Easy as 1, 2, 3

Leave a comment

19/10/2012 by Chris Green

I have a theory about why most sermons have three points.

No, it’s not that two’s not enough and four’s too many. and it’s not to do with Obama’s ‘Rule of Three.’ It’s to do with the way we preachers work.

You spend hours in a week staring at the Bible passage you’re preaching on, asking yourself the question:  what is it about?  What is the principal subject or the central theme? In Haddon Robinson terms, ‘What’s the Big Idea?’

And if you’ve preached for a while, you’ll know that Big Ideas tend to come as sentences, not single words.  Especially if you are trying to identify what is unique about a passage.  That’s another good question, by the way – ‘What wouldn’t we know if this verse wasn’t in the Bible?’

But because we know we mustn’t be complicated, we aim to keep that one sentence clear and simple.  Which means it normally has a verb, a subject and an object.  And there are your three points: 1) there was a cat, 2) the cat was sitting 3) the cat was sitting on the mat.

And then we want to keep that clarity, so we take our theme sentence, and draft our aim sentence for the sermon – which is that people understand the theme sentence (at least, that’s the kind of desperate point I reach when I’m scraping the barrel last thing; it’s probably just me).

I am all in favour of clarity, and the exercise that has us focussing with that intensity on the passage can only be good.  But I think there are some other questions to ask once we have achieved that clarity, which will put some passion and purpose into the sermon. They will mess with that structure a bit, but it’s worth while.

They are not original: I think I lifted the first and last pairs from Andy Stanley, and the other from John Ortberg, although putting them together is new. Here are six clarifying questions to ask of your sermon for this Sunday, and the more specific you can make your answers, the better:

  • What do I want people to know?
  • Why do I want them to know this?
  • What do I want people to feel?
  • Why do I want them to feel this?
  • What do I want people to do?
  •  Why do I want them to do this?

(and a question for people who like thinking theologically: don’t you think those three pairs map very neatly onto Christ’s roles as prophet, priest and king…?)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Shortlisted for “Most Inspiring Leadership Blog, 2018”

New resource

Pastors are busy, and leading a church is a demanding task.  That’s why I wrote this e-bookchecklist: The Pastor’s Checkup – The Top 10 Questions every pastor needs to answer (and helpful stuff if you can’t)

There’s only way to get it is by subscribing to my  (occasional) email newsletter here.


God, Suffering and Joy

A conversation between me (with cancer) and Michael (with Multiple Sclerosis)

Legal stuff

This blog does not share personal information with third parties nor do I store any information about your visit to this blog other than to analyse and optimise your content and reading experience. I am not responsible for republished content from this blog on other blogs or websites without my permission. This privacy policy is subject to change without notice.

I welcome your participation on the Ministrynutsandbolts site, and invite you to share ideas elsewhere on what you learn and read here. At the same time, I ask that you respect my intellectual property rights in the process.

You are welcome to link to my site or any specific post on my site, extract and re-post less than 200 words on any other site, provided you link back to my original post, or print my posts in any non-commercial publication (e.g., company newsletter, class syllabus, church newsletter, etc.), provided you include this copyright notice: “© 2017 Chris Green. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.ministrynutsandbolts.com.”

Please do not do the following without written consent: Re-post one of my posts in its entirety anywhere else on the Internet, use this content for commercial purposes, including selling or licensing printed or digital versions of my content, or alter, transform, or build upon this work.

If you have some use for my content that is not covered here, please contact me. If you would like me to do a guest post on your blog, email me at ministrynutsandbolts@gmail.com

Copyright does not apply to the titles of books, but transparency means I should own that the title of the blog is taken from the excellent ‘Ministry Nuts and Bolts: What They Don’t Teach Pastors in Seminary ‘ by Aubrey Malphurs (Kregel: 2nd edn. 2009)

© 2018 Chris Green

%d bloggers like this: