Chapter 1.
Learning to Preach the Principle Way

Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Community Church in Mission Viejo, California, among others, has been espousing a "new kind" of preaching. On the surface, it is extremely simple. In fact, its impact is most profound. It is called principle preaching. Principle preaching reduced to its simplest definition is drawing life application principles from the Bible and preaching them as the outline of the sermon. In each case, the three or four or even five divisions of the sermon are principles, not the usual sermon points.

Most pastors preach a sermon outline that is really rather predictable. The points usually contain life application principles, though not identified primarily as such. But in principle preaching, the principles themselves are the points. The normal sermon outline, which merely contains principles, is customarily more for the preacher's sake than the hearer's.

In principle preaching, the hearer has an instant connection and virtually never forgets what he or she has heard. A sermon outline with three or four principles will cause listeners to write them down, magnet them to the refrigerator door and say, "Now, I can do that when I get to work tomorrow." In principle preaching, the principles themselves are the outline, not simply truths contained in a rather predictable, customary talk. Outlines are soon forgotten, but principles never are.

The power of principle preaching is simple. Principles are universally applicable. Thus, receptivity is accordingly universal. If it is true in physics that everything that goes up must come down, it is also true in principle preaching, where virtually every principle will be heard, received, remembered, practiced, and even perpetuated by those who hear the Word. Whether one is saved or lost, a communist or Catholic, a Buddhist or Baptist, an astronaut, truck driver, banker, or custodian, the principles will stick.

Certainly principle preaching will not be the exclusive vehicle by which preachers deliver God's Word. Funerals, for example, call for brief and tender words of comfort in Scripture with virtually no outline at all. Weddings, evangelistic crusades, and a host of other venues call for their own styles of outline, content, and delivery.

Word-by-word teaching deepens the understanding of God's people, and it should be the mid-week approach when deeper Bible study for the faithful is undertaken. But bring some principle preaching to your congregation. They will be richly blessed and will actually remember what you preached.

Would you like to see an example of how to draw life application principles for a sermon from a memorable experience in the life of the man chosen by God to be Moses' successor? Let's look at one now.