SERMONS & An Organic “Structure” for Effective Sermons

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 11/15/15

I coach clients on sermon structure, which is just as important as preparation.  Here is an “Organic Sermon Structure” that I developed while I was pastoring:



ASK your hearers a question that shows them how a “problem” you have chosen relates to them, i.e. “Have you ever had to deal with a person who lied to you, and you know they did?”

> The Serendipity Bible by Lyman Coleman is a great source of these questions.  It has questions for every passage in the Bible.  See the “screen shot” below.
> Wesley’s questions are also great (see The Healthy Church and Cure for the Common Church for Wesley’s questions adapted for today).


STATE the problem (the more people who can relate to this problem the better).


TRAVEL through a biblical story that gives the answer to the problem.  Use the following resources for background info on story:

> (start with) Eerdmans Handbook to the Bible or the more recent Eerdmans Companion to the Bible (see screen shot below). These are the basic books that give a clear, concise background for each passage in the Bible.  If you want to know the context and background to any passage, you will find it here (with charts, maps, etc.)  Other good ones are: The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament [Hardcover] and the NT version.

> Then look at a “Commentaries” for the story you are sharing to get more in-depth info.  Don’t get bogged down sharing everything in a commentary.  Use them to help you fully grasp the background and message of each passage.

There are good commentaries for each book.  Eventually you want to have one (or more) commentary for each book of the Bible.  Here are some examples of good ones:

The Book of the Acts (New International Commentary on the New Testament) by F. F. Bruce

Luke (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries) by Leon L. Morris (Apr 18, 2008)

The Epistle to the Ephesians: A Verse by Verse Exposition by One of the Great Bible Scholars of Our Age by F.F. Bruce (Apr 12, 2012)

Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (New International Commentary on the New Testament) by Gordon D. Fee (Jul 14, 1995)

The IVP (InterVarsity Press) New Testament Commentary Series is often very good.

Also, the Tyndale New Testament Commentary Series is very good.

You want to amass a commentary (or two) for each book in the Bible, so you can look more detail about each passage you are sharing.


FILL your mind up with this background information (above) until you think you can learn no more – the add a little bit more. Then see what the HS brings up from your consciousness during the sermon.


SHOW the congregation that though the story the Bible gives the ANSWER to the problem.


APPLY – show them two (2) ways to apply the answer to the problem in the next 24 hours (e.g. before noon on Monday).

Serediptiy Bible copy Serendipity Bible SCREEN SHOT for Genesis 1 (Click to enlarge):

  • Note the “Questions” next to the “Coffee cup” (to get them thinking).
  • The “Book Icon” represents background info.  Use this like you would a commentary.
  • The “Heart Icon” tells them how to apply the lessons of the passage to their heart.

Eerdmans Companion to the Bible SCREEN SHOT of background info (click to enlarge)
Eerdmans Companion to the Bible copy
Eerdmans Companion to the Bible.tiff