The famous philosopher, Jack Handy, once said, “The face of a child can say it all, especially the mouth part of the face.” While we are preaching, the faces of our people can say it all, in particular, whether or not they have a clue what we are saying.
We justify ourselves by blaming it on them: they don’t care about the Word enough, they don’t love Jesus enough, they think they know it all already. But in our honest moments, we admit communicating clearly is difficult.
Is the logic of your sermon more like hopscotch than rollerblading, with jerky jumps to each point, rather than smooth glides?
The result is that God’s people can’t track with us as we teach them God’s word. And they leave just as hungry as when they came in.
What, then, must you do in order to preach a sermon your audience can follow?
1. See the logical flow of the passage yourself – If you can’t track with the logic of the passage, you’re not going to be able to walk God’s people through the passage clearly. Look for the logical flow, narrative climax, or poetic progression, depending on the genre of your text.
2. Determine the key word or phrase of the passage – You’ll have a pretty good handle on your passage when you grasp the key idea it communicates, and see how the passage logically works that idea out. These first two points are primary. It doesn’t matter how clearly we communicate as preachers if we are not communicating what God’s word actually means.
3. Anchor your proposition with the key word or phrase – The most effective way to relate the passage to your sermon is to include the text’s key phrase in the proposition of your sermon. This glues your sermon to the authorial intent of the passage.
4. Use the key word or phrase in the main points of your sermon – This is where the big payoff hits. Your people will never get too lost when you return to the key phrase throughout your sermon. Here’s an example:
Proposition: Rejoice when you suffer for the gospel (Philippians 1:3-26)
1. Rejoice when you suffer for the gospel because suffering increases affection between Christians (1:3-11)
2. Rejoice when you suffer for the gospel because suffering increases your confidence to share with non-Christians (1:12-18a)
3. Rejoice when you suffer for the gospel because suffering increases your desire to see Christ (1:18b-26)
This might feel “cookie cutter” to you, but it won’t to your hearers. They’ll just be glad to hang with you for your entire sermon.
5. Progress towards a climax in the flow of your sermon – I tried to model this in the example above. Despite the parallel structure of the phrases, each subsequent point raises the stakes. Towards the end, you gotta turn it up to eleven.
Besides helping your listeners to follow you, this method keeps you from getting lost in the sermon by keeping you on topic.
Try this out. As your people leave church this Sunday, the mouth part of their faces just might tell you how much God’s word ministered to them.