The English suffix -nomics is derived from the Greek νόμος nomos, meaning “law.”
What are the laws that define a sermon as good or bad, effective or ineffective, memorable or forgettable? How can you, as a communicator of the most life-changing message in history, use these laws to transform your ministry?
These laws are not a list of dos and don’ts, but rather theoretical principles derived from facts that govern the sermonic process from development to delivery.
We have all heard messages that we thought were epic. While there is a great deal of subjectivity related to defining a great message, what are the questions we as preachers want to have answered? How can I replicate it? How can I make my sermons great?
The following are Four Laws of Sermonomics. This list is far from complete, but it does represent the beginning of a conversation about great sermons of which I hope you will be a part.
Law 1. What is biblical will be relevant.
Often, at least in North America, there is a trend to sacrifice the biblical on the altar of the relevant. While it is important not to answer questions that no one is asking, it is equally important to have a fresh and innovative experience for which the lost can find Christ. That being said, it is also critical to understand that God is perpetually relevant because He transcends time.
The Word of God does not have to become relevant, Jesus is the Word, and the word remains relevant in any context in any culture. The Bible is more living than literary, more prophetic than preferential. As such it is beyond trends of the temporal because it speaks to the eternal part of our being. If it is biblical then it will be relevant.
Law 2. What is memorable will be repeated.
While biblical is relevant, often what are not relevant are the man-made methods by which we present that message. We should take our cues from the Creator on what is sticky. If you have not read it, there is a great book called Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip and Dan Heath. Although not about sermons, this book will help you refine your sermonic process.
It dissects why we can remember lines from a movie we watched five years ago, but perhaps not important information. What if we learned to communicate through the grid of the memorable?
Because none of us are as smart as all of us, bring people into your sermon before you teach it. Once you have done the diligence of the exegetical process, run your message past a couple of people. Some call this a creative team. The goal is to create memorable moments during the service that are tied to a life changing principle.
By sitting down with other minds and going through your message, you can look to structure illustrations, drama or video around key points that you want the church to be able to remember. In doing this, we mirror the majesty of our Maker; “He declares the glory of God with the heavens” (Psalms 19:1–6). God uses the greatest canvas imaginable upon which to paint the greatest message. We, too, should seek to find memorable ways to illustrate key points that we want our hearers to encounter throughout the week. What is memorable will be repeated.
Law 3. What is mosaic will be refreshing.
As you are preparing your message, you should be aware that people are expecting the same thing as the previous week. While consistency is important, there is an excitement that cannot be replicated that comes from not knowing what will come next.
Here are a few things that we have done to keep it refreshing.
*We have used full-grown African lions in the service to tell the story of Daniel and the lions’ den.
*We did a Back to the Future-themed Vision Sunday and I drove a DeLorean into the sanctuary.
*While doing a series on Noah, I rented an exotic petting zoo, and had a forest on one side of the sanctuary and an ark on the other. We walked through the sanctuary a kangaroo, a zebra, a bearcat, an alligator, and on and on it went. Then we projected a giant, holographic hand closing the ark door, and the greatest indoor storm ensued. We had eight giant wind fans blowing, strobe lights for lightning, the whole thing.
Of course, we can’t do those types of events all the time, and we shouldn’t. The principle is, excitement is magnified when people experience the unexpected. When we do that, we are simply mirroring the majesty of our Maker and people are refreshed. What is mosaic will be refreshing. For more thoughts on a mosaic approach, see my article here.
What are some ways that you have made the message mosaic?
Law 4. What is truthful will be life changing.
In the politically correct induced coma in which our society seems to live, there is real pressure to be ambiguous where God has been obvious. However, we must remember that great sermons are great not because they dance around the controversies of the heart, but because they compel us to look into the perfect mirror of God’s word. Great sermons demand change from the core of our spirit to the countenance of our faith. They lift us from the complacent to the commissioned, from the passive to the passionate, and from the reluctant to the radical.
Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). The Greek word for truth, alētheia, means both objective and subjective truth. Our life is changed when we come face to face with the objective and subjective realities and compare lack with Jesus’ love. Redefining our reality never changed anyone. Life change takes place when the Spirit of God within us connects with the Spirit of truth in the word of God. What is truthful will be life changing.
What elements do you think make a great sermon and why?