Focusing Your Sermon

Deciding what to include and leave out from sermon study is one of the most difficult tasks for young pastors in crafting sermons. Often sermons become a regurgitation of the cool things they learned in their study, instead of a focused exhortation.

A couple years ago, Pastor Ronnie Floyd tweeted a link to a Harvard Business Review article on “How to Craft a Persuasive Presentation,” and it has been a huge help to me in my sermon process. I do all of my exegetical work and study in a passage, next I exposit it verse-by-verse in its context, and then I put down a rough draft with an intro, exposition (interlaced with illustration and application), and a conclusion.

After I’ve done that I work through the tips in this article to refine my sermon. As the article says, “Most presentations are laden with unnecessary data, try to cover too much, and do little to change the audience’s mind.” I think this is true for a lot of sermons as well. See if these 4 steps are helpful for you:

  • Figure out the question you are answering

Based on the text, what is the purpose of your sermon? What question or problem are you going to resolve for your church? What do you want them to do, believe, or think? Spend the majority of your sermon answering that question from the text.

  • Create the opener

Grab the audience’s attention with a story on the topic. That will also establish what you are talking about upfront.

  • Draft the ending

My tendency is to re-hit the high points from my sermon and sum up, but that is not a good conclusion. Call your audience to action based on what you’ve preached.

  • Put it together and edit down

As the article says, “Be ruthless about taking out anything that’s not crucial to your points.” This is often the most difficult task in sermon crafting, but it is important.