April 19th 2022
What’s in a Sermon? Part 7: Presentation
At this point, you’ve developed a sermon using the four points that we’ve looked at so far and answering the questions involved with them:
Context: “How does this passage fit in the big picture of God’s glory?”
Overview: “What is going on in this specific passage of Scripture?”
Reflection: “What is the main point of this passage of Scripture?”
Expectations: “What do we do about it?”
In other words, you’ve developed your sermon CORE and, whew, good timing because the Sunday School hour is almost over and it’s time to preach! Well, hopefully you’ve had the opportunity to get a little farther ahead than this, because you are not done.
A sermon, after all, is not just a written document. It is a delivered message—usually audibly delivered, but I have some friends in the Deaf Community who would point out that “audible” (or “spoken”) may be incomplete concepts for us. My sermons are always spoken, even if they aren’t audible. Not the case for a couple of good pastors I know, whose sermons are “signed” into existence.
That being said, an outline on a page may be the final record of your sermon, but it has to get off the page and to the congregation for it to reach its goal. You are going to take your CORE outline and look at it for presentation purposes.
First of all, look at the introduction you intend to use. It does not need to be crazy-flashy, but it should not be dull, either. I personally tend to lead with ‘turn in your Bibles to…(passage)” and then provide some basic directions to that passage. From there, I will detour to some form of attention-getting point, like highlighting a question or a modern situation that I think this sermon helps address. Or, at least once recently, I’ll draw a sword from behind organ and start talking about the historical idea of swords and power.
Second, you should examine how your sermon is going to transition into your church’s response time. I’m proceeding on the assumption that you want people to respond, even if your tradition calls simply for a reflection time or a verbal response like a Scripture reading. Those points in the service are often fairly standardized, so how do you move from your sermon into them?
Third, you need to look into the transitions between each of your points. You can preach a sermon and just go from one to the next with “and next, this point…” And it is helpful to your orderly-thinking congregation for you to be clear when you hit your points. But there may be better ways to smooth over those interchanges. You are looking for the transitions in your sermon to feel more like a traffic circle than a left turn at a 4-way stop.
(I know, most of us aren’t traffic circle fans yet, but someday I hear we will like them!)
You want to plan through these for a couple of reasons:
First, to make sure your connection points are valid. Pay attention to what kind of stories you are telling, what angles you are approaching from. Why? Because you don’t want to fall back on the same story every time. And you want to be certain that you are not constantly jabbing in the same direction. (Oh, and try to leave your kids out of it. Preachers: you cannot complain that your kids are forced into fishbowl lives as preacher-kids when you keep throwing them in the water.)
Second, you want to make sure your connection points hold up. I have never gotten blowback from folks over preaching a truth. But I have gotten in trouble over an illustration that wasn’t on-point and definitely over some that people thought I was making fun of them in!
Remember, when the content is done, the sermon is not. You take the CORE outline and then polish it for presentation. That will ebb and flow from week-to-week, and this is where your personality comes through most strongly.