Know Where You Are Going

The last three posts have had to do with the introduction to a message. Now we turn to the body of the sermon. One of the secrets to having a successful sermon is to know where you are going with your message. Or, as Yogi Berra put it many years ago:

Yogi Berra Poster about preaching

So, where are you going with your message? Defining your destination is an important exercise, because otherwise, you won’t know if a particular message is a “win”. It’s important to know where you are going with your message.

Possible Destinations

I’m indebted to Andy Stanley, who discusses this subject in his book, Communicating for Change. I have adapted his three subjects somewhat.

Bible Knowledge

One of the favorite destinations for pastors when they are writing their sermons is to educate people about the Bible. If this is where you are going, then you will spend a considerable amount of your message encouraging people to know the Bible. Many preachers who have this as their destination will go verse-by-verse in explaining a particular Bible passage. Application is made to life, but most important is that people understand.

For instance, for a period of a little over two years I preached through the major themes of the Bible, starting in Genesis, and working through to Revelation. I didn’t cover every verse, of course, but took major passages to introduce the theme of each book. I did this because our survey of the congregation showed that they wanted to know more about the unity of the Bible. In this kind of message the preacher will be communicating information primarily.

Connect People With the Bible

Another way to know where you are going with your message is to connect people with the Bible. This is different from the previous destination in that there the purpose was to get information into people’s heads. Here the destination is getting the Word of God into peoples’ hearts. In this purpose, then, we preach to help people apply the Bible to their daily lives. In this kind of message the preacher will be communicating through illustrations. You will want people to see their lives in the light of the Bible.

I heard a sermon this morning about marriage and family. The preacher looked at what St. Paul meant when he said, ‘Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.’ He then explained what it means for a husband to ‘love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.’ Then he exhorted us all to reflect this truth in our marriages. That is an example of what I mean when I say the goal is to connect people with the Bible.

To Inspire

Another destination in my exhortation to know where you are going with your message is to inspire or comfort people in their faith-walk. The person who has this as their destination will appeal to emotion, especially in the use of stories. Those stories can be from people you know. Or they can be found in books and on-line, stories of people who have found answers in Jesus Christ. They can even be personal stories. When Rick Warren shared about his wife’s cancer, and the challenge that this was to his faith, everyone in the auditorium was holding their breath. Their example led to strengthened faith.

I recently preached on Psalm 13, the great psalm of lamentation, where David cries out, “How long, O Lord, how long? Will you forget me forever?” My goal was to bring hope to people who are suffering, and to inspire them to hang on in their pain.

So, know where you are going, and formulate your message in line with this goal.

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