Why do we preach three-point sermons?


three_things-2We’ve all done it.  You may be drafting one for Sunday.  I certainly am.  But why do we preach three-point sermons?

Sometimes it’s because the text drives us that way.  I think that’s what’s happening for me this week – there really is no way to chunk the passage other than to divide it into three sequential sections.

Don’t you wonder, though, if all too often we drop into the habit by default?

There might be something about neatness and an agreeable shape for the mind.  Four points is too long, and two points don’t satisfy.  Do you remember the famous parody of John Stott preaching on nursery rhymes? “I notice three things.  I notice their nature: they were mice; I notice their condition: they were blind mice; and I notice their number: there were three of them.” It slips down like honey.

But I suspect there’s another reason, which comes out of a good habit but which, unless we spot it,  forces our minds into the three-point channel.

After you’ve done your sentence-flow diagrams and your commentary work, what do you do next?

You write a theme sentence for the passage.

And what does such a sentence nearly always contain?  A verb, a subject and an object.

And then what do you write?  An aim sentence.  Verb, subject and object. “I notice their number: there were three of them.”

Are you preaching the passage, or your theme and aim sentences?

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4 comments on “Why do we preach three-point sermons?”

  1. nice – although perhaps as pertinent is the fact that the distilled structure of narratives, and therefore the gospel itself??
    – the situation/predicament
    – the solution/climax
    – the response
    One could probably preach that outline for every chapter of the bible – which is why we probably need to avoid it like the plague (there were actually 11, don’t you know) unless it really really fits…

  2. I stumbled across your post this morning as I am tidying up some loosely gathered ideas concerning today’s message. I chuckled as I read you post. While I do enjoy using an extemporaneous style at times, probably stemming for the extra credit impromptu speeches from my school days years ago, three points serves as a memorable package delivery system where often people do not take notes. I will probably use three points today and I think it is a good practice to develop as a foundation for delivery sound doctrine. Thanks for your post.

    1. Thanks Lawrence. I’m not advocating impromptu! But I do think three points helps us more as communicators than the people listening. I’d argue on working on the interior logic of the sermon would make it more memorable.

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