In preaching, I [Adrian Rogers] have to ask myself this question, "What difference will this make?” and then, “How will I communicate it?" The four little words that I came up with years ago are, "Hey, you, look, do."
In preparing a sermon, the first is the hey. You must get their attention. The first several words that you say, in many ways, are the most important words, because, especially if you're in a strange audience, or a new audience, but even with an older audience, they will tune you in or tune you out in a hurry. If they're not listening, it doesn't make a difference what you're saying.
Hey is a word for attention. Hey! You want to get their attention.
Generally, when I preach, I will say, "Would you take your Bibles and turn please to First Corinthians chapter one, and while you're finding it, look up here, and let me ask you a question. What do you say are the three most important things in a preacher preaching?," if I'm preaching to preachers, so I have their attention. I'm asking a question. I might tell a story. I'll say “A funny thing happened to me coming to church this morning,” or whatever, so that I have their attention.
Once I have their attention, then I will make it personal. “Let me tell you three ways that you can be an effective, powerful, dynamic, God-used preacher.” Hey, you. That's because I'm going to tell you what you're interested in. You. Don't say you're not. You're interested in you.
You watch the way these people write these ads. They don't start out with how many cars they sold last year. They start out with why you deserve a Cadillac. Why you've earned it, or why your children need to be enveloped in safety, or why you need to ride in comfort. It's you. Hey, you. God loves you too, and He is interested in you.
Explain it. That's the exposition. You take a passage of Scripture, you study it to see what it says, you find how it naturally divides itself, you analyze it, you organize it, you illustrate it, you apply it, and you preach it. That's the look. There it is. Explain it to them so they understand. It's got to be simple. That doesn't mean simplistic. If you take a passage of Scripture, and you study it and study it and study it, and keep simplifying and simplifying and simplifying until it gets so simple that you're ashamed of it and preach it, they'll say, "How profound." Because, the main thing to do in communication is to be understood.
You say, "Hey you, look! There it is. Do you see that? Now, look here. Let me tell you…" You're teaching and preaching at the same time, but you're trying to be understood.
The “do” is your call to action. Now, if you don't call for action, you haven't preached. You want them to do something, even if it's to love Jesus more. We've been in campaigns to move up one step higher, whatever it is. If it's to tithe, if it's to be saved, if it's to pray more, whatever it is, you've got a goal in mind. You're moving towards something. Therefore, you're selling from the time you get up to the time you give the invitation. Selling, don't let the word scare you now; I'm not talking about human manipulation. What I'm saying is you're driving toward a point, you're trying to move the people somewhere.
The bottom line is that there ought to be no equivocation in their minds what you want them to do, where you're headed, what you're motivating them to. You are not filling a bucket, you're lighting a torch. You are trying to motivate them to do something. So it’s hey, you! Look! Do! It’s a simple outline.
This question and answer came from a Doctoral Colloquium session with Adrian Rogers and several Doctoral Preaching candidates in 1997.