‘and God’s a bit like that….’

3

03/01/2015 by Chris Green

I’m reading a book about preaching at the moment, and it’s helpful in all sorts of ways. But I’m not going to tell you you which book because I want to criticise it – not for its substance, but for an irritating stylistic tic, which is so common in preaching that most of us who are preachers won’t even notice it’s there.

Almost every chapter starts in the same way – a short story, usually true, humorous and self-deprecating, then a link sentence (preaching/the preacher is/is not like that), and then what the author really wants to talk about.

I’ve heard so many sermons which begin like that, many of them my own, that I’m starting to become tired and suspicious of the formula. It’s not only so obvious that I can hear the click as the sermon changes track, but it’s so easy that I know we can write such intros in our sleep. Or during Saturday night TV.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/2f6/39086892/files/2015/01/img_0730-0.jpg‘My guilty secret is that I quite enjoy (insert TV programme of choice). I know it’s silly, but I like it when (insert favourite character or motif). And, this passage tells us that God’s quite like that too.’

It’s as though the preacher feels the need to sugar coat the first two minutes, get a chuckle of recognition, and then press into the passage. Bait and switch.

The dead giveaway is when it’s a ‘negative’ illustration, meaning it’s one where the Christian life/God/whatever is not like the scenario just described. They are the easiest and laziest kind to do, and once you learn to spot them you can see them everywhere.

But there are some preachers who, although they seem to do that, are actually doing something shrewder. The introductory elements are actually the main point of the sermon, but done as a piece of spiritual or cultural analysis, with a question mark against them. Rather than a quick bridge from the latest movie, they are actually taking that movie as a serious expression of humanity’s fallen state and its deepest needs.

The opening illustration isn’t an illustration at all – it’s a worked piece of application. The assumption is that every human artefact is an expression of our status as ruined image-bearers, and can be properly analysed as such.

So the next time you preach, plan to use the opening few minutes as a deliberate way to get people to engage with the issue in the passage. Expose an idol, or a lie, or a question, or a tension, or look at the story that an object tells us, in a way that makes your hearers hunger and thirst for God’s truth.

It’s hard work, but your congregation will thank you as you teach them to think.

3 thoughts on “‘and God’s a bit like that….’

  1. hamage says:

    Good word. Given they can both look/sound similar but are actually quite different, I’m thankful for this reminder to pursue the latter.

  2. Mark M says:

    Would you be able to point us to a particular sermon where you’ve heard this done well? I’d find it helpful to notice the difference from when I’ve taken the option.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Publication of The Goldilocks Zone

Launch dayJanuary 18th, 2018
86 days to go.

Living as a Christian in the 21st century means we face constant battles to please God. That’s why I wrote ‘PURITY: Living to please God in an impure world – 15 daily readings in 1 Thessalonians.’

There’s only way to get it – by subscribing to my  email newsletter here.

Index

God, Suffering and Joy

A conversation between me (with cancer) and Michael (with Multiple Sclerosis)

Terms and conditions

This blog does not share personal information with third parties nor do I store any information about your visit to this blog other than to analyse and optimise your content and reading experience. I am not responsible for republished content from this blog on other blogs or websites without my permission. This privacy policy is subject to change without notice.

I welcome your participation on the Ministrynutsandbolts site, and invite you to share ideas elsewhere on what you learn and read here. At the same time, I ask that you respect my intellectual property rights in the process.

You are welcome to link to my site or any specific post on my site, extract and re-post less than 200 words on any other site, provided you link back to my original post, or print my posts in any non-commercial publication (e.g., company newsletter, class syllabus, church newsletter, etc.), provided you include this copyright notice: “© 2017 Chris Green. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.ministrynutsandbolts.com.”

Please do not do the following without written consent: Re-post one of my posts in its entirety anywhere else on the Internet, use this content for commercial purposes, including selling or licensing printed or digital versions of my content, or alter, transform, or build upon this work.

If you have some use for my content that is not covered here, please contact me. If you would like me to do a guest post on your blog, email me at ministrynutsandbolts@gmail.com

Copyright does not apply to the titles of books, but transparency means I should own that the title of the blog is taken from the excellent ‘Ministry Nuts and Bolts: What They Don’t Teach Pastors in Seminary ‘ by Aubrey Malphurs (Kregel: 2nd edn. 2009)

© 2017 Chris Green

%d bloggers like this: