The 3 pages of the sermon

I have been teaching students at Wycliffe Hall about “homiletical form”.

I may have a particularly cluttered mind, but one area of preaching used to be troublesome for me.  As I poured over the passage I would end up with reams of jottings which included

  • exegetical thoughts on the passage;
  • possible central themes arising from the biblical passage;
  • possible anecdotes/illustrations
  • a “hook” into the sermon and possible applications;
  • alliterative or numbered points for the sermon;

In order to declutter my thinking I have come up with “3 pages of the sermon”

  • on one page I write down all my thoughts on the passage;
  • on the second page I write down possible illustrations, applications, introductions and conclusions;
  • on the third page I write down a tentative outline including an “exegetical theme” (single sentence summary of the biblical passage) and “homiletical theme” – sometimes called “the big idea” (single sentence summary of the sermon);

Then comes the time to try to distill the three pages into one.  For the sermon I preached on Luke 17:20-37 recently it ended up looking liks this  This is a detailed outline of the sermon.  After this it is a matter of taste as to whether a full text is then written (certainly a good discipline for new preachers) or whether these notes are used as the outline from which to preach the sermon.  An audio recording of the preached sermon may also be found on my website

Other’s may have a much more coherent and logic mind which enables a separation out of the discreet parts of sermon preparation, but it doesn’t work that way for me, hence this methodology.

To put the same principle another way round:

  • First isolate the heart of the passage and locate the heartbeat;
  • Secondly, overlay this heartbeat with a skeletal structure for the sermon;
  • Thirdly, overlay this with the flesh or meat of the sermon;
  • Fourthly, dress it up so it is ready to go (with illustration, application etc.)

I hope that this may help preachers arrive at clarity in the prepartion process.


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