Stage 7 – Message Structure

Once you have defined your message purpose and idea, it is time to strategize. What shape should the message take to maximize the effectiveness of delivering the idea to achieve your purpose? Many people fall into a rut of using the same shape for most sermons – perhaps because it’s what they’ve grown up hearing, or the instruction they received in Bible school honored one shape over others, or even laziness may be a factor. The fact is that there are numerous options for sermon shape.

Will the idea be stated in the introduction (deductive), or only emerge fully toward the end (inductive)? Maybe the idea will emerge at a mid-point, before being supported and applied (inductive/deductive). Will the text be handled in order, or out of order? Will relevance be loaded at the end, or spread throughout the message? Is the idea best conveyed as a subject completed, or would a more united idea allow for greater reinforcement during the message? These are all options, but we mustn’t forget the starting point, the text itself. What form does the text take? How does the genre function and influence the preaching? If it is a narrative, when in the message will you tell the story? If it is poetry, how can your sermon shape avoid dissecting and killing the cumulative power of the imagery? Then you have to ask whether a creative approach, such as preaching in character (first-person), or interactively, or by plotting the entire message will actually augment the message?

Previously on this site I have written much on this subject.  What factors should influence your choice of sermon form – part 1, 2 and 3. It is important to see this decision as your strategy (& part 2). Does the passage shape always determine the message shape? (See also here.) Once you have an outline, how do you write the points, and then evaluate the outline? It’s important to remember that outlines play a support role, they are not to be too prominent. Preachers often misdirect their focus, trying to make the outline memorable. The outline need not show too much, but listeners do need to have confidence that you know where you are going and it is important that they can follow in the text.

For all posts on this stage, please click on Stage 7 – Message Outline, in the menu.

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