Summary: How to have a logical flow to our preaching.
In this lesson I hope to encourage preachers to have a logical flow to their preaching.
Let all things be done decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40). When a sermon is disorganized it is less effective. Organization does not mean that we ignore the Holy Spirit and his inspiration, just the opposite. Organizing the written Word of God was the result of the Holy Spirit's inspiration and so too ought organizing a sermon. We need the Holy Spirit to guide us in the preparation as well as the delivery of our homilies.
This chapter proposes to teach you how to take a bunch of disjointed thoughts and ideas and organize them into a cohesive whole with a logical flow. Start with prayer, purpose, resources, then working on your outro, plan, body, title, intro and review. It then concludes with an overview and suggests a common outline which can be adapted to a wide variety of sermon styles and gives an example.
1. The Goal (Your Secret Reason for Giving this Sermon)
The most important preparation for any sermon is prayer. Ask God to guide your thoughts into his will. Clear your conscience of any guilt, by asking for a repentant heart and forgiveness for specific sins. Ask the Head of the Church, Jesus Christ, for his specific will, regarding this particular homily. Be ready to submit to his will and to change your mind if you had another idea.
Now ask yourself why Christ wants you to give this particular sermon. You may have no other purpose other than to preach on one of the three or four suggested Scriptures in a lectionary. That is a start. Eventually, once you have chosen a particular passage of Scripture, you will also want to narrow down why you are preaching this passage to this church at this time. Is there a natural topic in the text that fits current needs? For instance, the topic of James 3:5-12 may be the tongue, but your purpose in giving the homily may be to discourage some of the gossip that can damage any local church. So write it down. It does not have to be stated openly while delivering your sermon, but you need to know why you are giving it.
2. The Sermon Plan (Your Road Map)
What is your sermon plan? Your plan may differ from your goal or purpose. If this was a classroom, it would be a lesson plan. The goal is the reason you are giving the homily and may go unstated, especially if it might be too sensitive to state bluntly. The plan is a proposed roadmap, a succinct summary of what you specifically intend to speak about. It is less wordy than a précis, which can be up to about a third of the length of the sermon. That is too long. The plan is more of an outline of what you actually propose to speak about. You may plan to speak about the four areas where the sower in Luke 8 sowed his seed. You could give a statement that your plan is to discuss four areas where the Word of God lands. It's really that simple.
Preparing your plan immediately after working on your conclusion helps you make sure you have ended up where you promised. Sometimes it is good to tell people where you are going and state your lesson plan. However, there are times when you want to keep people guessing, such as a mystery tour or other such suspense-building device. Suspense keeps people interested and so is a good strategy at times. In those situations, you don't have to tell everyone what you intend saying, other than say that you are taking them on a mystery tour, or some such thing. However, for your organizational purposes, you need to write the plan down and include a statement such as you are going to keep them guessing until the end.
You now have direction for your homily. This does not mean that the direction is fixed. You may get all the way through your preparation and decide to give a completely different sermon. That is quite normal. Don't stress about it. You simply have a new goal and a new direction.
What resources do you have at your disposal? Here are a few recommendations:
Search www.christianbook.com for some of the best academic, theology and pastoral books. It is a real treasure trove and they ship worldwide.
Several Bible translations or a computer program such as the excellent Bible Works are available at www.bibleworks.com or through a local bookstore. There are also a variety of translations at http://www.biblegateway.com/ or http://blueletterbible.org/ or other similar web sites.
Hebrew and Greek lexicons such as the popular BDB Hebrew Lexicon, the Friberg Greek Lexicon, the Louw-Nida Lexicon, the UBS Greek Dictionary and so on. Parsing Greek and Hebrew is much easier today with computer programs such as those mentioned above.