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Sermon #PP11

Shape of the Sermon

A Lecture on Sermon Structure



Sermon Description

The shape of the sermon should reflect the goal of any sermon. The shape is to show the original context, the meaning of a passage, and apply it to life today. In this sermon titled “Shape of the Sermon,” Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones discusses outlines, the main points of a sermon, the place and importance of headings, and the balance between the written and extemporaneous sermon. First, he warns against professionalism. Too many sermons have been ruined by one’s vain attempt to manipulate ideas to fit a clever sermon outline. Form is important, but it must never become more important than the sermon itself. Each point must inevitably arise out of the text. Dr. Lloyd-Jones then addresses the tradition of writing out a sermon, addressing its benefits and its dangers. Finally, he deals with the topic of using quotations in sermons. His concern lies in the motivation behind such a practice. Never should the preacher’s concern be an appearance of scholarship or intellectualism. The sermon must always be prepared for a mixed group of people, helping everyone in the congregation. Overly academic notions should, therefore, be avoided. Listen in as Dr. Lloyd-Jones instructs his students on the importance of the sermon’s shape, content, and structure.

Sermon Breakdown

  1. Pray for God's blessing and guidance before beginning the sermon preparation process. Ask for wisdom, clarity and the ability to communicate truth.
  2. Determine the main message or theme of the passage. Identify the key verse that captures the primary point.
  3. Explain the original context and application of the passage. Show how it applied to the initial audience. Then demonstrate how it contains timeless principles that apply today.
  4. Provide cross-references from other parts of Scripture that reinforce the main message. This shows that the message is consistent throughout the Bible.
  5. Decide on the structure and form of the sermon. Determine how to best organize the material to communicate with the congregation. Take time to think it through.
  6. Check commentaries to ensure the interpretation of the passage and main message are accurate. Get input from other sources.
  7. Divide the content up into main points that flow in a logical progression. The points should arise naturally from the text. Don't force artificial divisions.
  8. Determine whether to write out the entire sermon or just prepare an outline. Consider your strengths and the needs of the congregation. A combination of both approaches can be effective.
  9. If writing the sermon, avoid an overly ornate style. Don't let the literary quality overshadow the message. The sermon should not be a work of art but a means of communicating truth.
  10. Be careful with the use of quotations. Only use them when they are the inevitable or perfect way to express something. Don't rely on them or use them to appear scholarly. They should support the overall message.
  11. Avoid reasoning that is too complex for a listening audience to follow. While logical flow and argumentation are important, don't make it so intricate that it becomes hard to track.
  12. Prepare thoroughly but avoid overpreparation. Remember that the sermon is for a diverse congregation, not just scholars. Keep the message practical and applicable.

Sermons: Preaching and Preachers

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) was a Welsh evangelical minister who preached and taught in the Reformed tradition. His principal ministry was at Westminster Chapel, in central London, from 1939-1968, where he delivered multi-year expositions on books of the bible such as Romans, Ephesians and the Gospel of John. In addition to the MLJ Trust’s collection of 1,600 of these sermons in audio format, most of these great sermon series are available in book form (including a 14 volume collection of the Romans sermons), as are other series such as "Spiritual Depression", "Studies in the Sermon on the Mount" and "Great Biblical Doctrines". He is considered by many evangelical leaders today to be an authority on biblical truth and the sufficiency of Scripture.