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Sermon Preparation - Miscellaneous Thoughts on Structure

Expository Preaching Articles

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Miscellaneous Thoughts on Structure

Consider transcribing your entire sermon in the form of an outline instead of a manuscript. Manuscript work can be accomplished after preaching in order to more fully fill out the sermon and possibly add to it that which might have been lacking. This consideration would seem apparent after preaching.

Even though one might preach the sermon word for word, still, an outline is more usable instead of setting the sermon in manuscript form. The reason for this is to be particularly clear as to where transitions take place, that clearly delineate to the hearers where the sermon is going. The intent is that there is no confusion in transitions or movement, and that the hearers can follow along clearly. That means when the preacher looks up, they do not want to lose their spot in a manuscript of black text. When one has a manuscript instead of an outline, there can be a tendency to get lost in the mass of text on the page. But an outline clearly does two things – its gives the preacher specific points to follow, (as all outlines have numbers and letters that delineate a given section) and it allows the preacher to know exactly where they are in lieu of transitions. It also aids in knowing what to give greater emphasis to.

Second, when the preacher divides his outline into I. TEXT, II. DOCTRINE and III. APPLICATION, there are specific words one will use in each of those areas. They should not be confused.

In the TEXT OPENED, using, for example, the text of Philippians, the preacher’s language will be “the church at Phillipi,” “Paul” the “Christians at that time”, etc. In this section the preacher will never say “we, our or you” etc. in that part. (The “we” and “you” will be directed to “the hearers” when he arrives at part 3, the APPLICATION.)

The preacher should define the explanations in light of the section:

I. TEXT OPENED – use Phillipi, Christians at Ephesus, Paul, etc., which are particular to that time when explaining the text.

II. DOCTRINE – Use words like Christians, believers, unbelievers, sinners, etc., honing in on “the Christian church for all time periods.” It should be that no matter what time period the Church reads a preacher’s sermon, as they understand part 1, they see it directed to a specific historical context, and when they read part 2 they understand that the doctrine is a teaching comparable for the church in all ages. It is not until part 3 that it becomes personal to the hearer.

III. APPLICATION – “We, you, our” etc. is the language of the preacher here.

Some examples:  “…for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now,” (Phi. 1:5). This is set in the context of the text opened. In explaining the text, language would be, “Paul is teaching that fellowship is in the Gospel for all believers.” Many preachers will make the mistake of explaining this in this way: “Paul is teaching that fellowship is in the Gospel for us.” Though this is true, this is part of the applicatory section, not the text opened. Until the preacher leaves that first section, his verbiage surrounds being a “commentary” on the passage. he is to keep the structure of the sermon sound and not mix these section lest he become confusing.

In the doctrinal section (part 2) the language should read like so, “Fellowship in the Gospel is part of the life of every believer.” Preachers would not say, ” “Fellowship in the Gospel is part of our life.” He must first prove the doctrine by arguments before he applies it.

Then, in the Application section (part 3), the preacher will begin to use you, we, our, etc.

Precision is key in this sense. Every sermon should be reducible to ONE point that the hearer can walk away with. That means the preacher wants the hearer to see precision and simplicity in the doctrine presented. The preacher should be able to take his sermon and give the hearer one clear point they will remember next week, or in two weeks.


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