Once I have an idea of what the biblical text says and what that means for us today, it comes time to fill in the outline. Here’s how I do it:
1. What objections should I address? Are there aspects of the biblical idea that are hard to swallow? Let’s talk about them. These could be theological objections (“Doesn’t it say in Romans…?”), textual questions (“How did you get that from this?”), cultural questions (“Would God really say that today?”), or application questions (“How can I be expected to do that given my everyday life?”)
2. What key words or phrases will make this memorable? Long sentences are precise, but oral communication needs to be clear and memorable. How can I make this complex theological idea simple without being simplistic? Is there a word-picture I can use? Is there a hook word I can use throughout the sermon?
3. What illustrations or metaphors would be helpful? What can I do to “shine light” (literal meaning of “illustrate”) on the idea the biblical text is presenting? These could be true to life narratives, news items, video clips, historical examples, biblical cross-references, metaphors, or personal stories.
4. Can I use an object on the platform? For the visual learner, is there some “thing” I can bring on the platform that will drive the point home? This could be a ladder, an apple, a guitar, a baseball glove… whatever.
5. How does this sermon create or reinforce vision (“we”)? Our church has five core values (Biblical Worldview, Missional Life, Known by Name, Participatory Worship, and Faithful Compassion). Is there an aspect of this sermon that can reinforce or encourage ministry in those areas? Is there a “win” we can celebrate in our church that’s tied to the text and our values?
6. How can I encourage the congregation to pray in response to this? I want us as a church to wrestle with the biblical text during the week. Is there a prayer project I can suggest that will help the people to do this?
7. How can I use transitions well in this sermon? This is more mundane than the others, but not unimportant. The sermon needs to feel like a whole, not a series of points. How can I transition well throughout the whole thing?
Hope these help you as you prepare or listen to sermons!