I have been writing and preaching sermons for nearly three decades. I am a very structured person when it comes to disseminating information. I like to organise sermons with a natural progressive flow. However, it has not always been that way.
In the early years of my ministry, I struggled writing two or so sermons a week. When I was studying for my degree, I could ask for an extension to an assignment when the workload got too overwhelming. In ministry those sermons had to be ready on time. There was no leeway for extensions. In many ways, this helped me to master the different areas of sermon writing.
I learned many valuable lessons in regard to sermon preparation and sermon writing. These lessons were involved three areas of sermon preparation. First, I learned the main structures of sermons. Second, I learned the methods in which to deliver those sermons. Third, I learned the various types of sermons. Once I mastered these three areas of sermon preparation, I found sermon writing was no longer stressful but a pleasure.
1. The Main Structures of a Sermon
Though I learned homiletics at seminary, I never felt I had mastered the structure of the sermon. In fact, it took about six months of preaching before it all began to fall into place and make sense. Moreover, I have been mastering it ever since.
I like to keep it super simple (KISS) when it comes to sermon structure. Generally speaking, the sermon has three parts – an introduction, a body and a conclusion. We all accept the fact that the introduction introduces and the conclusion concludes.
The most valuable lesson I learned in the first six months of preaching was that the body of the sermon is the sermon outline. I would not write a sermon until I had completed the structure of the sermon outline.
The sermon outline would expand and explain the main preaching point or topic of the sermon. Once I had the sermon outline completed, I would add content and illustrations and then I would write the introduction and conclusion. It took some time to master this approach and I have been refining this approach over my life time.
2. The Methods of Presenting a Sermon
The structure of a sermon or sermon outline can be varied. However, there are three general methods of presenting sermons to your congregations. You can present your sermon deductively, inductively or a bit of both.
I find that most students of God’s word write sermons from a deductive method. The deductive method starts with the main preaching point followed by sub-points and incidental points.
The inductive method is the reverse of the deductive method. With the inductive method, you start with the sub-points or incidental points moving toward the main preaching point.
You can use a bit of both in some sermons. You may be writing an inductive sermon but somewhere in that sermon you may want to use deduction to explain or expand a point.
The main thing here is understanding the three methods of presenting sermons to your congregation. Once you master these methods, sermon writing will be a pleasure.
3. The Manifold Types of Sermons
There are several types of sermons and many commentators label them with different terms. But for ease of understanding, I will label them under three categories. They are either topical, expositional or evangelistic.
The topical sermon is constructed around a biblical idea, truth or principle. For example, you may want to preach on the idea of a dynamic faith. You may want to look at the three benefits of a dynamic faith. A dynamic faith is noticeable, helpful and communicable. The topical sermon must come from a passage of Scripture or from several different Scriptures.
The expository sermon expands and explains a passage of Scripture verse by verse. For example, you may want to teach through James 5:13-20, which looks at the subject of prayer. Your sermon main preaching point could be: Four Examples of Christian Prayer – Prayer for Suffering, Prayer for Sickness, Prayer for Conflict and Prayer for Waywardness. All you are doing is working your way through the passage of Scripture verse by verse.
The evangelistic sermon is the gospel message of Jesus Christ. It means you construct a sermon around the gospel. You may want to look at the Cross of Calvary. The Cross of Calvary declares God’s love for us. You may simply structure your sermon around the three declarations of the Cross of Calvary. The Cross declares the magnitude, the uniqueness and depth of God’s love.
I have studied and learned much about writing and delivering sermon over the years. The better we structure sermons the easier it is for congregations to hear, understand and apply the Scriptures to their lives.