What is your sermon about?
Years ago, while serving as a youth pastor, I got the opportunity to preach at my church on a Sunday morning. The day before the big event, I saw one of the teenagers in our church and he asked me what I was preaching on the next day. Five minutes later I was still talking to the poor student in an ill-fated attempt to explain the upcoming sermon!
I didn’t know much about preaching (should I use present tense instead of past tense here?), but I suddenly realized that I needed to sharpen my thesis statement. What in the world was I preaching about?
Every preacher needs a clear answer to that question. A strong thesis statement adds clarity and direction to the message. I like to use a simple statement like “Passionate prayer changes the world” or “Growing disciples learn the value of serving”. This explains the sermon and helps me to focus on what I want my hearers to know or do or change.
This same need for clarity applies to division statements. I like division statements to be complete sentences which apply the text and thesis statement to the lives of my audience.
So, if my thesis statement is “Passionate prayer changes the world” I want my division statements (my outline) to connect well to this thesis. It might look like this.
1. Prayer that changes the world is focused on God’s will.
2. Prayer that changes the world is consistent with God’s word.
3. Prayer that changes the world is concerned with God’s work.
This example shows an outline that is clear and simple and balanced. Each point is similar in length. (Generally speaking, shorter is better.) Each applies the word to hearers. (Good sermons always lead us to action.) Each point is connected to the thesis itself. (Prayer is clearly the subject of this sermon.)
Under each division statement I want to do three things. I want to explain the text, illustrate the text and apply the text. More on that in a later blog.
Clarity in preaching is more than the language and wording we use. (By the way, every preacher should eschew obfuscation. Look it up!) It also involves a clear subject and a clear direction to the message. Clarity means the hearers knows what the sermon is about and what the preacher wants them to do.
Good communication takes clarity. Preacher, make your sermon clear by having a clear thesis and clear points.