Phase 2

If you read one article about 3 point preaching, read this one.

The three point sermon has been around for as long as most of us can remember. In fact, its roots are in medieval scholasticism. Designed to articulate and defend as set of beliefs, the three point sermon can on one hand provide a thorough understanding of a scripture or theory, but it can also transform a living, breathing community gathering into a lifeless lecture.

I remember learning the art of the 3 point sermon in college. It made sense but seemed eerily similar to writing a research paper. I could feel the life being sucked out of me imagining a future filled with weekly sermons covered in a professor's "red pen" corrections.

Over the last several hundred years three point sermons may have had their place, but in a community reaching church they may have run their course.


The 3 Point Roots

A three point sermon is a dialectical teaching method originally designed as a non-emotional discussion between two scholars. In an effort to discover the truth, two or more individuals would calmly debate an issue to better understand the truth hidden beneath the surface.

Preaching in this traditional style means presenting two opposing views of the issue at hand. For example, if you were teaching on the Sovereignty of God your three points may follow this form.

Point 1. The Sovereignty of God
Point 2. The will of Man
Point 3. How they co-exist.

This form of teaching has it’s place when teaching theology, but I would argue that that debate of theology isn’t the first sermon I want my neighbor to hear when I invite them to church for the first time.


The More Common 3 Point Message

The more common modern 3 point message is built around delivering the top three reasons a truth is a truth. For example, if your teaching was focused on the approachability of Christ, you may unpack Hebrews, chapter 4.

Point 1. Jesus, our great High-Priest (v14)
Point 2. Jesus, undeniably sympathetic (v15)
Point 3. Jesus, merciful and gracious. (v16)

Again, these points are truth, but it seems as though our message is still based in the ancient Greek debate. It seems like we are just trying to convince our audience.


The Danger of the 3 Point Message

The danger of a 3 point message is that it too closely resembles a scholastic exercise and it doesn’t very often consider the audience. More often then not, it only considers the text.


The (2nd) Most Important Thing About Preaching

The most important thing about preaching is obviously truth, but a very close second is the audience. What you teach about any given scriptural truth must first consider the current condition of your audience. How are they struggling with the truth you are teaching? How are they experiencing it in their life right now? What is their context?

What Jesus, Paul and much of the New Testament authors did so well was to consider their audience.

Jesus spoke to Jews in a way that challenged their current belief.

Paul wrote to the church addressing specific issues they were facing.

They considered their audience.

First, looking at the text you will be teaching from next week, what is it teaching? What should your audience be doing after reading this text?

Then consider your audience. What are they doing? Which if their life situations does this truth apply to? Why is it an important truth for them to internalize?

Then spend your time helping them navigate their currently situation to apply the teaching.

Preaching isn’t an academic exercise, it’s an adventure in shepherding.

Preaching isn’t an academic exercise, it’s an adventure in shepherding.
— StevenJBarker

Does Your Message Have A Mission Statement? 

Imagine your church without a mission statement.

Would your church continue to become more and more effective? Effective at what exactly? Without an objective a church wanders aimlessly. It has no criteria to help it make decisions, no way to say yes to one idea or no to another. It struggles to rally support, it’s members have difficulty describing what makes it such a great church.

A mission statement provides the purpose, it provides the focus and it provides parameters to keep the organization moving forward.

Now, imagine your message without a mission statement. Can your message, your weekly sermon, become more and more effective? Effective at what exactly?

I know what you’re thinking….what the heck is a message mission statement? But before we answer that, let’s look give sermon prep some context.

Most of the pastors I interview say that the thing they most enjoy about message preparation is the study of scripture. They love diving deep into scripture and uncovering something they had missed the previous 100 times they read it.

Unfortunately this personal journey can often then dictate what we preach. We uncover something we find fascinating and assume that’s what our audience needs to hear…when it’s more likely that what we uncovered is what we needed to hear/learn.

Recalibrate our minds to move from personal study and discovery to the mind of a shepherd and leader.
— StevenJBarker

So, before we begin to write a given message we need to recalibrate our minds to move from personal study and discovery to the mind of a shepherd and leader.  

As soon as we feel like we’ve completed our research for a message we can stop and finish this simple sentence:

"As a result of this message, my audience will…."

Before we begin to write our intro or any of our points, we must first decide where we are heading. What is our mission statement? Why are we taking time out of our day to prepare or asking people to come and listen?

It may help to understand what makes your local audience different.

  • What does your local audience already understand about the scripture you are preaching on?
  • How are they living out this part of their faith?
  • How are they struggling with this part of their faith?
  • If they aren’t sure they believe in Christ yet, how will they interpret your message?
  • How do they begin to apply the biblical truth to their lives?
  • What does it mean to follow Christ as it relates to your content?

Do your research. Stop. Then, ask what does my specific local audience need to hear? Then speak to that.

My home church’s mission statement is this: “Help people find and follow Jesus.” The question for each weekend service then becomes “How does this message help people find and follow Jesus?” If we can’t answer that question (clearly) we are probably wasting peoples time.

Question of the day: 

What is the mission statement for this weekend's message? 

As a result of this weekend's message, my audience will....

3 Ways To Level Up Your Preaching

We take our jobs seriously. We know that if we want to have a greater impact we need to constantly be improving. If we are going to lead our church to the next level we need to take our skills to the next level and nothing gets stage time like preaching.

It’s time to level up your preaching.

  1. Address the group’s specific need.
    Think of Paul, why did he write his letters? He wasn’t their pen pal, he was addressing what they were dealing with. Know what your church needs to learn in order to take their next step. Know what they (as a whole) are dealing with….then address that.
  2. Step up your follow up.
    How are you engaging your audience on Wednesday? Reach out to them by email, social media or any other appropriate channel you use and encourage them. Help them remember what you talked about that weekend. What was your message application? Send them some helpful tips or further study on the topic.
  3. Make it a spiritual experience.
    It’s church. It’s already a spiritual experience, right? Help your church expect God’s movement. Tell them that you’ve been praying and prepping for this message. Tell them God has them here because he loves them. Tell them He wants to know them more. Tell them God is moving, even if it’s a still small voice. Because he is, it’s church after all.

Add any one of these to your workflow and you have successfully leveled up your preaching. Congrats. Your church is worth it.