Hi All, especially up-and-coming preachers!
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; part 5, Arrive at the Proposition. Now, today we are looking at that part of the sermon which will be the most memorable part to your listeners, the Main Points.
What separates great! Mains, from so-so or ho-hum Mains? Here are some guidelines you need to follow to write good mains which will captivate your listeners:
1. The Mains explain and unpack all the powerful concepts which are stuffed into your Proposition.
Remember that your Proposition, is actually the “sermon in a sentence”. What that means is that the key ideas for your entire message are already inherent in your Proposition. The Mains then, help to explain, unpack, unravel, and reveal all the concepts already hidden in your proposition. If the Proposition is the “sermon in a sentence”, then the Mains are simply the sermon in three, four, or five sentences.
So when you write each of your Main Points, you need to be asking the question, “Does this Main Point unpack my Proposition?” If it helps to make your Proposition more understandable, then it may be a useful Main Point (if it meets the following conditions as well).
2. The Mains should not introduce a concept or idea which was not inherent in your Proposition.
The reason for this is that it destroys the Focus of your sermon. If your Mains do not contribute to explaining your Proposition, then you have not clearly figured out the main point of your sermon. The Mains explain your Proposition, they do not confuse or expand into new territory which is not inherent in your Proposition.
3. The Mains need symmetry to be most helpful to your listeners.
The Mains need to have a sense of flow and direction. Mains can help your sermon to be understandable, memorable, and even beautiful.
4. The Mains are most powerful when they are phrased as actions to be taken.
There are a number of different approaches which you can take when designing your sermons. Some sermons are inspirational, some are informational, some are action-oriented. All three are needed. I personally have a bias for action-oriented sermons. Many people need to know how to live the Christian life in a God-honoring way that helps them to truly follow God. I believe a preacher’s job is to help them do that. So sermons which are addressed specifically to people to take certain actions will often have verbs in them. For example, your Mains may be something like this: ”Trust God during tough times,” “Follow God during rough times”, “Obey God during all times”. This is just a quick example, but it shows the key idea of placing an action step for each main. This pulls people into it, because you are talking to them directly.
5. The number of Main Points should usually be from one to five points.
Finally, there is debate about just how many points a sermon should have. Andy Stanley makes a great case for just one main point. I think it is found in his book “Communicating for Life Change”. But some people prefer to take a more traditional approach to the Mains. In those cases, you need to have enough points to explain your Proposition, but not so many as to overwhelm the listener. Usually, from one (a la Andy Stanley) to five points is normal.
So there you have it. How you put your Mains together will make a big impact on your listeners. The Mains carry your content forward in an understandable fashion. Good Mains make for a good sermon.
Yours for better preaching!
Dr. Bill Miller