bits from bob....
Creating High Impact Sermons
by Robert J. Young
©, 2006, Robert J. Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]
Almost every successful activity demands a blending of knowledge and practice. Ministry and preaching are no different. Contemporary
ministry is often defined as a blend of theology and practice-the minister is "reflective practitioner" or "practical theologian." Success with
a sledge hammer demands that one know how to wield the tool and where to hit for maximum impact. Likewise, according to Paul Scott
Wilson, sermons which have the greatest impact are a blending of doctrine and teaching with story and application.
Seven Practical Guidelines for increasing the impact of your sermons
- 1. Balance doctrine and story. Stories relate experience. Doctrine or teaching is a normal way of questioning. Understand that story
telling is biblical. Much of the Bible is narrative. Teaching and story operate in tension with one another, making the sermon better than
it would be with a one-dimensional approach.
- 2. Make certain the doctrine and story are integrated and support one another. Nothing is more disconcerting to the careful listener than
a story that has nothing to do with the point of the sermon. Integrate doctrine and story so that they support one another rather than one
overwhelming the other.
- 3. Use language well. A good starting point for using both story and doctrine is to consider individual words-develop a love for language.
Wordsmithing takes time, but provides a handsome return. Use powerful words, appropriate words, make it simple.
- 4. Avoid communication barriers. Avoid abstract words in story or doctrine. How many listeners have a definition of propitiation on
- 5. Pay attention to detail. Be exact but not exacting. Learn how to paint mental pictures. Consider the listening and learning styles of
- 6. Make certain you are certain. Preach your faith, not your doubts.
- 7. Reflect your own heart. Using stories or doctrines for preaching is matter of the heart. Use interpretation and imagination with
Seven Guidelines for the Preacher
- 1. Live a high impact life-learn to honor the "ethos" dimension of ministry. Rhetoric includes ethos, pathos, logos. All are essential. The
church is often too inwardly focused. While edifying and building up the body is important, become involved in the lives of people, both
members and non-members. Be proactive. Visit in homes and hospitals so you know people and can be present for crisis ministry.
- 2. Be committed to a ministry of the word, teaching the Bible on its own terms. Become a student of culture and the text so you know
how to integrate the Bible into life. Such requires a lifetime of study in the word and in observing the lives of people.
- 3. Consider both extrinsic and intrinsic authority-combine them in your own life. Do not depend exclusively on your role for your
authority. Live the message.
- 4. Move beyond mere proclamation to engagement with the text. Make certain that you have engaged the text so that it is active and
working in your own life. Most preachers suffer from too much focus on what the sermon says, and not enough on getting the sermon
heard, how to get it engrafted into the lives of the hearers, how to make it believed. This is made easier by becoming familiar and
comfortable with the following:
- A. Three kinds of receptors-learn to use auditory, kinesthetic, and visual words to maximize hearing.
- B. Four kinds of processors-utilitarian (reward/punishment), ego-defensive (skeptical, hide reality through denial or
rationalization, anticipate arguments and answer), value expressive (respond to message if meets self-image needs), knowledge-function
(respond to new information). We tend to focus almost exclusively on knowledge-function, an information transfer model. We must keep
the content but expand our awareness of the kinds of processors. To understand the power of this point, consider how various people
process this statement: smoking causes cancer.
- C. Learning styles-become familiar with the seven aspects of learning. Consider MBTI styles (SF-how; NT-why-importance;
ST-linear learners-what-content; NF-right brained-what if?) The butterfly method suggests that the preacher should hit all four learning
- D. Personality types
- E. Leadership styles
- 5. Ground the application in the text by establishing dialog and helping the hearer with the experience.
- 6. Preach holistically. Touch the entire person-mind, will, desires, emotion.
- 7. Preach for faith. Help others on the faith journey. Consider these guidelines to preaching for faith development.
- A. The preacher who wants "high impact" sermons rather than "no impact" sermons cannot overlook the importance of preaching for
faith. Sermons that do not help develop or mature faith are ultimately "no impact" sermons.
- B. Remember how important faith is. The preached and heard word develops faith. God intends all to hear. Rom. 10:14 says this is
true for all-Christians and non-Christians. Consider Heb. 1:1-2 and 4:2 in understanding the process of faith development. One is not
going to obey without faith, so it follows that one must develop faith. Spend time contemplating this question: can people obey without
faith? (Rom. 10:17, 1:16-17).
- C. What is your purpose, aim, or target-always it is faith. Do not demote your purposes into guilt, fear, pity, or religious duty.
Last updated November 7, 2006