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Body, introduction and conclusion of a sermon

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The Body of the Sermon                                                                                       

1. Major points

The outline must have them (2-5 points). Sermon needs a plan, like a building. The existence of a plan can be seen from the outside.

Advantages of an outline:

(1)     Helps us to be creative

(2)     Makes our studies profitable

(3)     Keeps the parts proportionate

(4)     It is an aid to style (This is our worship to God, so it can be beautiful.)

(5)     It is an aid to our and our audience’s memory

(6)     Makes our sermon intelligible, understandable.

Qualities of a good outline:

a)         Each point has a living force in it.

b)         Each point has something characteristic.

c)         Each starting have similar form

d)         There is a progress, a movement in each of them toward a direction. The sermon drives the audience to that direction. (The sermon is a logical or persuasive arrangement of ideas.)

e)         There is unity in the sermon. The points are not overlapping, but show different aspects or things that lies beyond the idea)

Sermons should not be:

Like an Eskimo house (one idea - driving nowhere)

Like a dish of pudding (the most important thing is in the middle)

Like a rocket (great start, then disintegrates)

Like a shotgun (going to several directions)

Like a ski (the good story is just at the end)

Sermons should be (either of these):

a)         Like a flower (when the points are equally important and their sequence does not matter)

b)         Like a ladder or a staircase

c)         Like signs on a highway

d)         Like a shot gun (going to several direction)

e)         Like a ski (the good story is just at the end)

If these major points come from the text, it is a textual sermon, if they come from the topic, it is a topical sermon. (Example: If the topic is praying, the points are in sequence: we should do it, always do it, expecting something out of it, do it like Jesus did.)

What to do with the text?

a)         Cut it up - like the goose – at the joints. (Find the turning points.)

Examples:
in Hebrew 10:22-25 we see the phrase: ‘Let us do’ something (in verses 22, 23, 25) or
in Luke 15 we see the word ‘when’ in verses 14, 17, 20.

b)         Expand the text, show the general application (Example: story of Naomi and Ruth)

 ‘God was bitter to me’ Ruth 1:20-21

(Dying is a part of life, it is not God who wants to take it.)

There is a common statement, common misunderstanding, but uncommon faith in Ruth. Why did Ruth go with her mother-in-law? She has seen how Naomi handled her grief and she wanted that faith.

c)         Move from general to specific

Example: John 3:16 – Can I believe that He loves me if I have sinned?

d)         Compare it

Example: The blind man after washing his face in the pool saw himself first, then he saw others around him, finally Jesus. Our stories are just the opposite.

e)         Contrast it

The prodigal son’s older brother has so much different attitude than our older brother, the Lord Jesus Christ does. (e.g. The first did not want to eat with sinners, but the Lord eats with us each Sunday.)

f)           Look at it various contexts

Historical context, Doctrinal context (if the subject is sin, other doctrines are holiness, forgiveness etc.), Biblical context, Cultural context, Psychological context (the writer might have different things in his mind than in his heart), Emotional context (how did the writer and the addressee feel and how do we feel reading the words?)

g)         Look for progression in it

Example:

  1. Jesus chose the place carefully,
  2. He chose the time carefully,
  3. He chose the audience carefully,
  4. Jesus chose his words carefully.

h)         Categorize the text

Example: on the road to Bethlehem, some came with joy, some with violence, some with haste, some with devotion.

i)           Do parallel slicing, showing the different aspects the layers of the passage.

Example: Psalm 136

Focuses first on God, than on spiritual and not material things, than it underlines these two by repeating them.

  1. 2.         Sub-points

What methods can we use in determining them?

a)         Analyze the statement of the main point (why and how)

b)        Beautify the main points

c)         Confirm the point

With other passage from the Scripture (supporting texts)

With patterns taken from the nature

From history

d)        Compare the main point

e)        Contrast the main point (not like . . . )

f) Define the main point (defining words might not be interesting enough – so be careful, and do it always with style) e.g. drifting away – like the ship from its harbor

g)        Explain the main point

h)         Illustrate the main point

i) Restate it with other words

j) Talk about its causes

k) Talk about its cure

l) Explain the details

m) Provide examples

Each division (major point) should be like the doors leading to greater and greater rooms. Use your creativity! Sermons are not to come out by force, so let them flow from you.

Write down each idea and later you can select the best ones out of them. Although you are the writer and the editor, do not do them simultaneously. Songs might have good suggestions for a sermon outline.

Good sermons should always have (this is the ideal case):

  1. Something to learn (not just new truths but you can show how to apply the old).
  2. Something to think about (questions left unanswered).
  3. Something to feel (not just thinking materials are needed).
  4. Something to remember
  5. Something to do

Put the material requiring much thinking to the beginning and the emotional materials to the end. The climax of the sermon is always at the end.

What not to say:

  1. ‘this is my first point’ (this interrupts the listening process)
  2. Do not apologize yourself. (The audience will recognize your faults right away even if you do not name them.)

 

Transitional sentences lead the listener from one main point to the other like:

Not only . . . but . . .

Moving beyond this we can understand . . .

I also want to show you  . . .

 

The Introduction

We must know where to begin! (The king response to Alice in Wonderland on the question of where to start her story is a good phrase.) TV habits: first 2 second determines whether to listen to the next half-hour or not.

Good beginning and good end is inevitable for a good sermon. But keep them close to each other as much as possible.

The best words should be in the beginning. The introduction should not be more then 4-5 sentences. They should be written down and memorized.

Two kind of introduction:

  1. introduce just the first point
  2. introduce the whole message

The importance of introduction is to draw the attention and raise interest for the sermon. It stirs up curiosity, prepares the mind of the listener and secures his good will for the preacher.

Example: ‘Up and down, off and on, now and then, hot and cold – this the story of Peter, but it’s mine as well and perhaps you feel the same way.

What materials do we use for introduction?

  1. Word pictures – Example: prisoners before the court and not the prisoners but the judge trembles (Paul and Felix)
  2. Starting statement – Example: ‘I wish I were dead’ – The man in my text says something stronger: ‘I wish I were not born’
  3. Open with poems, songs, questions, problem illustrations, humor or current event. (Although humor might be better fit to the middle.)
  4. Geographical background
  5. Historical background
  6. Biblical background. Example: ‘Light is on the first and last page of the Bible and in many other places in between.

An example for a good introduction is in Acts 17:22-23 and 29.

Paul began where his audience was. Moreover he identifies himself with them in verse 29.

The good introduction is brief, simple, appropriate and interesting.

Why introductions fail?

  1. They are predictable (e.g. the preacher uses always the same method for starting.)
  2. Promise too much
  3. They are inappropriate (do not fit to this particular sermon)
  4. Ignorant of the experiences of the day of the audience. (They describe the preacher’s situation not of the listener’s.)
  5. They are too dull.
  6. They tell too much. (If the whole message is in the introduction, why do I need to listen to the sermon at all?)
  7. Promises too little.
  8. They do not promise anything.
  9. They are unprepared.
  10. They are not fresh.
  11. They are too negative.
  12. They tell the audience more than what they want to know.
    Introduction should take the passenger on board before take-off.
  13. They are too slow.
  14. They are too fast. (Reaches what the audience wants to hear.)

 

The Conclusion

It is similar to the landing (the dangerous part of flight). It requires lot of skills.

Do not waist the time of the audience! Land with full power!

Do not be like a guest, who wants to leave and quit but do not know how!

The good sermon is like one burning light, and the conclusion should lead to the sea of life not like the Australian rivers leading nowhere.

Conclusion SHOULD NOT BE announced! The audience will know when it is over, so the sermon should end suddenly not predictably.

HAVE ONLY ONE CONCLUSION for one sermon! (It can be a two-part conclusion, but in this case these two have to be balanced. Example: In Philippians 3 we have the first part and there is one more chapter.)

Conclusion succeeds when it inspires response (not verbal response). The good conclusion has an offer for the future. (to feel, to do etc.)

Example: On the topic for caring for others one preacher told a story of a girl to the audience, whose request was: - Name one person like that for me!

The sermon ended here with a question: - May I give her your name?

Forms of a good conclusion:

  1. Practical
  2. Should be variety in our conclusions
  3. Can appeal to something
  4. Can be an application
  5. Can be an exaltation
  6. Can be a consolation
  7. Can be projection of a possible future
  8. Can be a call for decision
  9. Can be a proclamation

Types of the conclusions:

  1. Review (most common but not the best, because it requires no creativity and easy but it is not much effective)
  2. Summary (should be very short, the whole sermon in a single drop)
  3. Arial view (greater perspective)
  4. Point of a pencil
  5. Last line of a joke (the punch line)
  6. Might just a suggestion (Example: Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and Pilate washed his hands. Which basin would you chose if you were given water?)
  7. Strong encouragement
  8. Motivation for action (Example: A picture of a chess-game where only one move was possible for escaping the checkmate. Example 2: The story of Henry Stanley, the person who found Livingstone in Africa.)

Material to be used in the conclusions:

  1. Poems
  2. Song quotations
  3. Parables (your own ones)
  4. Promise
  5. Verse of the Scripture.
  6. Quotes
  7. Warnings (Jesus came as a baby to the Earth at the first time and comes back as a king next time.)
  8. Call for response (Repent! All the prophets proclaimed this, so do I!)

The style of preaching has changed throughout the years:

  1. Adoration (beautiful words used)
  2. Debate (one sided)
  3. Lesson
  4. Conversation (one sided)
  5. Pretended dialogue (not successful)

- notes from R. Shannon homiletics class