A Sermon Map

As I have been thinking about sermon design recently, I stumbled across some language that helps me map them out.

Journey  —  Discovery — Destination — Application

This is probably nothing original with me, but it is some language that makes sense.

And before I go further:  in the old days (1990s?), I operated on the tried-and-true three (or four) points method of designing a sermon.  Then, getting a grateful introduction to Andy Stanley’s Communicating For A Change, I morphed into the


design that leads to one point and emphasizes it repeatedly.  And by and large, that is still the model I follow.    One notable exception was the just-completed Head Scratchers series in which the shock & confusion of Jesus’ sayings were jumping off point for the sermons.  It was such fun because it was so unusual.

But back to today:  Journey.  Discovery.  Destination.  Application.

Journey.  This is the part of the sermon where I hope to get as many people “on board” with me as possible.  It’s almost like a tram at Disney — the tram stops at different locales in the parking lot, on-boards the guests from that particular place, and then takes them to the common entrance.  If I get this stage of the sermon right, most people in the congregation will say things to themselves like “Yeah, I felt that way, too!”  Or:  “that happened to me.”  Or even:  “Has he been a fly on my wall this week?”

Discovery.  After everyone is “on board,” I hope to take them to the “common entrance” — which is the Scripture passage for the day.  Two things have helped a lot in making the “Discovery” phase meaningful for both preacher and preached at Good Shepherd:  1)  Remind people what the text is saying by what it DOESN’T say; and 2) acknowledge when texts are baffling, confusing, or even I’d-rather-that-one-not-be-in-here.  I’ve also learned that most folks enjoy a little history lesson and  they appreciate it when you acknowledge that Luke, for example, is not only a theological biographer, he is a literary genius as well.

Destination.  Everyone is on board.  Everyone is in the common entrance, the passage for the day.  From that study and explanation emerges the destination.  Andy Stanley calls it the “bottom line.”  We call it the “one pointer.”  For me and for the team I work with, arriving at & massaging the wording of the destination is heavy labor.  But it is a labor of love.  Here are a few I feel have had the most sticking power through the years:

You’re not MADE to work.  You are Made. To. Work.

What you tolerate today will dominate you tomorrow.

Your desire to escape is Jesus’ signal to invade.

Jesus has to conquer his friends before he can finish conquering his enemies.

Application.  What does it look like when people live out this bottom line?  What would it look like for our whole church to do so?  Who do I know who has done this?  Where have I seen it in action?  Who is already giving witness to this truth we’ve excavated from Scripture?  And finally, what practical, even difficult, homework assignment can we give the people of the church to reinforce our subject today?  All those questions are the raw material for sermonic application.

I guess you could say that I don’t want to march “off the map.”  I want to preach on it.