Live to learn and you will learn to live. Portuguese proverb

Tags: homiletics

Preaching for spiritual growth

by Christoph Email

Over at Cerulean Sanctum, Dan muses about the question, whether pulpit preaching is an effective tool to create disciples. While I certainly do not agree with everything he says, his four ingredients four effective disciple-making had me thinking about the way I preach. Some preliminary conclusions ...(1) IntimacyAsDan correctly points out, intimacy has a lot to do with overcomingdistance. While, certainly, it is never possible to make a publicsermon seem like a one-to-one or even a small group conversation, thereare things you can do to get closer to the people. For me, this beginsby not hiding behind a pulpit (I don't have a pulpit), nor a big bible,nor a microphone, nor anything else. Usually, when I'm preaching, I'mwalking close to the people -- down at their level, even though we havea raised stage platform. (2) RelationshipsDanuses this point to emphasize the significance of love lived out in thechurch body. It's true that this is of supreme importance, but as soonas the sermon is embedded in the context of these loving relationshipsand the preacher himself is clearly a part of this powerful socialnetwork, it will also profit from them. Of course, it is true that thissomewhat speaks against the effectiveness of guest speakers -- but, Iguess, there are other things that they'll profit from.(3) Holy momentsI'm not sure about Dan's vague definition of "holy moments" ("the Holy Spirit broods over us?"), but I agree that it's important for the audience to get a chance to experience and not just hearthe message. We try to do this by visual presentations, drama, audienceparticipation, all kinds of hands-on illustrations (like my cookingduring one of my sermons :-)) and sometimes symbolic actions to respondto the message. (4) DiscussionEvenafter reading Doug Pagitt on participatory preaching, I'm still notsure about how well open discussion would integrate into a preachingtime in my church context. We try to connect the sermon to our smallgroups' meetings in the following week, by providing further questionsfor study and thought. This way, the application part of the sermon ispartially tranferred into the small group context, with its strongerintimacy and relationships (see above) and improved context fordiscussion. more »

How to preach and make it stick

by Christoph Email

As part of the vision development process of our church, I have assembled a few criteria for sermons in our Sunday services. A good sermon should be (in no particular order) ...
  • relevant. Provide a clear connection to the everyday lives of people in the audience (given the fact that they live in Western Europe in the 21st century), as well as clear-cut, feasible instructions on how to implement the lessons of the sermons into these lives.
  • comprehensible. Use modern Bible translations that are understandable to the average reader even without a life-long church background. If you have a problem with the often very free translations, explain the problem, but still use a modern translation. Avoid Christianese. Avoid outdated language. Explain anything a first-time visitor might not understand.
  • structured. Build your sermon according to an internal logic that can be retraced by the audience even after the initial hearing.
  • intensive. Don't be long. Be concise. People's attention spans might be a lot shorter than you think. If your sermon is well constructed, you can communicate your fundamental concept (What? You've got more than one? Think!) in less than 30 minutes. On the other hand, if your sermon is not well constructed, don't preach it.
  • documented. Give handouts. It takes much less effort than you think to make them. Personally, I give a folded A4 sheet with a title page, the bible text, a fill-in-the-blanks outline and room for personal notes (don't forget to provide something to write with, too). Have your sermons recorded and make the recording available to the audience -- preferrably on a choice of modern media like CDs, MP3 files and the internet.
  • alive. Use real-life examples. Don't only talk. Use whatever you can in terms of multimedia, theater, direct interaction. Dare to pull crazy stunts -- I've done things like cooking while I preach. You can be sure people won't forget those sermons easily. Learn whatever you can from pedagogy about learning styles and teaching aids -- and then use them in your sermons, not just in your seminars.
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