Part 2 Continued…
We have already set-forth three things to look for in a sermon. Now, we will continue with the list of two more important elements of a sermon.
4. Does the pastor provide an outline? There have been very few times in my ministry that I didn’t provide an outline for the congregation – weddings, funerals, special speaking engagements and a few sermons. However, these are exceptions to the rule and not the norm. So, why do I believe the pastor needs to provide an outline for the listeners? Well, an outline provides direction for the sermon. People need to know where the sermon is going. If there is a mist in the pulpit, there will be fog in the pews. An outline removes the fog and points in a direction. Beyond the basic function of an outline, an outline demonstrates organization and attention to detail. In fact, I would argue that a good outline helps support and strengthen the sermon. The listener needs to be able to work through the sermon with the pastor. I like to call it, playing along with Pastor. I know you are thinking, wait a minute, an outline might constrain the pastor and the role of the Holy Spirit. First, yes it might constrain the pastor to actually staying on task. I don’t see that as a bad thing, but as setting parameters for the message. Second, does the Holy Spirit work better through rational thought or flying by the seat of your pants? The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “But all things should be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40). Of course, this verse comes at the end of how the church should worship and conduct business in the house of God. Yes, I believe outlines are important and help establish order to the sermon.
5. Does the pastor highlight the immediate context? Along the same lines of sermon organization, the pastor needs to set the context of the passage. Actually, this step is vital for interpreting the text. For example, did you know that the Bible says, “There is no God.” Yes, the Scripture does make that statement in Psalm 14:1. Shocking! Unbelievable! Really? But, that is quoted out of context. The whole verse reads, “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” I’ve heard many a sermon when the pastor launches into the sermon without any reference to the context or setting of the passage. This can become a dangerous practice because it enhances the chances of misinterpreting the text. The Apostle Paul instructs Titus, “But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). The word “accords” (πρέπω) refers to that which is right or fitting in relation to correctness. “Sound” (ὑγιαίνω) conveys the idea of being accurate in one’s views and that which is healthy. And the word “doctrine” (διδασκαλία) refers to what is being taught or communicated in the teaching. Therefore, the sermon should shed light on the immediate context of the passage in order to accurately interpret the meaning and application of the passage of Scripture. One question to ask when listening to a sermon is, “Hey, where did you get that?” If the pastor fails to establish the setting for the text, the sermon runs the risk of wrong interpretation.
In Christ, Pastor Mike