I got the idea for “The Factual Data” sheet from reading that Warren W. Wiersbe’s homiletic teacher, Lloyd Perry used a generic “Factual Data” sheet for sermon preparation. I have adapted “The Factual Data” sheet to the different genres of Scripture instead of one size fits all approach.
1. The Epistle is the dominant literary form or genre in the New Testament (21 of the 27 books are epistles). Jeffery D. Arthurs does a great job in Preaching with Variety at showing how the uniqueness of each genre should influence not only the form of our sermons but how we preach them. I will only highlight some of his points for preaching Pauline Epistles and especially the book of Ephesians.
a. Epistles are closest to the sermon and therefore preachers feel the most comfortable preaching epistles.
b. Epistles were formal, public letters written mainly to churches something like our letters to the editor.
c. Epistles are direct address like sermons. They are like listening to one side of a telephone conversation.
d. Epistles, like sermons, used theology to solve problems. The imperative (we must be united in Ephesians 4:1-17) is grounded in the indicative (there is unity in the Trinity in Ephesians 1:3-14). The standard of living is high but the motivation is sufficient and from God.
e. Epistles like sermons use other forms like proverbs (Gal 5:9), hymns (Phil 2:6-11), lists (Rom 1:29-31), rhetorical questions (Rom 8:31-35), extended metaphor (Eph 6:10-17). The listener never knows what is coming next. So should we preachers use a variety of material in our sermons. Sometimes when I am nearly through preparing a sermon, I will list the illustrations on a separate piece of paper just to see if there is plenty of diversity in them.
f. Epistles like sermons were written to be heard (1 Thess 5:27; Col 4:16; Philemon 2). Even private reading was done orally (Acts 8). The letters were even dictated to the scribe. Therefore repetition was important (“one” is use 14 times Ephesians) and concrete language (“Macedonians” 2 Cor 8:1-7) or family (Eph 2:20). Therefore as preachers we should repeat.
1) Repeat the key sentences your audience needs to remember (“to the praise of the glory of His grace” Eph 1:6, 12, 14).
2) “These sentences are like the pegs of your tie rack. Take away the pegs and you have only a colorful jumble. With the pegs, the ties hang straight and can be examined.”
3) What are these key sentences that must be repeated? Proposition, main divisions, etc.
4) To preach for the ear, we must preach in koine or the common language of the people. Billy Sunday was a master at this. Once when preaching near a lumberman’s camp, he learned that when the lumbermen went deep into the woods to cut down trees they would sprinkle saw dust to find their way out of the forest. At the end of the workday the foreman would shout, “Let’s hit the sawdust trail and go back home.” When Sunday learned about this tradition, at the end of his sermon the next night at the invitation, with sawdust on the floor of the Billy Sunday Tabernacle, Sunday exhorted the unsaved to “Hit the sawdust trail and come back home to God.”
2. Let the form of the Scripture influence the form of the sermon. When preaching on Romans 11:33-36, a glorious hymn inserted abruptly into the flow of the Paul’s argument, let the form of the doxology influence the form of your sermon. You would not preach the doxology like a argument from Galatians. Craddock attempts to capture the mood:“Let doxologies be shared doxologically, narratives narratively, polemics polemically, and parables parabolically. In other words, biblical preaching ought to be biblical.”
a. If the texts uses word picture, use pictures in your sermon (A soldier from images in Google transferred to your Powerpoint on Eph 6:10-20).
b. If the text is autobiographical, use a first person sermon (Paul Borden has an excellent first person sermon 2 Cor 11:16-12:18 in expositapes: tape number 2290, Denver Seminary).
c. If the text has debate (Gal 1:11-24), use a debate after the sermon.
d. If the text is dialogue (which epistles are: one half of the conversation), use dialogue.
1) Habakkuk is all dialogue. Jesus used dialogue when He asked 153 questions. Paul did the same in Acts 17:2 (Paul….reasoned [Gk. dielegeto] from which we get our English word dialogue).
2) Let the audience ask the preacher questions following a sermon.
3) Preacher asks the audience real questions or rhetorical questions.
4) Have main divisions stated as questions.
5) Use drama with dialogue. There are many ways the preacher can allow the form of the text to mold the form of his sermon and Jeffery D. Arthurs’ Preaching With Variety is a very useful tool. In my next post, I will provide “The Factual Data” Sheet, Part 2 which will help the preacher Observe, Interpret, and Apply his passage. I will deal with what I call Macro Hermeneutics, which establishes the context of the text, and Micro Hermeneutics, which helps analyze the content of the text.
 The nonepistolary books are the Gospels, Acts, and Revelation. Hebrews and 1 John are hybrids, sharing many characteristics of epistles, but omitting an address to specific groups. Acts and Revelation contain embedded epistles as do OT historical books. See 2 Sam 11:14-15; 1 Kgs. 21:8-10; 2 Kgs 5:4-6; 10;1-3: Ezra 4:9-12, 17-22; and 6:3-12” (Jeffery D. Arthurs, Preaching with Variety ,Grand Rapids: Kergel, 2007) 152, 217.
 Both are created to address specific circumstances; both argue ideas and employ ‘support material,’ such as illustrations and quotations; both are markedly aural. No wonder preachers often feel at home in the epistles. Poetry, narrative, parable, and proverbs tend to hide their rhetoric, using induction and imagination for persuasion, but the epistle flies its rhetorical flag for all to see” (Ibid., 152).
 Fred Craddock, As One Without Authority, 131.