The centerpiece in the pastor’s toolbox of ministry is the sermon. This makes crafting a sermon extremely important. Many judge the pastor by how well he does on Sunday morning, so much so that some even think that’s all he does all week!
Because of this, the importance of creating an effective and efficient sermon becomes paramount to success in pastoral ministry. In my ministry, I’ve learned a few principles that have aided me in this vital aspect of pastoral duty.
What I’m about to share assumes you’ve already chosen your Bible passage or topic. These aren’t in any particular order, although there is a logical progression. Some steps you may use throughout the process. Others may simply be one step on the journey.
So let’s go on a little trip. Here are five principles to help you on your journey to preparing a more effective sermon:
1. Focus on what’s important.
Here’s what many young preachers neglect to do. I know early in my ministry I had to learn to boil all my messages down to one central idea before I wrote the actual message.
This is essential. Don’t wait to do this. Figure out what overall point you’re trying to make before you put together your outline, introduction or conclusion.
If you have your central idea set, the rest of your sermon will fall into place. It’s a matter of knowing your destination before you head out on your journey.
2. Do your homework.
Sometimes we preachers get lazy. The problem is those in our congregation can normally tell when we’re not studying like we should.
I remember one pastor who preached all about how the Syrians in the Old Testament days had done all these awful things to those they had captured in battle. It didn’t take those of us who knew better long to realize that he wasn’t describing the Syrians. He was describing the A ssyrians. That’s a completely different nationality!
He later bragged that he sometimes created his sermons without using outside sources. It certainly showed.
Don’t make that mistake. Be prepared. If you get stuck, use commentaries, Bible encyclopedias and language tools. It’s no sin to ask for directions when you’re lost. It’s certainly no sin to get a second opinion on what you’re preaching!
3. Organize your ideas.
Sometimes the information you assemble takes on Godzilla-like characteristics. In that case, organize it so that you know where you’re going with it.
You should already know the main idea of your message. So begin by clustering the information you’ve gathered into logical groups and then create ideas that support the main idea you’d like to get across.
Before you know it, your outline will begin to appear. You’ll suddenly recognize landmarks that will point the way to where you want to lead your listeners. One by one the roadblocks will fall if you organize your information first.
4. Assemble a logical outline.
Please notice that I didn’t say “parallel outline.” Some people teach parallelism in sermons to the exclusion of logical development. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of what the sermon is.
Don’t get me wrong. There should be some kind of parallelism in the points that you create. The problem arises when we preachers try to force a certain kind of outline out of a passage or idea.
One of the grossest violations of this rule is found in alliteration. Trying to force every point to begin with the same letter or rhyme sometimes takes the punch out of our points.
I’m not saying completely ignore alliteration. That’s the opposite extreme. I’m simply saying be careful when using it.
The point I’m trying to make is that your sermon should follow a logical flow of thought. That may mean you sacrifice parallelism to craft an outline that will allow you to more easily present the thoughts you have.
Don’t get gimmicky. Point your outline straight down your lane, and steer clear of anything that sounds unnatural or artificial.
5. Hit hard with your introduction and conclusion.
I personally create both of these at the end. It’s not because they aren’t important. It’s because they are extremely important!
I really don’t know how I want to begin or end my message until I’ve got a really good hold on the points I want to make in my outline. Once I have the main points and sub-points established I can then focus on how to introduce them and send them on their way.
The fact is the introduction will capture your congregations attention. The conclusion shows them why they listened to you for the last half hour (or more). Both of these elements are more than likely what will stick in the minds of your listeners.
So bring home your message with a clean introduction and a clear conclusion.
A message really is like a journey. It’s so important not to get lost. Following these five principles in preparing a sermon should help you get your congregation to their destination safely and effectively. God bless!