Thursday, April 03, 2014

Thursday Thinking - About Preaching

Writer and theologian, Roger Olson, recently blogged about preaching and sermons in a post titled: "A Word about Preaching: Whatever Happened to Points?"  If you are a preacher or public speaker, it's worth reading. Here's an excerpt...
When I was a kid and student most sermons I heard had three points–sometimes two or four. That by itself did not guarantee “good preaching.” Some pointed sermons were and are awful. But I remember many sermons I heard many years ago–some from my teen years and student years (college and seminary). They ALL had clear points.

Example: heard about 35 years ago. Text: Psalm 119:11. Three points (expanded on well): 1) A good thing, 2) In a good place, 3) For a good reason. Simple? Yes. Simplistic? Depends on how the points are developed and explained. “Old school?” For sure. Memorable? Absolutely.

Now the favored preaching style is “narrative preaching.” Okay, sometimes I get it. But sometimes I have no idea what the preacher is trying to say. It’s just a good story. Maybe inspiring. But in my opinion, good preaching appeals to the mind and the heart. “Just inspiring” isn’t good enough.

A good sermon informs and challenges as well as inspires. The “information” may not be new, but there should be facts, cognitive content, propositions, truth claims in every sermon. Why? Because otherwise, unless it’s a very sophisticated congregation capable of interpreting narrative for themselves, the narrative sermon along, without some interpretation,will miss the mark. EVEN JESUS condescended to explain his parables to his disciples!
I guess I'm pretty old-school when it comes to preaching because I always use points. Olson makes the point that clear points help the listener understand and remember. I would add add that it also helps the preacher! Using points helps me as a communicator. I can focus on the people I'm talking to and still remember where I'm going without reading a script or constantly referring to notes. I'm more likely to preach well if I can tell you the main points of my sermon from memory before I get up to speak.

Points in a sermon are like landmarks on a map. They serve as an itinerary as I guide the congregation through the texts and topics at hand. Developing sermon points also forces me to think clearly about what I want the takeaway to be for myself and my listeners. It helps me to nail down applications, and it pushes me to identify and articulate actions we can all take as we try to be responsive to the truths presented.

While sermon structure and method are important to me, I actually don't expect or want my listeners to think much about it. In fact, making a good sermon is a bit like making a really good meal––it's likely to be more enjoyable when those eating it are just delighting in the experience, not thinking about how it was made. But if you're the cook, you'd better be thinking about it a lot!

CLICK HERE to visit Roger Olson's Blog.

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