Sunday, October 19, 2008

Half Way Through "Preaching To A Shifting Culture."

Recently I read chapters five and six of Preaching To A Shifting Culture" edited by Scott Gibson. Six chapters down, six to go.

Chapter Five was written by the late Keith Willhite. Its title is "Connecting With Your Congregation." Following Haddon Robinson's piece "The Importance of Expository Preaching", it takes many expository preachers to task for preaching sermons that are merely lectures that don't connect with the people in the pew. Willhite applies communication theory to sermon making to produce sermons that engage those in attendance. Much of the various theories he discusses are in his footnotes and I will not go into the various methodologies he deals with. One specific I will allude to is that he suggests argumentation as a model to frame the sermon; he suggests the preacher anticipate the objections some may have to the message and the questions by those who either misunderstand what the message is or those who have questions of application . Willhite maintains that is the preachers job to show his hearers the relevance of a particular biblical passage to today's world and the individual lives of those who hear. Do Willhite's views contradict those who consider the Bible a world in of itself and who believe it is the preachers task to assist his hearers enter into the thinking of this Biblical world?

Chapter Six, "The Shape of the Sermon" by Donald R. Sunukjian, is most helpful in the task of sermon making. Sunukjian suggests we start with three basic questions when preparing a sermon:
1. What is the Biblical flow of thought in a particular passage?
2. Can the message of the sermon be summed up in a single sentence?
3. In a particular passage, what are the relevant points of contact with contemporary audiences?

From these three questions, the preacher must then decide two things:
1. Within the structure of the sermon, where will the single sentence go?
2. Within the structure of the sermon, where will the contemporary relevance be placed?

The answers to the above two questions will determine the kind of sermon that will be preached, according to Sunukjian. To place them in different areas within the sermon on the same passage will aid in producing several different types of sermons on the same biblical material.

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