Most preachers split their 8–20 hours between study and writing a sermon outline. While the study is necessary, a template can make writing a sermon outline much faster and effective. Ministers often need to write sermons quickly especially during a week with many visitors, hospital visits, and a memorial. Vocational preachers for new churches need to write while stretched for time. Many ministers are continuing their education and need to prepare a sermon with little time. The following is neither the easy way nor the lazy man’s approach. Writing a sermon in “twenty minutes” takes constant study by reading Scripture with an awareness for applying scripture to life.
Prepared to Write in 20 Minutes
First, sermon preparation should include constant study and prayer, so that organizing a message is quick as needed. Constant preparedness requires studying multiple subjects and continuous reading of scriptures. The preacher would be wise to focus on a specific group of scriptures for each subject and form sermon series for 3 or 4 weeks of preaching.
Second, one should keep notes on biblical topics based on a central paragraph of Scripture (or a list of a few scriptures) for upcoming lessons. If an evangelist is preaching every weak, then he should prepare a set of sermon subjects with a balanced theology throughout the year according to specific themes for each month or few weeks. Many preachers recommend doing this to avoid preaching any message more than twice within three years, so one should set various topics over three years or more.
Third, forming a sermon template is the key to writing a sermon in “20 minutes.” The speaker can form a template from an outline of Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, Sermon on the Plain and, or Peter’s Sermon at Pentecost. Romans and Hebrews consist of many and various expositions of scriptures to develop the central. As a student of Scripture, the preacher should note chiasms or diatribes that form outlines of messages in the Scriptures. The preacher should imitate how Jesus and the apostles presented scripture and how they illustrated and explained passages.
A Sermon Outline from Memory
Today’s preacher and student may wonder how the first preachers proclaimed God’s word without a typed manuscript. While the Spirit guided the apostles, their example remains providing a model outline that one can keep in one’s mind. A chiastic outline follows a pattern of points as A, B, and C and repeat in reverse C’, B’, and A’. Peter’s sermon on Pentecost follows this pattern with scriptures as anchors of the message, so that each reference to scripture marks the beginning, center, and end. This outline makes the message easy to remember. The preacher can memorize three portions of Scripture, determine three points to connect the first section of Scripture to the central scripture, and then repeat in reverse by connecting the central scripture with three points to the last scripture.
Now, the speaker can prepare a sermon in twenty minutes using a biblical template. The following is a chiastic template:
a. Observation, Narrative, or Blessing
(1) Introducing Scripture(s)
b. Great Implication
c. Sinful Dilemma
d. Powerful Declaration
(2) Observations from Central Scripture(s)
d. Powerful Declaration
c. Resolution of Dilemma
b. Great Implication
(3) Concluding Scripture(s)
a. Encouragement or Blessing
Write in 20 Minutes
The preacher would be wise to start with an exposition of the key section of scripture and build the message upon that section of Scripture. An exposition can simply consist of drawing a few observations from the key scripture(s). The evangelist should notice examples of biblical expositions. For instance, Jesus addressed six passages in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5). Paul expanded on a list of scriptures in Romans 3. The writer of Hebrews made an exposition of a list of scriptures from Hebrews 1. The writer of Hebrews expounding upon a paragraph of Jeremiah 31 throughout Hebrews 8–10. These biblical examples demonstrate the Christians need to draw observations from passages for contemplation and application.
In the template, the minister can help oneself by setting each point to launch into a discussion. The preacher can make a statement or ask a question that launches the speaker into illustrating or elaborating a point. Each launching points allow for important application, so one should choose a sentence or question that will encourage oneself to speak easily and display the usefulness of these scriptures for everyday life.
Example of a Sermon Written in 20 Minutes
Here is an example a sermon written in 20 minutes:
- Narrative: “John 3:5 convinced him to be baptized to enter the kingdom of God, so he became a disciple of Christ. […] In discipling, we continued to study and pray together. We became disciples who made disciples.”
- Intro Scripture: Quote Matt 12:30.
- Attestation: “We gather for Christ. We refuse to scatter.”
- Conflict: “Are we against Christ? Are we scattering rather than gathering?”
- Exposition: Quote Matthew 28:19–20 and give exposition:
- Making disciples is a command — the mission of the church.
- Jesus taught what it means to make disciples — go, baptize, and teach (participles in Greek).
- Baptism is essential to becoming a disciple of Christ (cf. Acts 2:38).
- Disciples are baptized believers learning to observe all that Jesus commanded (cf. Mark 16:16).
- Jesus demonstrated how to make disciples by leading a group of disciples (cf. Matt 4:19).
- Conflict Resolution: “We can start now following Jesus’s model for making disciples.”
- Declaration: “We will never stop proclaiming the Gospel. We will never stop making disciples.”
- Concluding Scripture: Quote or read 2 Tim 2:2. Jesus’s disciples made disciples who made disciples.
- Conclude Intro: Learn from Andrew [a brother in Christ] who obeyed the gospel and never hid the gospel from others.
- Invitation: Believe and obey the gospel. — 1 Cor 15:1–4; Rom 6:4–5
A sermon written in 20 minutes is a sermon written from weeks, months, or even a life-time of studying God’s written Word. The quick writing of a sermon can make some of the most effective and passionate messages. When ministers face pressure, they can have prepared themselves to write messages through continued study and contemplation. The minister and speaker can prepare a message in less than half an hour with a life of constant study of God’s Word. The underlying message of this guide is to encourage church leaders and speakers to continue reading and to write each sermon starting from an exposition of Scripture.