(This is a follow up to a post I did a few months ago: “3 Interesting Versions of the 3-Point Sermon Outline.” If you’ve used those so much that they’re boring now, here’s three more.)
Preaching the same kind of sermon every week is like a having good friends over, and cooking them the same thing every time.
You reserve your best dishes for people who come over for the first time. But when it comes to the folks who don’t need to ask whether to take off their shoes off, you need to change things up.
One of the jobs of a preacher is to provide variety in our sermons. We may be shepherds, but our people want more to eat than just grass.
Having a several versions of the three-point sermon up your sleeve provide your flock with a diet that is not only balanced in nutrients (you preach the whole counsel, right?), but also varied in flavor.
1. The logical 3-point sermon
This method is effective for arguing a point, and then leading toward why that point matters. It works for a “how to” kind of sermon, too. For more on how these logical labels work, see Thomas Schreiner on “Tracing the Argument.”
Point #1: The cause/condition/way – The means of attaining the results you want to point your congregation toward.
Point #2: The reason/ground – Supports Point #1 by giving reasons for it. This will answer the skeptics, and motivate everyone else.
Point #3: The effect/purpose/implication – Shows the results if Point #1 is followed.
The gospel could fit in either Point #1 or #2, providing either the means or the ground, thus demonstrating the functional centrality of the gospel.
Example: Paul uses this model in Colossians 2:20-23, where he shows legalism for how bankrupt it really is.
1. The way we live according to legalism: adding human rules (20-22)
2. The reason we live according to legalism: we crave the appearance of wisdom (23a)
3. The effect of living according to legalism: you’re no better off fighting the indulgence of the flesh (23b).
2. The sequential 3-point sermon
This version is effective for a narrative of someone’s conversion, a healing story, or a “call narrative” (think Joshua or Gideon).
Point #1: The Past – How things were, in their original, not-so-ideal state.
Point #2: The Present – How they changed. This is where you would preach the gospel.
Point #3: The Future – How the person lives in light of his or her change.
Example: I recently heard a sermon from Phil Ryken on Naaman, which fits this mold perfectly.
1. Past: Naaman was a leper who was impressed by outward displays of importance. He thought he could purchase his cure (2 Kings 5:1-12).
2. Present: He humbles himself to the grace of God by accepting healing, free of charge, in river that doesn’t measure up to his standards (2 Kings 5:13-19)
3. Future: Namaan devotes himself worship the Lord, even in a morally conflicting context, and becomes a generous man (to the detriment of Gehazi, 2 Kings 5:20-27).
3. The medical 3 point-sermon
I owe this one to David Murray, which he offers in his book, How Sermons Work. Like a doctor, you look past the symptoms to the causes of the sin issue, and then offer a prescription. It is a fantastic way to lead from your Fallen Condition Focus to the hope that is in the gospel.
Point #1: The Causes of the FCF.
Point #2: The Consequences of the FCF.
Point #3: The Cure of the FCF. The gospel would naturally land here.
Example: Jude 17-23 expresses this pattern.
1. The Cause: Scoffers follow their own ungodly passions (17-18)
2. The Consequences: These people cause divisions (19)
3. The Cure: Keep yourselves in the love of God (20-23)
Variety has a way of maintaining interest
I admit, it’s not like these are the most scintillating packages a sermon could ever be delivered in. However, they each are designed to generate a problem at the beginning, a plot through the middle, and then a resolution at the end. This “story” guided way of preaching naturally draws the listener in, and makes them desire to see how things work out in the end.
When you can do that in a slightly different way each week, you are well on your way to becoming an interesting preacher.