Now that we have prayed, selected a text, considered the audience and setting, we are now ready to begin in depth study and preparing an outline.
However, the previous steps should not be left at the sidewalk as we walk into the study or office. We keep these principles of prayer, and considering the audience before us at all time. If you will keep a spirit of prayer as you study and outline, and if you will keep the people you are addressing on your heart then you will be quite effective in your studies and delivery.
You have a text in mind as you begin. This is where I would start looking at the all the important things about the text itself. I gave you in an earlier lesson about 8 Tips for Cutting it Straight. These principles will help you analyze the Scripture for correct interpretation.
Consider the Text
Identify the Literary Genre
Examine Original Languages
Discern Figures of Speech
Research the History
Survey the Geography
Study the Culture
Document the Theology
Ask questions: Who, what, when, where, why, how?
Keep in mind we want the text to give the interpretation and we are not wanting to put our potential audience, or their needs, into the text. We are bridging the gap from the original meaning to our audience, and not vice-versa.
Where is the Scripture text located? What book? Read the entire book over and over. This will help you keep the text in its rightful place. This also helps you become familiar with the Scripture.
We shouldn’t just pick a verse as a jumping off point to never return. It should be the very basis of everything we are attempting to convey to our listeners.
Consult with other translations. I prefer to study with the KJV, ESV and NASB. But these three usually are pretty close in their translations. So I will reach for the New Living Translation, the New International Version, and I will even read the Message as a good paraphrase.
These are all free on Blue Letter Bible’s website, BibleGateway and many others.
As you are reading and studying its important to write things down. Pen and paper are more reliable than your memory.
This is where I begin to see the skeleton of an outline take shape. As I am gleaning from my studies, and God is revealing understanding to my heart and mind, I write out some of those key points.
It is at this point where I start to the feel the thrust of what I’m wanting to convey to my listeners. It is the “thesis” or “main point” I am going to attempt to communicate throughout my sermon.
In his book Biblical Preaching, Haddon Robinson talks about the importance of the BIG POINT. He says a sermon should be a “bullet and not a buckshot.” Meaning, there should be one main point of your sermon. Obviously there can be sub-points but the idea is to have one main point. That main point should also be summed up in ONE SENTENCE. If you can do that everything else will be able to hang on that one point.
Simplicity does not mean dumbed down. Simple thoughts can have profound and rippling effects. If your listeners can remember that one big point, that one sentence, that one simple idea then you have done your part well. God can use that to change lives.
So as you are studying you are trying to peel off all the layers of your work to get to the core of your sermon which is the big point. It takes time and effort, but it will be far worth it.