Retooling Your Sermon Development

By Justin Rossow

Introduction: Retooling Your Preaching, Part 1

This fall I got to spend a couple of days at beautiful Camp Arcadia with deacons in the Michigan District for their annual retreat. We had a great time talking about preaching and exploring different tools that serve faithful proclamation. This blog series on Retooling Your Preaching is an overview of what we covered, and a place to explore further some of the concepts and methods we talked about during five hours of teaching over two days.

One of the deacons at the conference told the group during a devotion, “I never wanted to preach.” Another recounted the story of his first time in the pulpit, when the prospect of preaching in front of congregation, pastors, and district officials made him lose his breakfast.

big hammerThe stress and nervousness that comes from public speaking on behalf of God is common to any who preach. Feeling better equipped for the task helps make preaching more effective and more fun. While the nervousness may never go away completely–I still have butterflies in my stomach every Sunday–we can begin to feel more competent and confident.

If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

Ultimately, we our confidence in the God who promises to work in and through His Word. And we also want to become more and more faithful to the calling which we have received.

Whether you are brand new to preaching or had your last homiletics course decades ago, I hope you can recognize some of the tools you already use and perhaps even add a tool or two to your bag.

Shaping Moments of Reflection: Sermon Development

Dune Tour MapEvery sermon has some kind of structure: at some point you start talking, at some point you stop talking, and you say something in between.

In order to talk about how preachers structure and develop sermons, I borrowed from David Schmitt’s concept of “preaching as pilgrimage.” You can see his presentation “Shaping the Sermon: Preaching as Pilgrimage” on iTunes U here, and keep an eye out for a preaching book from Schmitt in the anticpated future. (I can’t wait!)

Schmitt uses Jerusalem in his presentation as an example; I used his concepts in the setting of the Deacon Retreat. So, in Schmitt’s terms, contextualized, preaching is kind of like taking a bus tour of the dunes around Arcadia. You might start at the Sleeping Bear Dunes, get out and walk around a bit, then get back on the bus and head to the Arcadia Dunes. After a picnic lunch, you all climb back into the bus and head to the Manistee Dunes for some more fun in the sun.

If you were putting together a bus tour, you would have some important decisions to make: Where should we get off the bus?  What should we do while we’re there?

Sermons are like that. As you take your people on a bus tour of the text, their lives, relevant theology, and the power of the Gospel, you have to make decisions. Where should we take time to pause and look around a bit more? And what should we do together as long as we have stopped and gotten off the bus?

What should we do together as long as we have stopped and gotten off the bus?

Every sermon you have ever preached has answered these questions, whether you knew it or not. You have spent time doing something in every sermon. You probably even have your favorite or most comfortable ways of doing that something for your hearers.

Retooling how you develop these moments of reflection–what you do when you get off the bus–involves identifying tools you already use in your preaching. And then looking for some more tools to add to your homiletic bag. Check out the following 7 Tools for Sermon Development. Which of these do you use already? Which might you try out in a sermon sometime soon?

Continued on page 2, below.

About Justin Rossow

Justin writes and talks at the intersection of Scripture, culture, and metaphor theory. As founder of Next Step Press, he helps people delight in taking a next step following Jesus.

2 comments on “Retooling Your Sermon Development

  1. […] Target, Test the Limits, and See Through a New Lens. In this case, however, these dynamics shape the development rather than the structure of the […]

  2. […] your preaching feels a little stale, check out different ways to Structure and Develop your sermons. It works for […]

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