We are working on our ten-part series on How to Prepare a Sermon. We’ve already given you all ten steps of sermon preparation, and part 1, Praying about your Sermon; Part 2, Textual vs. Topical; Part 3,Study the Passage; Part 4, Read the Commentaries. Now, we need to talk about the Proposition.
This is key. The better you do here, the easier the rest of the sermon will fall into place. What is the Proposition? The Proposition is the entire message squeezed into one sentence. It is the ‘sermon in a sentence’; also known as “the Big Idea”. And please note that I said that you “arrive at the proposition”. You don’t create the main idea of the passage; you discover it. You don’t go to it; it comes to you. It IS the message. Then the Mains and supporting material are just unpacking that single idea.
The Proposition is the sermon in a sentence. Sound ridiculous to think you can pack an entire sermon into a sentence? If you cannot say what you intend to say in one sentence, then you do not have a clear idea of what you are talking about. Now, obviously all of the depth of meaning, the expanded content, and the specific application cannot be included in that single sentence; else you would have quite the run-on sentence. But yet, a well-designed proposition captures the essence of the sermon in its grasp.
The Proposition, or Big Idea, or Sermon in a Sentence is something you “arrive at”, you don’t create it. It comes to you as you study God’s Word. God the Holy Spirit reveals it to you, and then you write it out. The Word of God has a message for you and for your congregation. Because the Word is “living and active, and sharper than a two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12), it has a very specific application for your unique church situation. Discover it, and you have discovered the Big Idea for your sermon. How do you know if you have arrived at it? If someone says “give me a quick summary of your sermon”, you can actually give a quick summary, in just a sentence.
Once you have the Proposition, then the Main Points support and explain it more fully. Main points will not add anything new to the big idea of your sermon; they will merely expand upon concepts or themes which are inherent in your Proposition.
Once you have the Proposition, you have a significant part of your sermon already done. Now please note that we are at point 5 in your sermon preparation, and you have just arrived at the Proposition. So you have done quite a bit of research and study already. But once you get the Proposition down, the rest of the sermon will come together relatively quickly, because you already know everything you need to say. You just have to unpack it.
So that is the Proposition. You can read more about the Big Idea here if you like. We are half-way through the process of writing a sermon. Stick around for the rest of the series.
Exercise: Select a passage of Scripture, anywhere from four to ten verses; read it through several times; study it; then try to express its meaning in one sentence.
God’s best to you as you prepare to teach God’s Word!
Dr. Bill Miller