This is post number six in a series I am writing about sermons. (you can find others in this series here.)
I first began speaking in churches over 30 years ago. In that time, I have made some changes. Here are a few of the major ones.
How I started: Three Points in an Outline Form
When I was first learning to preach, I had a mental block around creating 3-point sermons. The guy training me was a gifted communicator and could create a three-point sermon from “Jesus wept”.
Eventually, I got it and began outlining my sermons. They all had at least three points, and each point usually had two subpoints.
Since I was part of the Assemblies of God, I preached a lot from the narratives in the Old Testament and the Book of Acts. [It seems that is where Pentecostals preach from, while evangelicals tend to land mainly in the letters of Paul.]
Outline to Manuscripts:
After speaking, I would frequently realise that I forgot to make a point that I thought was important. Turns out my brain isn’t great at remembering things. At that point, I started experimenting with manuscripting my sermons. I would write them out and then read them on Sunday.
It isn’t as bad as it sounds. Writing my sermons out helped fix things in my mind, and I generally practised a couple of times, so I didn’t need to follow word for word. It was more of a security blanket than anything.
Also, I’ve learned that not everyone can do this, but I would read with a speaking voice, not a “reading voice”. Most people were surprised to learn everything was written out because it didn’t sound like I was reading.
Three Points to One Point:
Through reading and speaking with other pastors, I knew most people who heard a sermon did not remember the 3 points. A week later, I would have been hard-pressed to remember the 3 points I was making. I also recognised early on that Jesus taught using stories, not “here are 5 things you need to remember or do”.
So, I shifted to 1 point sermons. Each message would generally have one key point that the whole thing built upon.
This was also around the time I joined the Vineyard. My main teaching text shifted from the Old Testament and Acts to the Gospels. My teaching has always been more narrative-based, so this was a relatively logical and easy shift.
Adding Presentation Software
Early on in the life of the church in Ithaca, we bought a projector, and I began using Keynote to supplement the messages. I was actually asked several times if I was a graphic designer. Not in any way. But I did read a lot about crafting presentations, and Keynote is brilliant and easy to use. I prepared the slides while writing the sermon, and I believe it helped me think through how what I said would be heard.
Yesterday, I wrote about how much we learn and retain after hearing a sermon. One of the things we added in Ithaca were what we called Next Steps. They were based on the encouragement in scripture to “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” So each week, we would provide a list of potential ways someone could put into practice what we heard Jesus say. We would generally try to offer a few so that a mature Jesus follower or a person who had no relationship with Jesus could engage.
My Current Shift…
Check back tomorrow!