- Learning how to craft faithful and relevant application points.
- Learning how to make your sermon lively and captivating.
- Understanding the importance of outlining your sermon.
Finally, you can put everything together! Even though you have your purpose bridge, the big idea of your sermon and the outline, that’s not enough to deliver an engaging, memorable and powerful sermon. You need to package everything into a tidy, well thought-out presentation.
You need to add content to your skeletal structure, and the following principles can help you in that process.
S.A.V.E (a) Point
Every one of your main points needs to have the following features:
- State the point – clearly, in language that your audience can understand
- Anchor the point – in the text. Show that it is coming from your text and not your own head. Prove the historical meaning of the point to its original hearers.
- Validate the point – explain why and how this point can be drawn from the text. Prove the legitimacy of your point.
- Explain the point – probe the meaning of the point. Use your study from step 1 and 2 in particular to help you. Use illustrations and examples.
- (a) Apply the point – you could apply each point as your state it or do it all at the end as an application conclusion.
Checking your Application
At the end of the day, your audience wants to know “ok, I’ve heard what you are saying. So what?”. Application is important and it must be:
- True to the meaning of the passage
- Relevant to the lives of the audience
- Concrete and tied in to their real, day to day lives
- Connected to the purpose bridge from step 4
Application avenues and arenas
Application can come in different forms. Here are some examples of helpful areas and avenues in which you can help your audience apply God’s word in their lives.
Arenas – what sort of person God wants you to become in personal, home, work, study, church or community life
Avenues – how the truth of God’s word should affect you in your attitudes, knowledge, behavior, relationships, motives, values, priorities and character.
Making Dry Bones Live
A sermon must be a living thing. It must not be dull or boring but engaging and appealing to your audience. There are ways to do this, which include:
- Restatement – saying the same idea using other words or phrases in order to make sure as many people in your audience will understand what you are saying. It also reinforces what you are saying, which helps your audience to remember.
- Explanation and definition – clearly state what the limits of your application are, what it means and what it doesn’t mean (for example, does Paul’s instruction to 1 Timothy 2:12 apply in business as well as church?). Comparisons, similes, and examples should be used where appropriate.
- Factual information – facts can be powerful, fun tools in a sermon. But you must make sure your facts are true. Don’t merely repeat a story you heard or read from someone else as a fact, research it thoroughly before you say it. There are few things as damaging to your reputation than being caught in a lie (even embellishment) when preaching.
- Quotations – when used appropriately, quotations can be very useful tools in your sermon. Keep them short, appropriate and cite the original person who said it. They should also be relevant to your audience – quoting an obscure person may not be as impactful as someone many people will know.
- Narration – storytelling is a powerful way of communicating. You can incorporate imaginary conversations into your sermon. Anticipating and answering potential objections and questions will help your audience, especially when preaching since sermons are usually a “one-way street” where you speak and your audience listens.
- Illustrations – just as a picture can tell a thousand words, a well-crafted, well-timed illustration can make complex matters simple. They are easy to remember and make truth easier to believe. Illustrations can be found in the world around you – if you want to be a good preacher or speaker, you must learn to be observant about the world around you. That will not happen if you choose to be an armchair theologian pontificating in an ivory tower. However, be careful about personal illustrations, especially if they may be revealing private information. Don’t use someone or their situation as an illustration unless you have asked them first or know them very well and are sure they won’t mind (even then, asking is a good idea).
- Transitions – A good sermon is one that is broken down into clear sections and yet seems seamlessly connected. Transitions help your audience stay with you as you move from one point or section of your sermon smoothly, maintaining clarity, unity and progress in your sermon. Transitions can be:
- Phrases – like “not only this”, “whereas…”, “on the other hand”
- Points – chronological, logical, metaphorical (e.g. a metaphor of building a house).
- Physical – using bodily actions to show movement from one point to the next.
- Alliteration – This is the skill of making words start with the same sound or rhyme. They don’t have to begin with the same letter but that makes for an even stronger visual and audible tool by which your audience can remember the key points of the sermon. Put effort into making your sermon memorable but be careful not to sacrifice its meaning. To avoid the temptation to make the “tail wag the dog”, which can happen when your alliteration doesn’t fit your point, make this the last thing you do in your sermon preparation.
Crafting the Introduction, Body and Conclusion
Your sermon needs an introduction and conclusion (even if you are preaching a narrative sermon).
Introductions help you:
- Command the attention of your audience.
- Surface a pertinent need and arouse curiosity.
- Orient your audience to your big idea
- State your purpose for the sermon (the purpose bridge)
Tips to remember:
- Don’t begin with an apology
- Keep it short and to the point
- Don’t promise more than you can provide
- Use humor carefully
The body will consist of the main and sub- points from your structure in Step 6.
Conclusions are meant to tie everything up together and remind your audience of your key points. A conclusion is like a brief summary of what you have already said, so do not introduce new material and don’t make it unnecessarily long. In your conclusion, reiterate your main points and the big idea. Do not reproach the entire sermon a second time or start a new one! This is the struggle of many preachers, but one that can be unlearned.
Writing the Manuscript
Every preacher is different, but I encourage you to write out a full manuscript of your entire sermon. That is not to say you must read out your sermon word for word, but it does help you know what you want to say, how you are going to say it and when you are going to say it.
Practical Example: Ephesians 2:1-3
With our Ephesians 2:1-3 example, your sermon could look something like the following summary:
The introduction of this sermon could focus on explaining the former lives and suffering of the Ephesian Christians as slaves. Show the audience how they also were once slaves but have now been set free.
The body will consist of the three main points from Step 6
The conclusion will be a restatement of the big idea of the sermon and the supporting main points.
- Remember to use the S.A.V.E (a) point principle.
- Sermon outlines help you think through your sermon clearly and make sure you don’t forget or drift the important stuff
Practice by applying these steps to any one of these passages (or one of your own choosing) – Ephesians 2:4-7, Psalm 1:1-3, Psalm 1:4-6, Colossians 1:1-3.
Remember to use the same passage you picked in Step 1 to ensure consistency.
- Anonymous.Stand up, Speak out: the Practice and Ethics of Public Speaking. University of Minnesota, 2011.
- Bell, John, and Gary Cross. Langham Zimbabwe Preaching Seminars Level One Handbook. Langham Preaching Zimbabwe, 2014.
- Richard, Ramesh, and Ramesh Richard. Preparing Expository Sermons: a Seven-Step Method for Biblical Preaching. Baker Books, 2001.
- Robinson, Haddon W. Biblical Preaching: the Development and Delivery of Expository Messages. Baker Academic, 2001.
- Robinson, Haddon W., and Craig Brian. Larson. The Art and Craft of Biblical Preaching: a Comprehensive Resource for Todays Communicators. Zondervan, 2005.