The alliterative sermon was probably my shortest-lived preaching style. And I was glad to get rid of it, since I often spent as much time designing the alliteration as assembling the content.
After abandoning the alliterative style, I started looking at the sermon like an architect designing a house or a novelist writing a story. Instead of taking 3, 4 or 5 points with a common theme, I decided to build something. To take people on a journey with me, usually from a commonly-held question towards a biblically-based answer.
In this style pf preaching, the order of the points couldn’t be changed. One had to lead to the other. They started in one place so I could bring everyone to a new place.
I still believe this ought to happen to one degree or another in every talk, whether a sermon, a story, or a speech.
I thought I might have arrived at my final approach to preaching, until I realized that all my preaching formats all had something in common. They started with a structure, which I forced the content to fit in to.
Style was coming before substance. If not in priority, at least in the chronology of my sermon preparation.
So I asked myself, “what if I abandoned all formats, dug deep into the content, then used whatever style that fit the content?”
So that’s what I did next.
4. Content First, Structure Later
Every week, as I sat down to prepare for the Sunday sermon, I started with the text, studied it, took notes on it, and went where it took me. Then I arranged it in the best, most understandable order that I could (unless I was doing a verse-by-verse study, in which the verse order decided that for me).
After that, I’d look through the assembled content asking “what are the most significant points for the congregation to remember?” and I would highlight them in their handout notes and on the screen (something I didn’t have the ability to do for my first two sermon styles).
No alliterations. No rhymes. No necessity of fitting a specific style. Just the best possible content presented in the most understandable way I could make it.
If a video clip drove a point home, I’d use it. Or a poem, a song lyric, an item from the news, a lesson from history, a look at the geography of the biblical narrative, you name it.