Have you ever wanted a step-by-step guide to creating a sermon from scratch? In this series of posts, we are unpacking a practical guide to go from a blank page to ready for Sunday in seven steps. If you work through the seven action steps in this series, you’ll have a sermon written and be ready to go. You can check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this series to get caught up on the first three steps. For today, let’s dive into step four:
At this point in the process you have a workable outline that flows from building tension to resolving the tension with the text to applying the text and inspiring action. At this point it is especially important to have well-crafted points that give you listeners a way to navigate with you through your sermon and see how it works for them.
If it doesn’t, either change your main idea or ditch the point. For example, if your main idea is: “Worship is the antidote to worry”, then you would want to make sure any point you make supports that idea. Every point should reasonably tie back to worship overcoming worry. So making this point: “Every temptation has a way out” would not reasonably support your main idea even though it’s true.
One of the best ways to make application clear in your messages is to make your points a form of application in themselves. This is relatively easy to do and gives your listeners an immediate way to apply the truth rather than just knowing it. So let’s say this is one of your points: “Passionate prayer is powerful” consider changing it to “Pray passionately to see God’s power.” The first phrasing is a true statement that your listeners will simply nod their heads to in agreement. The second phrase is an invitation to a more rich relationship with God.
People can’t and won’t remember long, drawn out points. Don’t overcomplicate your points with a long wordy sentence. Drill it down it the essentials and leave out the fluff. Remember, you are going to adequately teach, apply and illustrate each point so you don’t have to spell it all out in the point itself.
The more points you have the more difficult it is to focus your listeners’ attention on your one main idea. I like working with no more than three points if possible, and I would recommend limiting to no more than four. If you have more that needs to be said consider pushing it to the next sermon.
It can be a huge distraction when a sermon outline is forced to fit a flow or a model. Alliteration is often used as a way to make all the points match and flow. I wrote why I don’t think this is the best approach in this post.
If you want to discover more in-depth how to put these methods into practice, check out my new book Become A Preaching Ninja: Sharpen Your Skills, Hone Your Craft, Maximize Your Impact as a Preacher. It dives deeper into this topic and provides you with a systematic, streamlined approach to sermon prep and delivery that will save you time and help spur your listeners toward life-change.
Once you have crafted each point, you need to begin determining how you will build on each point to form the meat of your sermon. In this post, 3 Things You Must Do With Every Point You Make In Your Sermons I explain at length exactly how to do this.
In short, each point must be taught adequately so people know what it means and how it ties back to the text or the main idea. Every point needs to be illustrated so people can see it and feel it. This happens best through stories, metaphors, analogies and other ways of drawing a picture for people to see the point more clearly. Finally, each point must be applied. This means you need to walk your listeners through how to put the truth to work in their lives.
What is your biggest challenge when forming your points? What other principles do you use when crafting your points?