Preaching Essentials: 5 Essential Components of a Sermon

Let’s look at the essential components, or parts, of a sermon.

A sermon is essentially a talk, an address, a speech, a discourse, based on a text from the Bible.

Every sermon will contain a few common elements, or parts. No matter how you develop a sermon, it will most certainly always contain the following parts:

  1. Introduction
  2. Main Points
  3. Conclusion
  4. Illustrations
  5. Application

Let’s briefly review each part.

1. Introduction

In the introduction of your sermon, you will want to introduce the subject and scripture, and lay a foundation as to why this message is important. It is often a good idea to use a story, a joke, a video, a quote, or an illustration, as an opener to introduce the subject. This is your opportunity to grab the attention of the congregation. It is during these first few moments that the hearer makes up their mind as to whether they are going to tune in or not.

When it comes to crafting the introduction of your sermon, you want to do three things:

  1. Introduce the subject of your message. The subject of your sermon is what you have detailed as the main idea.
  2. Convince people of why this message is important. Assume the worst. Assume that people couldn’t care less about what you’re about to say. Explain why everyone should want to hear this message.

Introduce and read the passage of scripture. Do your best to read the passage clearly, and smoothly. Reading the passage aloud to yourself several times before you preach should help you be prepared for this.

2. Main Points

The main points are the focus, and the thrust, of your sermon – oftentimes containing other scriptures, relevant explanation, illustrations, and personal application, to define, defend, and support the main point. The main points are the major divisions of your message, providing clear organization for your message. They are like the road signs during your sermon – they help your listeners understand where you’re going.

Each main point should be a short and simple sentence. The number of main points you have will differ from sermon to sermon. You don’t need to always use 3 main points.

Once you have determined the main points, you develop them further using other scriptures to back it up, relevant explanation, illustrations, application, and so forth.

Lastly, try to keep a good balance of material for each main point. In other words, if you have 3 main points, you don’t want to have 20 minutes of material on point 1, and only 2 minutes of material for points 2 and 3. Try to spend equal time in each main point.

3. Conclusion

Perhaps the most abused part of sermons is the conclusion. Over the years, I have heard many preachers make statements like, “In conclusion... well, we all know what that means when a preacher says ‘in conclusion’”, implying that typical preachers have multiple conclusions, and at the same time, adding themselves to that category. This is not only a waste of time, but it detracts from the flow of the sermon. The conclusion is a pivotal point in the message. This is where the preacher wraps everything up and issues a challenge so the hearers can respond. Do not detract from this; do not disrupt the spirit, or flow, of the message with unnecessary comments like that.

In your conclusion, feel free to briefly recap your main points, and then issue a challenge to the listeners. As much as you want the hearers to grow in their knowledge of the Word of God, you should also want them to mature in Christian living, in their holiness, and continue in the sanctification process. So therefore, always remember to challenge them to respond, inviting them to examine their lives, and if necessary, repent. Think in terms of application, consider how people are to live out this message.

Finally, be sure to point to the Gospel. Do your best to incorporate the message of salvation into your conclusion. If that group of people only hears this one sermon, at least they will hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Remember, in your conclusion, you want to do three things:

  1. Briefly recap your main points. This is where you summarize all of your main points.
  2. Issue a challenge. Challenge everyone to put this into practice this week. Be specific about what you are asking them to do.

Invite people to respond. As you close, share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and invite people to confess Jesus as Lord and Savior, joining you through a simple prayer. Afterward, invite people to come up for prayer, if they have a need.

4. Illustrations

Illustrations help people to better understand your message. These can be stories, videos, songs, quotes, or even relevant background information. A couple things to note: [1] the length of your illustrations should be minimal, and [2] make sure you include only what helps support the point of your sermon. In other words, do not allow the minor details of a story to overwhelm the overall meaning of it.

There is no particular spot in a sermon where illustrations should be placed. You can use illustrations as sub-points for your main points, or you might use them in the introduction or the conclusion.

You can find free sermon illustrations at www.sermonillustrations.com.

5. Application

In every sermon, you should include application, detailing what it actually looks like to live out this message, or portion of scripture. You may provide answers to questions like:

  • How does this apply to Christians?
  • How does this apply to non-believers?
  • How might this play out in the local church?
  • Does it have any implications in the context of marriage or the family?
  • What does it look like to actually live this out in our everyday lives?

The more specific your application is, the better it is. You want people to understand exactly what it is you’re asking them to do. If you’re exhorting them to change, be sure they know specifically what it is you want them to change and how to make that change. If the hearer is not sure what you are asking them to do, then they will likely not do anything. And they’ll walk away from the sermon without responding.

It is also important to think through objections that people might have. Are there any common objections (from believers and non-believers) to what is discussed in the passage? Don't be fooled into thinking that people are automatically interested in what you have to say. Convince them that what you are talking about is important. Address thoughts and questions like:

  • “Why should I?”
  • “What difference will it make?”
  • “Won't I still go to Heaven even if I don't do what you're saying?”

Just as with illustrations, there is no defined spot in a sermon for application. You can use the application as sub-points for your main points, or you might address the application in the conclusion. Nevertheless, the important thing is that you do include some practical application. This is where you drive the truth home, so that the people listening to your sermon understand what you are saying, and know what to do in response. When you preach a sermon, you do not want to simply communicate truth, but you want to demonstrate how that truth should be lived out in our lives.