Create a Map

Creating a map

In the last post we saw that one of the most effective ways of creating a sermon is to pick one point, one major idea that you are going to bring to people in a memorable way.  The second step is to create a map that will emphasize the point with enough repetition that it will stick in peoples’ minds.  Andy Stanley talks about this in his book, Communicating for Change.  For Andy, this means creating an outline that will build his message. 

Many Ways to Create a Map

Before we explore Andy Stanley’s idea, let me emphasize here that there are many ways to make a map that will emphasize your point.  

The African American Tradition

One of the things that I have admired over the years is what has become known as traditional black preaching.  If you were to outline a traditional African American’s sermon, some have suggested that your outline would resemble a daisy.  In the daisy there are many different petals, but they are all united by the center of the flower, the floral disk.  

Daisy as an example of a sermon outline

The preacher begins in the flower disk, stating the truth that he/she wants to emphasize for the message.  Then he will take what seems to be a detour, or tangent, as he/she talks about one aspect of how the truth would apply.  Then there is a return to the main truth, or the floral disk.  This is followed by another journey outward, and then back in.  


There are some wonderful examples of this way to create a map.  Below I’ve linked two videos: Tony Campolo’s inspiring sermon, It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Comin’; a second video is audio only, unfortunately, but if you have time, please listen to it.  The title of the message by Dr. S.M. Lockridge is, That’s My King!  I hope it will inspire you as much as it did me the first time I listened to it. 

A Linear Method

In the Western tradition, it is more likely that the road map will look like a linear trip from one point to another until the main point is made.  If we think of African-American preaching as a flower, this would look more like a stairway, either up or down.  For instance, a sermon on Jonah might have as its major point: God Cares About Condemned People.  The pastor who tries to create a map could summarize the story and talk about: 

God’s Concern for Nineveh

Jonah’s Commission

God’s Confrontation with Jonah at sea 

Jonah’s Cry from the belly of the whale 

Jonah’s Communication to Nineveh 

Jonah’s Confrontation with God 

That’s a lot of points—too many.   But it would be one way to create a map to get you to the point that God Cares About People—even Jonah in his disobedience.  There are other maps that you could use for Jonah: God cares about Nineveh.  God cares about Jonah.  God cares about Nineveh as they repent.  God cares about Jonah, and his need to learn the lessons.   

Most preachers, by the way, create at least four sermons for Jonah, taking one idea at a time. 

Another Way

I want to make you aware of Andy Stanley’s map for his messages.  He uses the same basic outline for every message.  Here is the map that he gives as an example of a message on marriage.  There are many things you could say about marriage, but this is the main point that he chose to emphasize: Submission is the Best Decision.   With that settled, here is his outline, quoted form his book, Communicating for a Change, on page 121:

ME: Sometimes I find myself wondering how to respond to situations in my marriage. 

WE: I imagine you have you found yourself in situations where you weren’t sure what to do either. 

GOD: The Bible teaches that we are to submit to one another, put the desires and the needs of our spouse ahead of our own needs and desires. 

YOU: Next time you aren’t sure what to say or do, ask yourself this question: “How can I put the needs and desires of my spouse ahead of my own in this moment?” 

Conclusion: In marriage, submission is generally the best decision. 

WE: Imagine what would happen in our community if all of us began to model that kind of mutual submission before our friends and neighbors. 

That’s it: ME, WE, GOD, YOU, WE 

The point of this outline is this, according to Stanley, “An outline built around your relationship with the audience, rather than the content, best matches the way they naturally process information.”  (p. 131) 

So, when you’ve decided what the main idea is in your message, Create a Map that will bring it home. 

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