This Is How To Write Sermons That Work

At Church Training Academy, we’re all about using media and technology to spread the message. But you also need to make sure that the message you’re sharing is worth listening to. We call these, “Sermons That Work.”

In this episode, Ben Stapley of Liquid Church shares 5 key elements to create a sermon that will change lives.

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About Our Guest: Ben Stapley

ben stapley

Over 20 years, Ben has created and captured memorable moments & media for individuals, nonprofits, and corporations across the globe. Some of the fields that he’s worked in include pastoring, preaching, speaking, videography, photography, blogging, stage design, radio, reporting & producing.

Ben received a BA in Video Communication from MBI in Chicago. After graduating he worked in Toronto as a television reporter and producer for Context, a national news program. For a decade he crafted compelling services at South Ridge Community Church as the Director of Programming & Media. In 2011 he received an MDiv from Biblical Theological Seminary.

Ben currently serves at Liquid Church in NJ as the Creative Arts Pastor overseeing the weekend services, mentoring the worship department, leading the video department & pastoring the church online community.

Learn more about Ben and his work at BenStapley.info

 

5 Elements To Write Sermons That Work

If you actually want to take part in life-changing work, here are 5 elements you want to include in your sermons:

  1. Scripture
  2. Skin
  3. Symbol
  4. Story
  5. Step

According to Ben, if you want to just talk for 30 minutes and bore people, don’t bother including these 5 elements.

But if you want to deliver a message hope and change, here’s a breakdown of the 5 elements…

 

Scripture

This is a bit of a “duh” thing for many people. But it’s still so important it’s worth starting the list by stating: your sermons need scripture.

Don’t let your Coldplay or U2 lyric become the lynchpin for your sermon. There are great extra-Biblical components to draw connections, but they are never the cornerstone of truth.

Sermons that work start with scripture…it’s a no-brainer.

 

Skin

The skin of your sermons is how you frame your message. This is the key for determining how you and others will share your sermons and sermon series.

For example, which sounds better?

  • This Sunday we’re starting a series in Acts and preaching for a few weeks on the early church.
  • This Sunday we’re answering the question, “Is this how the church is supposed to look like?” Times have definitely changed in the last 2,000 years, and we’re going to answer the question, “Are we doing church the right way?” 

The skin is not watering down or dressing up the Gospel. It’s about making the content easy to approach, engage, and share.

Sermons that work keep a positive tone. They are intriguing but also ambiguous. When you have all 3 of these qualities, people will be compelled to share your sermons with others.

 

Symbol

The symbol is how you anchor an idea in your audience. You might have called this an “illustration” in the past…but we’re going deeper.

A “2D Symbol” is what many Pastors and preachers already use. A picture on the projector, a video presentation, slide decks, etc. These are usable, but they are hardly memorable.

Instead, sermons that work use “3D Symbols.” This is something you actually interact with while delivering your message.

Some examples include:

  • Using a calculator on stage when talking about Einstein’s theory
  • Showing everyone a life-raft when you’re talking about rescue
  • Climbing a 30-foot ladder to make a point on fear

On that last example, Ben thinks there is no symbol too large. Use a chainsaw, use a blowtorch, use anything and everything to make your symbols dramatic. The more memorable the symbol, the more you’re able to anchor a point of truth into your audience to remember for years.

For the next 10 minutes of the show, Dave, Justin, and Ben all nerd out on how God uses enormous symbols in the Bible…including Elijah calling upon God to light the fire from soaked wood, the story of Gideon, and even the act of Baptism itself.

 

Story

The best story wins culture.

Focus on great stories in your church.

You can start by telling your own story from the pulpit. It’s intimate and simple, but if you tell your own stories too often you can sound self-centered.

Mix in stories from other people. This is especially helpful when you have someone with a great story, but maybe they also don’t have the charisma to share it themselves. So instead, share the story on behalf of them.

The third option is to have someone share their own story. This gives you the chance to let someone else tell the story in a language or style that you are unfamiliar with. It also expands the perspective of your congregation by seeing someone else talk.

There is no one best way to share a story. The secret recipe is to mix all of the above.

Finally, to truly deliver sermons that work, follow Ben’s “10:1 Rule”. Every 10 minutes of preaching you should share one story. This will help people stay engaged.

 

Step

The step is your call-to-action. Sermons that work include striking while the iron is hot. Which means the step happens during the service.

The step could be making a decision for Christ, joining a life group, becoming a volunteer, or even taking communion.

Make sure you have all the tools available in the moment for people to take the step. For example, if your step is to join a life group, make sure you have the leaders available to meet and sign people up for groups.

 

Conclusion

It may seem like a foregone conclusion that you need to include these elements in your teaching. But when you actually write them down and follow the set, you’ll start to write and deliver sermons that work.

Start with scripture. Every time. It’s the foundation for everything we do.

And when you create a sermon series, don’t just leave it at as a “sermon series.” Give it a skin that makes it easy to approach and engage with. In turn, your sermon and series will be easier to share with others.

Use symbols to communicate your point and anchor it into people’s memories. The grander the symbol, the greater it will stick. Think about what you need, and then go BIGGER!

If you really want to reach the culture around you, story is key. Stories help communicate an idea or perspective in a fresh way. You can share your own story, tell second-hand stories you’ve collected, or let others tell their own stories. The key is using a mixture of the three.

And finally, always give your audience a step to take. And make it actionable in the moment. Don’t ask them to do something when they get home…the thought will be long gone by then. Work to give them the tools to take the step right then and there.

Which element are you excited to start incorporating in your messages? Leave a comment below and let’s chat!

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