Peter Mead, at Biblical Preaching.Net, gives two options for turning a text into a half hour sermon in this article. Mead provides two options. The first is to carefully plan how to drive the main point into your people. This would include tactically deciding how you will present the idea. Mead succinctly summarizes this option as follows:
Option 1 is to take half-an-hour and make that main idea so clear, so transformative, so evident from the text, so applicational for each life.
Option 2 is to simply throw together information about the text, or other things irrelevant to the point, that obfuscates the point of the message.
I think this is an important thing to ask about everything that we are preaching. Is the tidbit that I am about to add to the sermon actually helping to drive the main point home, or apply the point, or celebrate the point? If it is not, then set it aside. Over the course of your preaching ministry you will probably have a chance to brig it back, but it is not a helpful part of the sermon you are currently working on unless it serves the point of your sermon.
In the Winter 2003 edition of the African American Pulpit there is the sermon The Worms Got Him by Dr. Caesar Clark who is one of the great African American preachers.
We will look at this sermon at another time in that there is much in it to learn about the genius of the Black pulpit. What I want to look at here is the interesting device that Clark uses in his first move of the sermon. Here Clark summarizes a lot of information and background data for the hearers.
The sermon text is Acts 12:5 and Acts 12:20-24. Clark zeros in on the following quote “He was eaten of worms and gave up the ghosts, but the word of of God grew and multiplied.” Here Clark wants to emphasize the distinction between the group that is eaten of worms (dies) and the word of God which grew and prospered.
Clark begins the sermon by taking the congregation on a walk through the Herod families graveyard. As he walks by each tombstone he gives a wealth of data derived from the Bible and other sources. The epithets on each tombstone were taken from the Bible itself. For example, Clark notes that Herod Antipas’ epithet was “that fox.”
What is very helpful about what Clark is doing is that he gives people the background necessary to understand and experience the sermon. But he gives it to them in an experience. He doesn’t just tell them the history. Very few like or understand history, but he calls people to come and walk in a story. Clark reminds us preachers that we need to find a way to connect the ancient story to the people. Clark is a part of the African American tradition which always seeks to bring people into an experience with the text.
So next time you are thinking about simply reciting the background of a text, why not attempt to create an experience with that background. You will have a stronger sermon and the people will retain your points better.
When you have a main question or a thesis, you need to translate that thesis into a sermon outline. There are Seven Interrogatives that you can ask of your thesis to help you flesh out an outline.
The preacher would simply take the theme and then ask these questions. Each question can help to create a different sermon based on the theme.
The final source of Biblical Preaching is imagination. Charles Koller notes that imagination alone can turn a dull sermon into one that comes alive. Imagination helps you create connections between the past and the present in interesting ways. Koller notes that while it is powerful, one should take pains not to abuse it with attempts to be clever. In addtion, any conjectures or additions to the text should be identified as such to the people.
Koller notes that imagination is expressed in a few ways:
Preachers must use their imaginations in sermons. God has called us to worship him with our whole being, certainly it includes the imagination. I agree that merely appealing to it will make any sermon more effective.
Charles Koller in the book How To Preach Without Notes writes: “Preaching at its best is the sharing of profound personal experience.” He backs up this claim by appealing to the apostles who simply told the story of their interaction with Jesus Christ (Acts 4:20).
Koller gives three criteria for the determination of whether we should inject a particular piece of our expereince into the sermon. The first criteria is that it is true. I have heard stories that were obviously untrue given by preachers. This detracts from the message that the preacher is trying to convey.
The second criteria is the story is the preacher’s own. Too often preachers attempt to palm off someone else’s story as their own. Often times the people sense something is not right and it will ultimately hurt the credibility of the preacher in the eyes of the congregation.
The third criteria is that the preacher is not the hero of the story. This kind of thing undercuts the message to promote the messenger.
In short, the preacher should tell stories from the preacher’s experience. These stories strengthen the connection of the people with the preacher as well as clears up the message itself. However, the preacher should make sure that the point of the story is to clarify or enforce truth. If that is not the preacher’s purpose, then the story should be left out.