So I have talked about finding that pastoral burden of a text, and I have tried to demonstrate sort of what I mean. Now I want to talk about the organization of the sermon to best accomplish the goal: That when the sermon is preached it is as though God is speaking because we are best representing the message of that passage.
I would argue that using some sort of Structure in a sermon is necessary for a couple of reasons:
- Few people if any can maintain uninterrupted continuous thought on a subject without some sort of structure that helps them break the thought up into units.
- Even logical syllogisms have parts to them that can be identified and explored in more detail.
- Even Paul used structure in many of his letters. To the degree that we can even trace his thought fairly well now.
- Even in Creation God structured all of creation into smaller units. God did not have to do it that way, but because of truths he was reveling to us in creation, he structured his work so that we might understand it better.
- Even in Redemption, God structures his work again. Whether we use the structure of the Trinity to see the work of God, or we think of only the work of the cross in both its accomplished and applies aspects, the work of redemption is structured.
Now whether or not you are convinced that you should structure your sermons or not, doesn’t matter to me. But I will say, I never listen to anyone preach who just rambles. I just can’t. My mental faculties are not what they used to be, and I can’t make heads or tails of a running narration sermon. And honestly, I don’t think too many people can. So you need to use a structure.
But what kind of Structure?
You can use simply the grammar of the passage to help you structure your sermon, but I think when you allow the grammar to guide the structure of the sermon, you will end up with a sermon that is not necessarily informed by both the gospel or the pastoral burden that is inherent in the text.
For example if you preach from Psalm 1 and you simply structure your sermon about the righteous and the wicked, you could very well lose two ideas:
- Christ is the point of all Scripture.
- The Psalms had a particular purpose in the life of God’s people which serves us today as well.
Or perhaps someone might preach from Ephesians 5 where husbands are to love their wives. After recounting things like
- Sacrificial Love
- Providing Love
- Protecting Love
While this outline could work, you have to take care not to let your outline color over the large context related to the application of this text. The large context of Ephesians 5 has two huge points:
- God’s powerful, wonderful work in our redemption chapters 1-3
- The call to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which we have been called which includes being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Any sermon on husbands loving their wives that never mentions Ephesians 5:18 is just asking to be a moralistic sermon devoid of the gospel and devoid of the power in the Word of God.
So I think a better way to structure your sermon is to keep the big context, both of the book, the testament, and the whole of the Bible in mind as you make your points. So let me give an example from Ephesians 5 again.
Objective: Every Christian husband can walk in a manner worthy of his calling by allowing the Spirit to do three things with your love.
- Let your love become molded by the cross of Christ.
- Let your love become fixed upon her spiritual good
- Let your love become aimed at the glory of Christ and his church.
This outline starting with the objective: tells you what this sermon is going to be about and keeps front and center those large contexts necessary for understanding the book as a whole. Then it drives you to think about things the right way.
So what do you think. What else would you need to know?