Sunday, May 30, 2010
How do You Build a Sermon?
Building a Sermon
STEP #1: "Structural Context"
This refers to the strategic question in inductive study. This keeps the immediate and book context in mind to ensure proper interpretation. Once you see the strategic purposes of the author, it should be relatively easy to adapt those purposes to your audience with appropriate modification.
EXAMPLE: Colossians was written to address spiritual fervor that uncritically accepts pluralistic and syncretistic spirituality. This has an obvious parallel in our own culture today.
You need this for your sake in preparation, not necessarily to give to your audience.
STEP #2: "Passage Outline"
This means a bare bones diagram of the thought development of the paragraph/passage.
Look especially for the main claim and how the other statements are related to it. (This is where the new inductive method is more helpful.)
EXAMPLE: In Col. 2:9-15, 2:9,10a is the main claim. Paul then unpacks this claim that we have been made complete in Christ in three ways: we have been freed from demonic bondage (2:10b,15), we have been released from bondage to our sin-natures (2:11,12), and we have been released from the guilt of our sins (2:13,14).
STEP #3: "Theses-Antitheses"
This section is for summarizing the theological truths in the passage, and for identifying contemporary opposites to those truths.
You should have theses in the "Theology" section of the old inductive method, and in the "Key theological concepts" of the new method.
In Col. 2:9-15, 2:10a is the main theological thesis, and the other statements serve to expound it.
You should have the antitheses in the "Contemporary Application" section of your inductive study. Here we are beginning to build the bridge between the biblical and contemporary worlds. Antitheses both help define the meaning of the thesis and reveal its significance/relevance.
In Col. 2:9-15, contemporary antitheses include: Jesus is only one of many avatars (2:9), Christian salvation is only a rudimentary form of spirituality (2:10a), all spirits are essentially benevolent (2:10b,15), our main problem is psychological guilt (2:13,14), humans are essentially good and capable of self-reform (2:11,12).
From the theses discerned in the text, select those theses that best apply to the needs of your audience.
You do not have to deal with everything in your passage. Especially in a ten-minute teaching, you can only develop one or at most two theses. (Try to develop the main one.)
Select those antitheses that are most relevant to your audience. For example, if your thesis is "Salvation is by grace apart from works," your antithesis could be "Salvation is by works apart from grace," or, "Salvation is by grace plus works." The second antithesis would be likely to be held by our audience or by people they know, whereas the first is implausible for most people.
In Col. 1:15-23, where the main claim is that Jesus is supreme over everything and everyone else in the universe (1:18b), an older antithesis would be "Christ is only a good man or great teacher." A more relevant antithesis would be "Christ is only one of many ways to God/salvation/spirituality."
The "Audience Analysis Worksheet" helps you to focus in on your own audience.
Check TV, BOOKS, MAGAZINES, MOVIES, MUSIC, INTERNET, DISCUSSIONS WITH NON-CHRISTIANS, etc. for suitable antitheses examples.
STEP #4: Developing a Burden (not on the worksheet)
"Burden" refers to your attitude toward the theses you are advancing. When you are personally convinced of the significance and practical importance of that truth for human life, you have a "burden." When you are burdened, you are emotionally wrought up about this issue because you see how important it is. This attitude is absolutely essential for effective biblical preaching.
"But if I say, 'I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,' his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot." (Jer. 20:9)
STOTT: "So possess the truth that it possesses you."
A burdened preacher is like a charcoal briquette soaked with lighter fluid: "Light a match and watch me burn!"
D. M. Lloyd-Jones: "Preaching is theology coming through a man who is on fire."
NOTE: Good teachings have both "heat" and "light." "Heat" comes from burden and application; "light" comes from solid study and knowing what your audience does and does not understand. "Light" without heat is boring; "heat" without light is manipulation/intimidation. Know your tendency and check each teaching for your weakness. (MORE NEXT WEEK ON DELIVERY)
The burden for the teaching comes primarily from the "thesis/antithesis" section of the work sheet. The commonly or popularly expressed antitheses provide the "fortresses" in your audience's thinking that can be "destroyed" by the scriptural theses (see 2 Cor. 10:4,5; 6:7). This is why teachings without antitheses are usually boring.
J. W. Alexander: "Preaching is argument made red-hot."
PASTOR'S RESPONSE AT LEADERSHIP NETWORK RETREAT: "I’ve never heard of that before—it changes everything."
Especially in a relativistic culture, beware of getting backed away from this! Using antithesis in teachings also helps your people learn biblical discernment--a crucial aspect of the mind of Christ.
How to develop a "burden":
Prayerfully focus first on your own life: "How has God changed my life through understanding and following this truth? When did I first learn this truth? How did I first apply it? How did my life suffer because I was ignorant of it? How have I re-learned and re-applied it since? What has happened when I have chosen to respond to this truth? What has happened when I have refused to follow it?" Often, you will need to come under fresh conviction of the truth before you can become burdened to preach it.
"Get into the Word, get under the Word—then go forth with the Word!"
You may use some of this in your teaching—but not necessarily.
Next, prayerfully ask the same kinds of questions of specific people likely to be in your audience. Ask God for a vision of what could happen to them if they learn and follow this truth--and what will happen if they don’t.
Next, prayerfully think about how people in our culture have been damaged and deceived by the antitheses.
STEP #5: "Goal"
Your selection of theses and burden for those theses should yield a clear goal for your teaching. Unless you can state this goal in one or two concise phrases, you lack the clarity and focus needed for your teaching to be effective. If both Christians and non-Christians will be present, you should have a specific goal for each group.
Powerful teachings have one main theme! Don’t try to include everything you know. The fact that you know much more about the passage than what you teach will give you intangible authority ("ICE-BERG" PRINCIPLE: 10% ABOVE THE SURFACE; 90% BELOW). Ruthlessly edit, leaving only what illuminates and reinforces your main theme. This is the difference between ONE SHARP, FINELY HONED ARROW and MANY BLUNT & SCATTERED ARROWS.
STEP #6: "Major Points" & "Illustrations & Applications"
This is where you should spend most of your time--reflecting, adjusting, etc. This is also the creative part--there is no formula or recipe for creating your outline.
Arrange your material into a reasonable thought development in the "Major Points" section. Often the theses or antitheses are the main points. At other times, explanatory material may have to precede the statement of the theses or antitheses. This section should supply as many of the following as needed (not necessarily in this order):
DECLARE THE THESIS: Strive for a concise, interesting statement that defines the thesis.
JUSTIFY THE THESIS (if necessary)
Sometimes, you need to clarify the thesis because it is unclear in the text. This is a practical way of staying under the authority of the Word. Otherwise, your audience will be resistant to further persuasion--or you are asking them to take your word for it. You can do this by:
• defining key words in the text (apekdusis for "disarming" in Col. 2:11--see its usage that way in 2:15)
• pointing out the context (Col. 1:15a & 2:9 to show that "first-born" in 1:15b does not imply creaturehood)