Preaching Articles

The sermon is not a biblical lecture designed merely to inform the hearer of some interesting facts. It is not merely a place where you can learn different stories from the Bible. Certainly it includes that, but no, it is more than that. The sermon is a vehicle for an encounter with the Most High God. This encounter does “inform,” but it also provides hope, healing, direction, salvation, etc. Because of this, preachers should embed in the sermon an expectation of a response from the congregation.

This response may be a heartfelt question like “What must I do to be saved?” The response might be an assurance that God will be with us through a painful circumstance. The response might be a resolve to live with more loyalty to God’s coming Kingdom. There may be other responses, but the point is that the encounter with God changes humanity, and that change will manifest itself in some way.

Every sermon should ask the people for some sort of response. However, before one can ask such a thing, the preacher must connect what is taught to the lived experience of the congregation.

Doctrinal Sermons Need to Connect to Human Experience

Many sermons, especially “doctrinal” ones, neglect this connection to human experience. We preachers sometimes think that preaching the “truth” is all that is needed. So we preach sermons that follow an outline much like the following:

1. Teach the doctrine.
2. Defend the doctrine from a few angles.
3. Tell people they need to believe the doctrine.

I heard a sermon on the trinity like this. The preacher read a few texts that taught the doctrine of the trinity. The preacher then defended the doctrine from a few attacks that are sometimes heard. The preacher then closed by calling us all to hold on to this doctrine. He then sat down. Note that the people don’t know why the doctrine is important. They do not know how to apply it in daily life.

Lowry’s Homiletical Plot Approach

In contrast, I read where Eugene Lowry stated the following on page 18 of the book The Homiletical Plot:

I am considering the possibility of a doctrinal sermon on the Trinity; the preliminary question to be asked is: What problem or bind does the trinitarian formula resolve?

Here the preacher will be looking at how the doctrine does solve some problem. Does the trinity tell us something about community? Does the trinity guide us in some way? Perhaps the trinity provides a vehicle for understanding God’s total investment in humanity’s salvation. Whatever the case, when we go to preach a doctrine it should be connected to human experience if we expect to be able to make an appeal to the importance of the doctrine.

Now it is true that some people neglect doctrine as if it is unimportant. That is another issue we shall take up later. But when you preach doctrine, informing others is important, but helping the people to understand the doctrine in such a way that it will change the way they live is also important. And most important is to allow the doctrine to facilitate the encounter with the God that we hope to experience in the worship service.

Sherman Haywood Cox II is the director of Soul Preaching. He holds the M.Div with an emphasis in Homiletics and a M.S. in Computer Science.

Browse All

Related Preaching Articles

Talk about it...

Don Campbell

commented on Jun 27, 2014

Thanks, Sherman for the insight and reminder. I went immediately to this Sunday's sermon to see how hard it would be to use these insights. I quickly realized how really easy it was to show in the conclusion how the lesson on Bible interpretation had not only a vertical application (worshiping God acceptably) but a horizontal application (not excluding from fellowship those whom God accepts with a less-than-perfect (which is all of us) understanding of his word.

Mike Spencer

commented on Jun 27, 2014

My nine year old daughter queried the other day, "How do I hear God" I told her that as we read the word of God, He puts his understanding in our hearts, so that we begin to think like He speaks. Yes, preaching is more than just the bare bones of doctrine, but if I had to choose between the ego-driven doctrine-less sermons I hear from so many pulpits, I would prefer the former. Confession, i.e., saying what God says, is a great deal of how we begin to think, speak, act and feel like our Lord Jesus Christ. Preachers strain themselves looking for the relevancy of scripture from a cultural perspective. What they should do is operate out of the presuppositions of scripture that All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the slave of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. The word of God remains the most relevant teaching ever penned, therefore it should be easy to allow its words to put feet to our faith.

Roy Hagemyer

commented on Jul 3, 2014

You are so right! Without the how to's and why's, its like throwing a box of tools at someone and not telling them how to use them or what they are for.

Join the discussion