Poets, Prophets and Preachers Session 5

Rob Bell wrapped up an incredible day with an incredible talk on sermon preparation entitled "The Fig Tree and the Failure of Language: Moment, Movement, Mystery, and the Science of Homiletical Architecture (Alternative Title: Why Some Sermons Work and Others Don't)."

This was a very practical, nuts and bolts teaching on how to construct an effective sermon. He began by stating that "a sermon has an engine; an energy source. A sermon comes from somewhere." In order to determine this energy source, the preacher must ask some important questions: "Why am I saying this?" "Why do people need to hear this?" "Why should they care?" "Why do I care?" If we can sum up the sermon in 20 to 30 seconds then we are ready to proceed! If you're a preacher, think about your sermon for this coming Sunday (assuming you have begun your initial preparations), if I asked you to sum up your sermon in 20-30 seconds could you? Is there something that is driving your sermon that you can clearly articulate in an instant? If not, you may have some work to do according to Rob Bell.
Rob says that many times the engine is driven by either a moment, a movement, or a mystery that we discover in Scripture.

He says that everything in the sermon must be related to everything else in the sermon, and the heart of the talk was that as preachers we must "name the parts, know the parts, step outside the parts, and arrange the parts in a purposeful way." So here are the parts:

1. Reading the passage
2. Information
3. Story
4. Question
5. Picture
6. Rant
7. Action
8. Insight
9. Observation
10. Statistic
11. Declaration
12. Invitation

Of course, we will not use all of these parts in every sermon, but we must be able to identify them, understand how to use them effectively, and then organize them in a compelling way as the Spirit leads.

Rob also talked about some basic techniques like:

1. Speed of delivery
2. Intensity
3. Tension
4. Pacing
5. Tone
6. Posture
7. Arc
As preachers we must be aware of these techniques and continually be searching for ways to improve in our utilization of them in our sermons.

He talked about the dangers of openers that overwhelm: we don't want to have a great introduction and then let the rest of the sermon fall flat.

No rules other than knowing: it doesn't matter how the sermon is constructed as long as you, as the preacher, know where you're going and what's happening along the way.

Storyboarding: the value of planning and plotting out the sermon through visual and physical means.

A good quote: "A sermon creates a picture, a space, an image, an experience, an encounter, a world, a place that allows people to find themselves in it."

A sermon should be:

1. Focused and yet Open
2. Said and yet Unsaid
3. Defining and yet Imagining
4. Resolute and yet Unresolved

Finally, he talked about the importance of crafting sermons that enable everyone to move to the next level of their faith journey regardless of where they are at. This will require preachers to exegete their congregation as thoroughly as they exegete their text during sermon preparation.

In all, a powerful and insightful lecture. I will be a better preacher as a result of hearing it.


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