as interested in material things. Their grandchildren are their wealth (Proverbs 17:6).
2. Biblical Principles May Have a Broader Application
The application of biblical principles to everyday life requires wisdom. Sometimes a principle from one biblical context may apply across a broader range of modern contexts
One example that some who teach exegesis try to dance around is Paul's example of not muzzling the ox (Deuteronomy 25:4) and applying it to preachers (1 Corinthians 9:9-10). I have read some books on exegesis and hermeneutics which try to tell us not to do as Paul did. I frankly disagree. They generally try to excuse Paul's disobedience of their rules of exegesis, by saying that he was specially inspired by God. That always leaves me with questions such as, was not Paul also specially inspired by God to teach us that such a hermeneutic is perfectly okay and are not modern preachers also able to be so inspired when they preach?
Of course this can be abused. Paul's hermeneutic was an application of the principle to a broader context. He did not twist the Scripture. Too many modern preachers use Paul's example as an excuse to take a verse and misapply it. That is not what Paul did at all. However, the lesson from Paul is that a biblical principle can have much broader application than its narrow context, if we are cautious with our application.
Biblical theology does not necessarily try to resolve seeming inconsistencies between different texts, but is often satisfied with leaving the tension of apparent contradiction unresolved. Systematic theology, on the other hand, does not like such tension and tries to harmonize Bible verses into subjects. It is from systematic theology that we get the basic ten theological topics of Paterology, Christology, Pneumatology, Angelology, Anthropology, Hamartiology, Bibliology, Soteriology, Ecclesiology and Eschatology. The weakness of any topical study, be it systematic theology or a topical sermon, is proof-texting, the tendency to string verses together out of context. This weakness can be minimized, but it involves more study than merely chaining verses together from a concordance.
Topical sermons can also tend to overly rely on non-biblical sources, rather than having the Scriptures as their foundation. Because we are looking for Scriptures that will support a topic, we can also tend towards eisegesis (jamming our ideas into the Scriptures) rather than exegesis (extracting from the Scriptures the original intent). Pastors also face a personal danger when preparing topical sermons, the tendency to repeat their hobbies and repetitively preach on certain favorite topics. If the congregation is ever tempted to say, "There he goes again," it may be because the preacher is grinding his axe again or repeating a pet peeve.
The strengths of systematic theology and hence topical sermons are that they tend to be more influential, addressing immediate needs and have immediately obvious application. The Bible does not address every human need word for word, nor every modern topic. Themes such as fellowship, abortion, worship music and Christmas can be addressed using biblical principles, even when no specific biblical instruction is given.
5. Subject Outlines
Subject sermons can be given a number of common outlines of either two, three or more points. For example:
point, reason, proof
past, present, future