A Lesson From Preaching Class

by Fr. Barnabas Powell

We are republishing this article from our good friend, Fr. Barnabas, who is the priest of Ss. Raphael, Nicholas and Irene Church in Cumming, GA  and blogger at Sober Joy, co-teaches the course PAST 7201 – Preaching: Proclaiming The Kindgom, with Fr. Nick Triantifilou, the president of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. Fr. Nick  was the main professor, and Fr.  Barnabas was the co-instructor. In this preaching lesson, which was given earlier this year, we are given an excellent example of a three-step process to preparing an effective sermon on the Gospel.

Tonight we are going to look at one way to organize a homily to insure that your homily has a clear purpose and a clear structure to encourage effective preaching.

The outline I use is as follows:


D.S. – (Declarative Statement)

T.S. – (Transitional Statement)

I. (1st Main Point)

1. (Sub points)


Ill. – (Illustration)

Appl. – (Application)

T.S. – (Transitional Statement)

II. (2nd Main Point)

1. (Sub points)


Ill. – (Illustration)

Appl. – (Application)

T.S. – (Transitional Statement)


Step One

The First step after having studied the passage or subject for the homily is to develop the most important part of the above outline – the Declarative Statement. The D.S. is your homily’s main idea and purpose written in one sentence. For example:

“Today’s Gospel passage reveals two (2) powerful principles to assist us in becoming mature disciples of Jesus Christ.”

This declarative statement now becomes the controlling thought for the rest of the homily. It reveals your two main points and it governs your purpose i.e. to assist your parishioners in becoming mature disciples of Jesus Christ.

RELATED  Ancestral Sin vs. Original Sin

Step Two

The Second step in developing the homily using the above outline is the Main Points. Your Declarative Statement has already revealed how many main points you should have and now you state them clearly.

“The First Powerful Principle is…”

then the sub points open up the main point with specific insights into the point itself such as the power of a particular Greek verb in the text or a context for the particular teaching Jesus is making here. The Second Main Point is developed in a similar manner.

Within both Main Points are two other components that are indispensable for the effectiveness of the homily. They are:

Illustration – the illustration should paint a vivid picture of the Main Point it is trying to reinforce. It could be a story, or a quote from the Fathers, or an item from the contemporary news of the day. Regardless, it must allow the hearer to “see” the Main Point.

Application – Here is where you are to “preach.” Each Main Point should have an application section where you help the hearer understand and apply the Main Point to his/her daily life. It is inherently frustrating to be told that I should become a mature disciple of Jesus Christ and then not get the steps to make this a reality in my life. The hearer should leave the service with a clear way to apply what he/she has heard in that morning’s homily. Every homily is incomplete and ineffective without this vital element.

The Transitional Statement is as simple as it seems. It is a short and simple statement that moves you from your previous Main Point to your next Main Point.

RELATED  Axios! Priest Barnabas Powell

Step Three

After having completed the Main Points, the Third step is to write your Conclusion and Introduction, in that order. While you are developing these two sections, you will usually find that they inform one another.

The Conclusion should be not only a recap of the Main Points and important elements from each Application section, but also a clear call for the hearer to apply what he/she has heard that morning to his/her life. The Conclusion is the place to ask the hearer to step up to the principles of the Gospel lesson preached.

The Introduction should be able to “set the table” for the homily as a whole. It should be timely and it should connect with the hearers to where they are in their lives. It can begin with a story, a personal story, or even a contextual background for the passage itself. Regardless, the Introduction is the place to help the hearer begin to become a doer of the Word.

An old preacher friend once told me that in a sermon, you should

“tell them what you are going to tell them; then tell them; then tell them what you told them. “

The important task is to leave as many memory possibilities within the homily as possible to assist the hearer in remembering the insight from the Gospel lesson that day.

With time and practice this system can become a way for you to move away from a manuscript toward noteless preaching. This takes time, practice, and serious attention to preparation.

As above, this is just one way to organize a homily.

RELATED  The Confession of St. Patrick of Ireland

As you develop your own style, keep in mind that the homily is just as much a part of the work of the Divine Liturgy as any other part of the service. It is the time when you have a powerful opportunity to set the tone for your community in their spiritual lives and in their daily lives. It is a time when exposing them to the Scriptures is also a way for them to see the Scriptures as intimately applicable to their daily lives.

The task of the Preacher is to take the Scriptures and give them to the people in such a way that they value the Word as much as you do.

About Fr. John A. Peck

Director of the Preachers Institute, priest in the Orthodox Church in America, award-winning graphic designer and media consultant, and non-profit administrator.
Blog; Facebook;Twitter