I will never forget my first homiletic class where the instructor told us to “analyze a sermon.” I had no idea where to begin and the whole idea seemed difficult. But I then found out that by analyze they simply mean look at the sermon “critically” and “closely.” Pull the sermon apart and look at the pieces individually. Then see how the pieces fit together. These are all parts of analyzing a sermon effectively. Sermon analysis works best when you are analyzing your own sermons. So in this article I want to give you some questions to ask yourself as you analyze your own sermons to become a more effective proclaimer of the Word of truth.
The Main Truth, Important Truth and Portable Truth
The first question you want to ask is what was the purpose of the sermon? Was it powerfully conveyed? Too often we either make the main point cloudy by not lifting it up high enough, or we simply do not have a decent idea of what our main point is. When you do either of these things that cloud up your main point, you will make it difficult for the people to know what you are teaching.
Was the sermon important? Some have questioned the idea that something can be true and not important. I do believe that there are things that are true, but are not important enough to be preached at this time, but you don’t have to believe that. Whether you believe everything that is true is important or not, whatever you preach, you need do clearly articulate how it is important. Don’t leave your people wondering or guessing. Help them to find this by your proclamation.
My homiletic instructor, Rev. Dr. Brad Braxton, used to tell us that we need to figuratively package the truth of our sermons into pouches that our people can take with us and use during their daily lives. It is one thing to teach truth, it is another thing to teach important truth, and it is best to present important and portable truth. Let your people bring that main point with them and be in a position to use it in their daily lives. Have you done that in the sermon?
Using the Bible and Illustrations
First there are issues regarding the use of the Bible. Look at which scriptures are used. Are they used legitimately? Is it the correct scripture to use in this case? How are the scriptures used? Sometimes scriptures are used to illustrate truth. Other times they are used to establish truth. Sometimes they are illegitimately used as a springboard to what the preacher wishes to say. Sometimes the scripture even says the opposite of what the preacher said that particular scripture says. At any rate, listen to how the scriptures are used in the sermon. Ask yourself if the use of the scriptures are valid and helpful.
Related to this is the use of stories and illustrations. What stories are used to illustrate truth? Are they effective? What could be done to make the sermon better? Do the stories overpower the points of the sermon? Do the stories help the sermon?
Next you want to look at the structure of the sermon. What are the parts of the sermon? How do they fit together? What are the reasons for the parts? How does the sermon move towards ending? How is the introduction structured? There are many different ways of structuring a successful sermon, learning different methods will help you in your efforts to improve you own sermons. Always make sure that your own sermons move forward properly.
Ultimately there is not only one proper way to analyze the sermon. I am simply calling you to look very closely at the sermon. When you look at your sermons closely you may ask some of these questions, you may ask more questions, but in the end, please look closely at your sermons before and after you present them to your people.