Homiletics Crash Course
As leaders and followers alike, Homiletics can play a crucial role in Bible study and teaching. For followers, studiers, it can help us really dig deeper and get the meat of a passage, apply it to our lives, and ingrain it on our hearts. As teachers, it can help us set up lesson plans and Bible studies in a structured way and organize our thoughts.
The practice is an art, a method – and therefore can come out in a myriad of different ways. The structure is the same, but the end result is unique to each and every person. As such, there is no right or wrong way to do this, so long as you follow the basic guidelines and stick to just the Bible. This is not to be used in conjuncture with any other study material – but that is not to say that study material cannot be added later (mainly for teachers).
What is Homiletics?
Ah I’m so glad you asked! Homiletics is nothing more than breaking a passage of Scripture into an outline. this outline can be shrunk down for practical living or expanded to teach a sermon, Bible study, small group – or even to write a book. I have personally found that practicing Homiletics has allowed me to focus and learn better in school.
The fun part comes when you start recognizing the homiletics others use, like your pastor. The more you practice, the more you will see the art form others use – and it really helps in soaking in information in the long run.
Homiletics is a 5 or 6 step process (6 for leaders) – Content, Subject Sentence, Divisions, Aim, Application (and Principles). For the most part, it doesn’t really matter the order (though it’s pretty important if Content does come first) – but one usually feeds the next. I tend to switch around the Subject Sentence, Aim, and Divisions – but you’ll see why when we get there.
Shrink and Think
This phrase is crucial to the first few steps of Homiletics – specifically in creating the Content. As you read a passage, you want to pull out the most basic ideas – shrink the wordy stuff down into small thoughtful chunks. In essence – keep it simple!
How to do Homiletics
The fun part! Let’s get our hands dirty, shall we? I will be using Ephesians 6 as an example, and you will get to witness complete homiletics on a passage as we learn. So pay attention! Also, be willing to reread the whole passage several times throughout this work – I usually end up at least re-scanning the entire thing in my Bible once every section.
Always start with prayer. Ask God to show you a specific truth, and to teach you as you sift through His love letter.
The first step is to break a passage down into it’s content. There are a few simple rules you need to remember while figuring out the meat of your passage:
- No less than 10 content items
- No more than 20 content items
- Consecutive verses may be grouped to complete a thought
- Doesn’t have to be articulate or written out in complete sentences
- Be sure to use names where available and don’t skip important information – you may not use the info later on in your study, but writing it down anyway acknowledges it and helps in the long run.
- How you decide to break up the content is up to you! Remember, this is an art form.
So, let’s try Ephesians 6.
Verses 1-3 – Children honor parents, first command with promise
Verse 4 – Fathers shouldn’t stir up anger in children but raise them in training and instruction of the Lord
Verses 5-8 – Slaves should obey, have sincerity of heart, not work only while being watched, but serve as only serving Christ – whatever good each does will be received back from God
Verse 9 – Masters to treat slaves same way, your master and theirs is in heaven, He has no favoritism
Verse 10 – Be strengthed by Lord and His strength
Verses 11-13 – Put on armor of God so that you can stand against Devil, because our enemy isn’t human, but evil darkness and forces. Take up armor so you can resist in the evil day, and be able to stand after all is said and done.
Verses 14-17 – Armor of God and it’s pieces
Verse 18 – Pray and stay alert for yourself and for the saints (Christian friends)
Verses 19-20 – Paul asks for prayer for himself, for boldness and the Gospel come out of his mouth whenever he opens it
Verses 21-22 – Tychicus will give news about Paul, and will encourage their hearts, sent by Paul
Verses 23-24 – Final greeting of Paul
I have plenty of room to expand out the contents of the armor of God (I have 9 more bullet points I can use), but I chose not to this time.
From here on out, your Homiletics will be tailored to you for what God reveals to you this time through. If you were to revisit this passage later, or compare notes with a friend who has done Homiletics on the same passage, the next 4 or 5 steps may be completely different. Don’t be alarmed or discouraged if you feel like someone got something better than you – remember, this is just between you and God, and what He wants to teach you right this moment. You are unique, and your lessons will be unique.
Here we are going to divide the content into sections. The number of sections depends on you, but if you’re thinking in terms of a lesson to teach, you don’t want any less than 2, nor any more than 4 divisions (there are always exceptions though!). List the verses and give a summary statement in complete sentence form.
So, how would this look for Ephesians 6?
1. Ephesians 6:1-9 Paul exhorts children to obey parents, parents to train children in the instruction of the Lord, slaves to work as for God alone, and masters to treat their slaves without prejudice.
2. Ephesians 6:10-20 Our true enemy revealed, our armor explained, and prayer is the key!
3. Ephesians 6:21-24 Paul closes his letter with encouragement and exhortation.
Shrink it even further! Now it’s time to come up with a sentence of no more than 10 words to describe the subject of this passage. This, for some, is the hardest part of the process. This does, however, feed off of your divisions (I actually do my subject sentence after my divisions – it makes it easier!) The best practice is to use pieces from your divisions in this sentence. When someone reads your subject sentence, it needs to point to this exact passage in the Bible.
My Ephesians 6 Subject Sentence:
Treat each other well, arm yourselves in God’s armor. (9 words)
Now that we know that we know what the passage is about (or at least, one or two key things that stand out to us this time), it’s time to pick out what we want to teach ourselves (or others). The Aim is a statement of purpose for the lesson – literally, what applicable truth you want to learn or teach.
Now it is very important that the truth you are teaching comes directly out of the passage, as opposed to being a statement that can be backed up by this passage. Remember that this is just you and God time, and any commentaries or additional material you want to bring in should be only considered after completing the Homiletics first. This way you aren’t tempted to focus on one man’s words over God’s.
It is also important that you pull this Aim from your content. It doesn’t have to be word for word, but every piece of it should be found somewhere in this passage. It should also be completely applicable to the audience/students/yourself – something you can take with you and act on when it comes back to memory later. But it should never be an action statement! What do I mean by this? Your Aim is not a call to action, but rather a truth that can lead to action if applied.
An example of a bad aim for Ephesians 6 might be something like “To cause the audience to treat their family/workers/bosses better.” This is a call to action, and only takes in a portion of the content – by this I mean that there are two divisions above that this can’t be applied directly to. Where is the armor? What about the exhortation at the end (okay, so that one’s a little harder, but we’ll make it work!)?
Aims always start with a variation of one of the following:
- To cause the audience to learn/understand… (TCAL/TCAU)
- To cause the students to learn/understand… (TCSL/TCSU)
- To learn/understand… (TL/TU) Personal study only
If you stick with “learn/understand” and do not substitute any other words here, your aim will almost always be in it’s correct form (assuming you can apply it to every division above).
So, what would my Aim for Ephesians 6 look like?
TCAU that we have been provided a full armor by God – one that, when put on through the Lord’s strength via prayer, will help our relationships with others and our service to God.
Don’t really see the final division in there, but let’s see if I can pull it out in the application…
Now for the most important part of this process – how to apply the lessons being taught/learned. The application basically goes through the Aim into the Divisions – both must be represented. These ask thought provoking questions and cannot be answered via yes or no. Basically, as long as you start the question with Who, What, When, Where, or How, you’re doing great. Number them according to division – and don’t be afraid to ask multiple questions if you need to. And if you’re doing this for personal study, go ahead and answer the questions yourself! You can also do this in the lesson format if you want to give personal examples.
Here are what my applications for Ephesian 6 would look like:
Division 1: How can I work for my employer as though I were working for Jesus this week? What can I do for my parents/boss before they have to ask?
Division 2: Who have I recently labeled as an enemy? How might I shift my focus from the person to the evil spirit beyond them? Which parts of the armor do I need to prayerfully put on when dealing with this person this week? How might I pray for them?
Division 3: Who, as a personal influence in my life, might be encouraged by a letter from me?
See, even I had to get creative with that last division. But it’s possible!
I know I labeled this for the Leaders only, but even the brave self-studier can take a stab at this. Principles are nothing more than a truth about who God is, a truth about who man is, or a truth about God’s relationship to man – nothing more. It comes straight out of the passage and is again on a per-division basis. Principles are memorable statements that enforce what you are teaching – almost like mini subject sentences (but not quite the same).
What would my principles be for Ephesians 6, you ask?
Principle 1: God expects us to fully respect one another in His name.
Principle 2: God equips us to withstand any attack – we are never left to our own devices.
Principle 3: God’s encouragement should be passed from man to man.
And that’s it! You’re done! It can take a while, so this may not be something for every day study – but maybe once a week study. But you will learn so much from making this a practice.