Draw out a key idea, proposition and objective.

Harold Bryson and others point out the advantage to developing the Essence of the Text in a Sentence (ETS). Whether you call it the Big Idea (Robinson), the CIT (Central Idea of the Text, Vines), or the Take Home Truth (Sunukjian), the preacher must wrestle with the entire text until he can restate it in one crisp, concise sentence. Doing so forces the preacher to digest the passage for himself before he passes it on to his hearers.9

Make sure the proposition is based on the Scripture, not the doctrine. In this way, you ensure you remain true to the biblical passage, making the doctrine more biblically sound as well. The proposition relates to the timeless truth/principle found in the ETS/text. The doctrine should be parallel to that timeless truth. Propositional truth may not be popular among postmoderns, but their preferences should not prevent the pastor from proclaiming the truth of the text.

Every sermon needs a goal. The objective should reflect an action, not just a knowledge goal. Yes, people need to know the truth, but equally importantly, they need to live out the truth. A major objection to doctrinal preaching is that it doesn’t do anything. By having a specific action goal, the sermon will stay balanced with something to know and something to do about what you know.



Blend together a variety of styles and structures.

Doctrinal sermons tend to be didactic, deductive and dry — not that didactic and deductive sermons have to be dry! However, try different kinds of sermon styles and arrangements to add variety and spice to the mixture.

Inductive arrangements, such as Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, can bring listeners along the journey of discovery with the pastor. If you give people the same opportunity that God gave you in searching the text, they may come to the same conclusion without kicking and screaming along the way. Unlike Craddock and others who believe the pastor should preach as one without authority, you can use inductive arrangements and still lead people to propositional truth, make specific applications, and offer conclusions.

Narrative sermons can be wonderful vehicles to convey doctrinal truth. Couched in a story about the legal beagles at Galatia, the doctrine of grace can come alive. Walking the halls of heaven in John 1, you can paint a beautiful portrait of the pre-existent Christ — thus, teaching Christology without using the word. What pastor has not related the drama of Abraham bending his son over an altar, a sharp knife poised in his hand, as he teaches the doctrine of substitutionary atonement?

Preaching the great doctrines offers wonderful opportunities for evangelistic sermons. People don’t just need to know they can be saved by grace through faith; they need to be saved by grace through faith. The doctrine of sin, matched with the doctrine of grace in Romans 6:23, makes a motivational mixture for sinners to receive God’s free gift in Christ.

Yes, you can still use deductive, didactic structures; just don’t do so exclusively. Too, don’t be satisfied with a teaching objective. Incorporating an action objective can invigorate the outline with a clear purpose that moves the hearer along to a strong conclusion. By varying your style and structure, you keep your people interested and eager for the next installment — sort of like mom mixing vegetables in with a bit of applesauce to get nourishment into finicky babies.

Word your main points in full, presenttense sentences. Verbs move people to action. Points that use a word or two as if they were titles, even if alliterated, do not mean much to the average listener. For example, would you rather listen to a sermon from John 1 with these points: