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Tuesday, October 15, 2013
as a Spiritual Discipline: An Incarnational Model
is tempting for preachers to practice preaching as merely a rhetorical,
technical task instead of what it is ultimately intended to be—a spiritual,
devotional journey into the Christ whom the preacher proclaims. This trend in
homiletic practice can detract from the preacher’s Christian ethos and
preaching joy. The result is often homiletic fatigue, pastoral burnout, or,
worse, moral failure. Preachers can benefit significantly from a guide to
developing and delivering sermons that fosters not only exegetical and
homiletical integrity, but also the spiritual intensity that nurtures intimacy
with Christ. The rhetorical task of preaching is most formational when it is
wed to the spiritual life of the preacher. This conviction is at the center of
this paper, which contends for preaching as a spiritual discipline and explores
some practices for doing so in the pulpit and the classroom.
Where We Are
An All Too Familiar Story
I was in over my head and I knew it. During my senior year
of college, I was called to pastor a rural congregation fifteen minutes off
campus. My senior class friends were making the most of their weekends while my
Saturdays were devoted to prepping for Sunday sermons. I took a preaching
course in college but barely paid attention presuming, “I don’t have to be ready
to preach yet; there’s plenty of time.” If only I had taken that course seriously!
The high call of preaching good news to a hope-hungry human race overwhelmed
me. Most of the people in that small congregation were three times my age. What
could I possibly tell them that they didn’t already know and how could I say it
any differently than they had already heard it? Simply put, preaching petrified
There was, however, a significant silver lining. My lack of
skill and experience, coupled with my sense of inadequacy and insecurity, prompted
in me a deep dependence upon God throughout the process of developing and
delivering sermons. Preaching was, in the earliest days of my ministry, a
spiritual discipline that increased my preaching joy and Christian ethos, which
I define as authentic love for God and for the people to whom I preach.
Another dynamic soon surfaced along the homiletical highway
when I learned how to preach. Invitations to be a guest speaker at retreats and
special events came early in my preaching journey, too early I suppose. The
affirmation made me arrogant, though I didn’t realize it at the time. I went to
seminary and received A’s in every preaching course I took, and I registered
for as many as I could take. During my senior year in the Master of Divinity
program I was the recipient of the Biblical Studies Award. Seminary affirmed my
homiletical and exegetical skills, which I erroneously assumed were all I
needed for a faithful, fruitful, and fulfilling preaching ministry.
Over the next few years, I lost my preaching mojo. I’m not
sure that anyone really noticed this, but I did. As my congregation and young
family grew, corner-cutting became my pattern for sermon preparation. Basic exegetical
and rhetorical work had to be done, so I cut the only corner I thought I could
cut. I cut out praying, fasting, and reflecting on the biblical text I was
preaching. The sermons I preached still seemed, on the surface, exegetically
sound and homiletically tight. Nothing much appeared to happen to the sermon, but
something happened to this preacher. My Christian ethos and my preaching joy
dissipated. Preaching was now a chore, a rhetorical task on my long to-do list,
instead of a spiritual discipline through which I delved deep into Christ and
God’s word on behalf of my congregation. Preaching was no longer the
adventurous devotional tightrope walk from Monday to Sunday that plunged me
headlong toward divine dependence. I was like the artist ghost in C. S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce who was more enamored
with the artistic craft than what the craft was conveying. I
became more intoxicated with the craft of preaching than with the Christ I was
called to preach. Preaching was killing my soul in the worst way.
Based upon countless conversations with ministerial colleagues
and students, I have come to realize that my story is more universal than
unique. What can be done to prevent this generation of preachers from
forfeiting Christian ethos and preaching joy in favor of an efficient
rhetorical technique? For starters, we will need to name and avoid the homiletic
heresies that push their way into the practice of preaching.
Homiletic Heresies: Docetism to Donatism
Several heresies reared their ugly head in the early days
of the Church as she sought to comprehend and communicate the full divinity and
complete humanity of Christ. These Christological heresies form a frame through
which to analyze current homiletic “heresies” that have developed around the
preacher and preaching.
Docetism was one of the earliest heresies to emerge. Docetics
emphasized the divinity of Christ but devalued his humanity by denying it
altogether. Jesus only appeared to be
made of human matter, according to Docetics, but was entirely divine spirit. Homiletic
Docetism underemphasizes the human side of preaching, namely the role of the preacher.
Theologian Karl Barth, rightly intent on elevating the role of God in preaching,
inadvertently downplayed the significance of the preacher’s character and skill
to the preaching event. As long as God shows up, so the thinking goes, the
presence of the preacher doesn’t matter much. Preaching happens because God
shows up to speak through the preacher, regardless of the latter’s level of
involvement in the process. Barth was likely trying to overcome the perception
of preaching as “truth through personality” that dominated homiletics during
the turn of the twentieth century.
The Barthian pendulum swung a bit too far for some homileticians.
Homiletic Docetics want to cut out the human fat from the meat
of the preaching event. This homiletic bent makes the development of exegetical
and homiletical skills, and the professors and courses that foster them, somewhat
unnecessary. Furthermore, the preacher’s spirituality doesn’t matter much
either, according to homiletic Docetics, because preaching is “all about God.” Preaching
is, they suppose, at its best when there is little to no flesh, blood, and bone
of humanity in it. Those preachers who “wing” their sermon on Sunday morning in
order to be “Spirit-led” deny the essentiality and responsibility of the
preacher and become Docetic in their practice. I agree with Fred Craddock who
states, “Any doctrine of the Holy Spirit that relieves me of my work and its
responsibility is plainly false.”
There is another homiletic heresy that seems more en vogue
today; it is the one that nearly led me off the proclamation deep-end. The
heresy that seems to dominate the preaching landscape today is not a homiletic Docetism
that diminishes the role and responsibilities of the preacher, but a homiletic Donatism
that is so exclusively enamored with the skills and methods of the human preacher
that there is minimal room or need for the Spirit of God. The Donatists
of the 4th century put too much emphasis on the roles and responsibilities of the clergy. They believed that if the priest administering the
sacrament of Communion was a spiritual weakling, a compromiser who sold out during persecution, then the sacrament would not be efficacious for the
recipient. The Donatists put so much stock in
the clergy, in terms of the latter’s character and skills, that they devalued
the presence and power of God that comes through the sacraments regardless of
the kind of person administering them.
Homiletic Donatists are those who make preaching primarily,
if not entirely, about the personality and skills of the preacher. Preaching
is, to them, all about the preacher. Of course, homiletic Donatists don’t set
out to be such. They preach, however, as if the impact of preaching is entirely
dependent upon their rhetorical skills instead of the presence and power of the
God who shows up to speak up through the preacher. Michael Pasquarello hits the
proverbial “nail on the head” of homiletic Donatism when he writes:
[T]he most unquestioned homiletic assumption of our time:
that the primary task of preaching is a matter of finding the right rhetorical
technique, homiletic style, and evangelistic strategy to translate and make
Christianity useful, appealing, relevant and entertaining on terms dictated by
a consumerist culture. This understanding of preaching…in
practice, shifts the weight of dependence from the efficacy of the Spirit to an
almost exclusive dependence on human personality, ingenuity, method, and skill.
The preachers who feel the full “weight” of the preaching
event, as if everything depends upon their rhetorical technique and skill, lean
toward Donatism. Homiletic Donatists don’t deny the importance of God’s
presence in theory but put God on the back-burner in practice. They may offer a
quick prayer at the beginning of sermon preparation and another just before
sermon delivery, but there is no consistent and comprehensive space for God in
their homiletic process. Homiletic Donatism is evidenced when the preacher
practices preaching as a rhetorical technique that makes relational dependence
upon and submission to God unnecessary. This homiletic crisis is really a faith
crisis for the preacher. The preacher is driven solely by the pragmatism of
what works, while theological and devotional convictions are relegated to the
side-lines of sermon preparation.
The river of homiletic Donatism eventually flows into the
lake of homiletic Deism. Once the preacher has what is needed from God, the
preacher no longer needs God. Get the method that works, the Divine principle,
and then God is no longer necessary. The preacher becomes, essentially, a
practical Deist. Some
people, primarily homiletics professors like me, bemoan the current dominance
of deistic sermons. A deistic sermon is one that posits a bottom line principle
that can be effectively applied to finances, marriage, friendship, emotions,
etc. without any relational dependence upon and submission to God. Deistic
sermons seem to come from deistic preachers, those who develop and deliver
sermons with relatively no relational connection to God built into the
Although we find ourselves in a Postmodern context, homiletics
is still reeling from the impact of Modernity. The empiricism of the Modern era
led naturally to a worldview in which truth could only be discovered through
the detached objectivity mandated by the scientific method. Modernity sought to
free itself from the Premodern proclivity toward spirituality and subjectivism
in the quest for truth. The detached objectivity of Modernity flooded the field
of biblical criticism and flowed into the field of homiletics. The result is
that many preachers over the past century were taught to never mix their
devotional reading of Scripture, designed for spiritual growth, with their
exegetical reading of Scripture, designated for the sermon. The underlying,
often unstated, assumption of Modern homiletics, with a few refreshing
exceptions, is that the only or best way for the preacher to mine a text for
the sermon is from a posture of detached and objective pragmatism. One can
easily see how such a posture would inhibit the spiritually formative potential
of preaching upon preachers.
The miserable irony here is overt; if the preacher is going
to ascertain and appropriate the truth of God’s word, all the preacher really
needs is a tried and true method, not the tried and true God. In time, the
homiletics course became chiefly concerned with rhetorical methodology and
rarely devoted adequate time and space to an exploration of the theology,
anthropology and spirituality of preaching.The “what” (sermon) and “how” (rhetoric) dominated the “who” (God and
the preacher) and “why” (call). The development and delivery of gifted
preachers and good sermons became more methodological than formational, more
technical than spiritual.
The literature on homiletics over the past generation
corroborates the impact of Modernity’s infatuation with methodology over
spirituality. Some of the most popular books on preaching, the ones that have prevailed
in the homiletics course and the pastor’s study, offer virtually no guidance on
practicing preaching as a spiritual discipline.
Biblical Preaching, written by Haddon Robinson and published in 1980, is
one of the most widely read and helpful books in preaching produced within the
past forty years. Robinson’s main aim was to help preachers “rightly divide the
word of truth,” to get the biblical text right. This was a vital concern during
the rise of the pop-psychological topical sermon that dominated the preaching
scene during the last half of the 20th century. Perhaps as a
cautious reaction to biblical shallowness and subjectivity in the pulpit,
Robinson prescribes no explicit practical steps for incorporating spiritual
disciplines into the homiletic venture.
Fred Craddock’s Preaching,
while beneficial in helping the preacher develop a theologically sound and
practically astute ministry of preaching, says very little about perceiving and
practicing preaching as a spiritual discipline. In Part II of the book, the
section that deals with the nuts and bolts of developing a sermon that is
faithful to the text and the context, the reader receives no practical
prescription for the wedding of spiritual disciplines with the homiletic task.
Craddock does assert his conviction that both the Spirit and the preacher are
necessary to the preaching event,
but there is almost no exploration of practical ways to consciously and
consistently deploy his conviction.
David Buttrick’s Homiletic
provides many valuable insights for preachers in its 500 pages. The nearly 10
page index, however, does not even include the topic of “prayer.” Buttrick says
almost nothing about the important intersection between homiletics and the preacher’s
dependence upon God throughout the homiletic enterprise. He even comes close to
demeaning the notion that such an intersection even exists.
One of the more recent books to have a wide ranging impact
on a new generation of preachers is Andy Stanley and Lane Jones’ Communicating for a Change, published in
2006. There is much to appreciate and appropriate from this readable volume.
However, it is almost entirely consumed with methodology and only includes a
sprinkling of spirituality and theology. The primary admonition to include
prayer in the preaching process comes at the end of the book, and only then in
the context of the preacher being “stuck.”
The masterful books cited above have positively influenced
the way I preach sermons and teach preaching. These works are worth their
homiletic weight in gold. All of them, nevertheless, present a methodological framework
that makes virtually no room for the infusion of spiritual disciplines. Maybe these
books were written to combat the homiletic Docetism that was still lingering
from 19th century revivalism, which appears to have led to a
devaluing of the education and skills required for faithful and fruitful
preaching. These popular preaching texts swing the pendulum the other way. They
say almost nothing about how to develop and deliver sermons in a manner that
intentionally forms Christ, his love and joy, in the preacher. A couple of
these influential works encourage a godly life and even stress the importance
of the preacher’s devotional life outside of the homiletic process. Yet none of
them include practical ways to consistently engage preaching as a spiritual
discipline. In failing to do so, these works neglect a key element in the homiletic
process. Perhaps they assumed their preaching readership, without admonition
and guidance, would intuitively merge spiritual disciplines with the homiletic
process. The lack of deep and abiding joy in clergy is one point of evidence
that this merger can no longer be assumed.
According to an article from the New York Times published
in 2010, there is an alarming lack of vocational joy among clergy. The article
findings have surfaced with ominous regularity over the last few years, and
with little notice: Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension
and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their
use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many
would change jobs if they could.
experts who have led the studies caution that there is no simple explanation of
why so many members of a profession once associated with rosy-cheeked longevity
have become so unhealthy and unhappy.
The article, titled Taking
a Break from the Lord’s Work, goes on to suggest that burn-out is caused by
the busyness of doing the Lord’s work. According to the piece, pastors simply
need a break from their work by taking vacation, a day of rest each week, and
extended sabbaticals. While I am fully supportive of pastors taking a break
from the Lord’s work, there is not necessarily a direct connection between
busyness and burnout. I know dozens of pastors, many of them serving in
rigorous third world contexts, who are extremely busy but not at all on the
verge of burning out. They are full of joy. Could it be that clergy burnout,
fatigue, and moral failure are caused not by the busyness and challenge of
ministry but by trying to do the work of the Lord without the Lord of the work?
Practical Deism causes burnout among clergy.
What if the 10-15 hours typically designated for sermon
preparation were conceived as a spiritual discipline designed to foster
intimacy between the preacher and Christ? What if sound exegesis and skillful
rhetoric were fostered and deployed not through detached objectivity or pragmatic
methodology but as a spiritual discipline?Imagine what might happen to the preacher whose homiletic paradigm shifts
from preaching as a rhetorical task in order to get a sermon toward preaching
as a spiritual discipline in order to get Christ? How can the preacher preach
in a way that forms Christ in them through the process of developing and
delivering sermons? The union between the preacher and Christ is the only
proven path through which ethos and joy flow into and from the preacher. Preaching
as a spiritual discipline is an incarnational approach that unites the human
preacher with the divine Christ in the homiletic voyage.
Homiletic heresy happens when the process of developing and
delivering sermons diminishes either the role of God or the role of the preacher.
It seems to me that, somehow, the Church must live between
the extremes of homiletic Donatism, an over-reliance on the preacher that
squeezes out the need for the presence and power of God, and homiletic Docetism, a complete denial of
the importance of the preacherthat makes God responsible for doing the preacher’s work.
God does his most outstanding work through the wedding
together of divinity and humanity. Consider the Scriptures, God’s divine Word reflected
through human words. Consider Jesus Christ, true God and true man. Consider the
Church, divine treasure in human jars of clay. And consider the Christian
sermon, divine grace and truth bursting through a human agent we call preacher.
An incarnational sermon, then, is bound to be birthed through a homiletic
process that is incarnational, that is open to, dependent upon, and requiring
the full participation of both God and the preacher. The Church longs for an
Where We Have Been
How can the practice of preaching spiritually form
preachers so that their Christian ethos and preaching joy are heightened? This
question has been asked and addressed before. One is wise to look back upon the
historical horizon in order to move forward. C. S. Lewis insightfully asserts:
Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good
at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all,
therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our
own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to
some extent the contemporary outlook- even those, like myself, who seem most
opposed to it.
A brief glance into the rearview mirror of history can
inform a thoughtful response to the current preaching crisis.
Aristotle (384-322 BC) is worthy of consideration in the
scope of this paper for two reasons. First, he was one of the earliest pioneers
in teaching and writing about rhetoric. His work influences how we communicate
and think about communication to this day. Second, he elevated ethos, the
character of the speaker, above logos, the content of the speech, and pathos,
the connection to the listener. Aristotle asserted that the ethos of the
speaker, which he described as “good sense, good moral character, and goodwill,”
is the most important factor in convincing and persuading listeners.
Few homileticians, if any, would disagree with Aristotle’s
emphasis on the ethos of the speaker, but most would not affirm all of his
conceptions. Aristotle wrote that “persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s
personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him
credible….his character may almost be called the most effective means of
persuasion he possesses.” Notice
the pragmatic language Aristotle uses here. If one reads between the lines it
appears that this ancient rhetorician taught students that it’s quite possible,
and even advisable, to fake ethos so that the listener thinks more highly of
the speaker than he ought. Perceived ethos, then, matters as much as or more
than real ethos to Aristotle. Ethos is important in so far as it is an
“effective means” of persuading the listener.
Aristotle’s version of ethos may elicit listener persuasion
but it does not cultivate the kind of character in the speaker that is real,
marked by love and joy. Perceived ethos, so conceived, might positively impact
the listener but not the speaker. While perceived ethos is purely
anthropological and can, therefore, be manufactured through methodological
pragmatism, real ethos is cultivated in the preacher who yields to God through
the practice of spiritual disciplines.
Aristotle’s notion of ethos conflicts with Christian ethos
in other noteworthy ways. Aristotle advises those who speak to seek
self-glorification through the derogation of others. “Having shown your own
truthfulness and the untruthfulness of your opponent, the natural thing is to
commend yourself….you must make yourself out a good man and him a bad one
either in yourselves or in relation to your hearers,”
suggests Aristotle. Christian ethos, on the contrary, is revealed in the
preacher who seeks the glory of God, as opposed to self-glory, and the
well-being, not the belittling, of others. The premise of this paper is that the
preacher who genuinely incorporates spiritual disciplines throughout the
homiletic process will experience a heightened level of love for God and for
people that cultivates a more authentic sort of ethos in the preacher than
The Apostle Paul counters Aristotelian rhetorical aims in
that he refused to preach for his own ovation in place of God’s glorification.
Paul reveals this goal in his words from 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, the most explicit
description of his homiletic theology. Paul’s
has rhetorical eloquence, though he tries his best not to showcase it in his
preaching. He even notes the lack of rhetorical eloquence in his preaching when
he was previously with the Corinthians for eighteen months of ministry.It is counter-intuitive for someone who is trying to
develop his credibility as an apostle to downplay his rhetorical ability. Paul
reveals in 2:5 why he puts his ineloquence on display. In climactic fashion he
writes, “so that
your faith should not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” Paul’s intentional lack
of eloquence in speaking prevents people from putting more faith in him than in
was more concerned with God’s glory and the spiritual nurture of the listener
than with arrogantly impressing people
through his rhetorical skill.This
humble love for God and people heightened the Apostle’s Christian ethos in
Corinthians, steeped in the Greco-Roman
idolization of rhetoric, often exalted the
messenger over the message. Perhaps
for this reason Paul is quick to embrace the weakness of
his preaching (v. 1) and
his own emotional state (v. 3). Eventually, he moves from weakness to strength
in this pericope by praising
the Spirit and power of God (vv. 4-5).The
internal development of the passage moves from a focus on Paul’s weakness to a
focus on God’s power. This shift represents the transition that Paul wants to
see take place in the hearts of the Corinthian believers, a move away from an
anthropocentric focus to a theocentric focus in the preaching event. Paul is, it seems, advocating a spiritual homiletic that places more
emphasis on the power of God than the technique of the preacher without denying the role of the latter. Paul would, no doubt, advocate an
incarnational model of preaching that avoids the homiletic heresies described
contrasts and comparisons are going on in this brief passage which are vital to
its interpretation. Paul contrasts his “message and preaching” (v. 4) with the “superiority of
speech or of wisdom” (v. 1) and “persuasive words of wisdom” (v. 4) that many in
the Greek culture idolized. Paul’s refusal to showcase his rhetorical eloquence
and power by “determining to know nothing among them except Jesus Christ, and
Him crucified” (v. 2), actually, and ironically,
invited and enabled the “demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (v. 4).
Paul’s preaching when he was with the Corinthians illustrates what he has been
trying to communicate in 1 Corinthians 1:17-31, that what appears to be foolish, weak and
ineloquent from a human standpoint is actually the wisdom, power, and eloquence
of God. Paul wants God to get the credit the
latter deserves for our salvation and ministry. Paul is essentially saying that if the impact of preaching
rested on the preacher’s ability, and not God’s power, it would be avain
rhetorical exercise. Yet many preachers
have been prepared to practice preaching
as principally a rhetorical exercise dependent on human presence and power instead of a spiritual discipline that opens the homiletic process to
God’s presence and power. Many
preachers profess reliance upon Godbutdeny that profession in the process of developing
and delivering sermons.
states strongly in 1 Corinthians 2:2 that he intentionally decided to “know nothing” when he
preached except “Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”“By placing proper emphasis on the
crucifixion, Paul ensured that no one could mistake his message for a kind
of crowd-pleasing rhetorical stunt, convincing at the time but making no lasting
Paul is using a bit of sarcasm to challenge those who claim to know everything.
He resolves to distinguish himself from “wandering sophists and orators,”
who showcased their knowledge and skill in an arrogant and boastful manner. He refuses
to get lost in the philosophical minutia of the day in order to keep his focus
on the cross. The bottom line of Paul’s claim in verse 2, in light of the
entire pericope, is that “the cross not only establishes what we are to preach,
but how we are to preach.”
Paul’s “policy on rhetoric”
was informed by his identification with the cross of Christ. This cross-shaped identification
is what the Christian spiritual disciplines are designed to cultivate, as
Paul’s life so plainly illustrated.
Paul cites the “Spirit” (v. 4) as the primary power for his
proclamation. First Corinthians employs various forms of pneuma (“Spirit”)
thirty-two times, which is more than is found in any other letter from Paul. The inclusion of Paul’s homiletic theology in a letter
that focuses prominently on the work of the Holy Spirit would imply a deep and
intimate connection for Paul between pneumatology and homiletics,
a connection that has
too often been severed in practice, if not in theory.
a “demonstration of the Spirit”and
“power.”avpodei,xei,, translated “demonstration,” literally means “a clear proof” and was a technical
rhetorical term. Paul is likely employing a sarcastic play on words here as
he denigrates rhetorical demonstration by comparing it to the even greater
demonstration ofduna,mij, the Greek word for
“power,” which Paul includes on verses 4 and 5. The question the
reader is forced to ask at this point in the passage is, how was the Spirit and power demonstrated through Paul’s
preaching?Paul never answers this
question directly, but he does describe the evidence of his Spirit-empowered preaching in the following verse.
is Paul’s climactic conclusion about his spiritual homiletic, a homiletic that embraces the incarnational intersection
between the preacher’s
presence and God’s power. His preaching was
not powerful from a rhetorical standpoint but was, nonetheless, a display of Spirit and power because of the inward result
of “faith” it produced in the hearts of listeners, a faith that “would not rest
on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.”What might have been cryptic to readers up to this point, Paul now makes crystal clear.
His preaching style and content, like the cross of Christ, is intended to
elicit peoples’ faith, not in human ability and the conventional wisdom of the day, but in God. Paul
wants his preaching, and the response to his preaching, not to rest on the
limited capacity of humanity, but the limitless ability of God. Rhetorical eloquence takes a backseat to
the kerygma of Christ crucified. In Paul’s estimation, what makes good
preaching good is that it will cause people to put more faith in the Christ who is preachedthan
in the preacher who is preaching. Gordon D. Fee reinforces Paul’s emphasis:
What [Paul] is rejecting is not preaching, not even
persuasive preaching; rather, it is the real danger in all preaching- self-reliance. The
danger always lies in letting the form and content get in the way of what
should be the single concern: the gospel proclaimed through human weakness but
accompanied by the powerful work of the Spirit so that lives are changed
through a divine-human encounter. That is hard to teach in a course on
homiletics, but it still stands as the true need in genuinely Christian
Ultimately, theGod-dependent preacher
is the one who experiences the fullness of God’s power in and through the preaching
Paul, preaching was a spiritual discipline that, like all spiritual
disciplines, depends upon the power of God and not merely upon human wisdom and
ability. This dependence does not negate the importance of human ability and
experience in the homiletic process. That would lead to homiletic Docetism. The preacher’s
skill and effort can be important elements through which the power of God is
made manifest. However, what is even more important than the preacher’s ability
is thewillingness of the preacher
to cultivate and maintain identification and intimacy with the crucified and
risen Christ throughout the homiletic process. This intimate identification is
fostered through authentic engagement in spiritual disciplines. Paul made a
conscious decision to focus more on alignment with Christ than with the
rhetorical devices of his day. Union with Christ is the spiritual homiletic
that enabled Paul’s preaching to realize the power of God to a greater degree than it would have if it rested solely “on the wisdom of men” (1 Cor. 2:5b).
Paul operates under the conviction that if the presence and
power of God is going to come through the preaching event, then the preacher
must resist blind acceptance of the rhetorical conventions of the day.
Furthermore, the faithful preacher will adopt a spiritual homiletic that opens
the preacher up to the Spirit of God while engaging in exegesis, hermeneutics,
and rhetoric. If one reads between the lines of Paul one might hear the apostle
asking, how can the preacher ask people to put their trust in God not “man,” if
the preacher is unwilling to do so in the practice of preaching?
Augustine is the earliest and, arguably, best example of a rhetorician
turned preacher who found a way to walk the fine line of incarnation between
homiletic Docetism and homiletic Donatism. He seems to have merged the best of
Pauline spiritual theology and Aristotelian rhetorical philosophy into a
homiletic that diminished neither the role of God nor the role of the preacher.
of Hippo (354-430 AD), like Aristotle, not
only practiced but taught and wrote about his rhetorical
philosophyor, more accurately, homiletic theology. In
Christian Teaching, Augustine
placed the highest value on the ethos of the speaker.Though he lived hundreds of years after Aristotle,
Augustine was likely trained under the tutelage of the Greek philosopher’s writings.
When Augustine converted to Christ he, along with many in the Church, tried to
grasp and teach the uniqueness of Christian rhetoric and the role of the Holy
Spirit in Christian speech. “The church agonized over its use
of rhetorical strategies and forms, encumbered as the classical tradition was
with pagan associations. Where was the Holy Spirit in the rhetoric of
preaching? ....Augustine helped relieve the church’s problem for well over a
millennium by codifying a Christian approach to the rhetoric of preaching.”Augustineconveyed
a nuanced view of rhetoric that is really more akin to what I am describing as the Christian
ethos that results from spiritual disciplines.
in Christ was important to Augustine because he“knew well the enchanting
power of human speech and its capacity for harm when separated from God’s truth
Augustine taught that a person’s
relationship with God enabled the “affirmation of human institutions and the
discernment of what needs to be redeemed and rejected in them.”Something
greater and more influential than mere rhetorical technique was available to
Christian preachers and Augustine knew it. While Augustine did not ignore the
importance of rhetorical skills, he realized that the power of God’s Spirit was
both necessary and available for Christian preaching to reach its potential and
hit its mark. He “offered an alternative way by encouraging pastors to take up
a life of prayerful attention to the Word with the love bestowed by the Spirit.”Unlike
so much of the literature and practice in preaching today, Augustine did not
want to put the cart of the preacher’s rhetorical technique before the horse of the preacher’s
theology of preaching comes out most profoundly in Book IV of his On Christian Teaching. Here he has much
to say about the difference between rhetorical eloquence and Christian ethos,
stressing the latter without
entirely negating the need for the former. He writes, “More important than any amount of grandeur of style
to those of us who seek to be listened to with obedience is the life of the
Simply put, ethos is more important than eloquence for the proclaimer of the
gospel of Jesus Christ.And this ethos,
according to Augustine and a long line of others in the tradition of Christian preaching, is
not developed by technique, but by God in the context of spiritual disciplines.
In the following quote from Augustine about the preacher,
one can easily sense the overall thrust of his homiletic
He should be in no doubt that any
ability he has and however much he has derives more from his devotion to prayer
than his dedication to oratory; and so, by praying for himself and for those he
is about to address, he must become a man of prayer before becoming a man of
words. As the hour of his address approaches, before he opens his thrusting
lips he should lift his thirsting soul to God so that he may utter what he has
drunk in and pour out what has filled him.
Augustine asserts here that the preaching life is
one that marinates in prayer, for both the task of preaching and those to whom
it is addressed. Just as he believes that genuine ethos enhances preaching, its
lack detracts from the potential impact of the preached message upon hearers. This conviction surfaces in his description of
those who preach what they do not practice when he writes “they benefit many
people by preaching what they do not practice, but they would benefit more
people if they practiced what they preached.”
In this quote, Augustine masterfully avoids both homiletic Donatism, which overemphasizes the person of the preacher and underemphasizes
the presence of God, and homiletic Docetism, which undervalues the importance
of the preacher’s ethos to the preaching event.
the connection between ethos and joy that this paper seeks to establish.
He tackles the issue of depression among preachers because he recognizes “we
are given a much more appreciative hearing when we ourselves enjoy performing
The bottom line is that joy in preaching appears
to enhance proclamation’s fruitfulness,
not to mention the preacher’s sense of fulfillment.
Of course, this joy comes from abiding in Christ through the spiritual
disciplines. For preachers, joy ultimately comes not from effectiveness or
commendation, but from the realization that, at the end of the sermon’s day, we
are “in harmony with God’s will to relieve that feeling of depression, and then
we may greatly rejoice in the fire of the Spirit.”
The joy derived from being intimately connected to Christ can
sustain the life and work of the preacher for the longevity of ministry,
overturning the gloomy trend among clergy cited in the New York Times article
Where We are Going
Preaching as a spiritual discipline reflects the incarnational
way of God in the world. Preaching is spiritual
in that its efficacy relies primarily on the power of God’s divine Spirit. Yet
preaching is also a discipline that
requires the full engagement of the human preacher with the disciplines of devotion,
exegesis, hermeneutics, and rhetoric. When preaching is perceived and practiced
as an incarnational reality, a divine and
human venture, the preacher avoids falling off the tightrope on either the side
of homiletic Donatism or homiletic Docetism.
Preaching as a spiritual discipline, integrating spiritual
disciplines with the homiletic process, is not only valuable because of its
congruence with God’s incarnational modus
operandi; it has some other major benefits as well.
Preaching as a spiritual discipline produces Christ-formed
preachers. Preachers too often complain about being so busy writing sermons that
benefit others they do not have time for practices that cultivate their own
soul. The model presented in this paper (see Appendix A) requires the preacher
to engage the homiletic process in a devotional manner. The preacher comes away
from the process not only with a sermon in hand but with the Spirit in the soul.
Dallas Willard is on to something when he suggests that the best preachers are
the ones who find their deepest satisfaction in Christ. He asserts that the
deeply satisfied preacher brings something to the preaching event that is more
significant than words. Those
who listen to sermons hunger for a preacher who embodies integrity and intimacy
with God, not merely energy and eloquence. Preachers are starving for
devotional encounters with God. Preaching as a spiritual discipline has the
potential to satisfy the hunger of listeners and preachers.
Preaching as a spiritual discipline fosters quality
sermons. The sermons preached with the most passionate conviction are the ones
in which the preacher engages the “angel” of the text in a devotional wrestling
match. The preacher comes away limping under the weight of a sermon that
contains a “word from the Lord.” When the homiletic process does something to
the preacher, it often produces something through the preacher- namely a
quality sermon that is dripping with profound theological substance.
Preaching as a spiritual discipline enhances preaching joy.
More than a few preachers admit to a gradually diminishing joy in preaching.
They are either bored or tired or both. There is another way. Devotional submission
to God through the careful and prayerful reading of the biblical text leads the
preacher into an experience of delightful surprise and adventure. Preachers,
especially though not exclusively those in midlife, crave this reinfusion of
preaching joy. Preaching as a spiritual discipline puts the preacher in a
position to rely on God for both the revelation and inspiration that lead to boundless
While many preachers may articulate a view of preaching as
a spiritual discipline in theory, few seem to employ their theoretical
convictions in practice. How can we turn the preaching tide? How can we
practice and teach preaching as a spiritual discipline, so that godly preachers
are formed along with good sermons?
The model for preaching presented in this paper (see
Appendix A) is designed to put the preacher in a posture to embrace and embody the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). Engagement in Christian
spiritual disciplines is a major means through which the ethos of Christ is
cultivated in persons.
A spiritual discipline
any activity within our power that we engage in to enable us to do what we
cannot do by direct effort.”
This definition may sound as if “Christ in us” is a work we accomplish through
discipline rather than a work God accomplishes through grace. Richard Foster insightfully addresses
how God’s grace and the human will
work together in spiritual disciplines that form Christ in people:
A farmer is helpless to grow grain; all he can do is
provide the right conditions for the growing of grain. He cultivates the
ground, he plants the seed, he waters the plants, and then the natural forces
of the earth take over and up comes the grain. This is the way it is with the
Spiritual Disciplines—they are a way of sowing to the Spirit. The Disciplines
are God’s way of getting us into the ground; they put us where He can work with
us and transform us. By themselves the Spiritual Disciplines can do nothing;
they can only get us to the place where something can be done. They are God’s
means of grace….God has ordained the Disciplines of the spiritual life as the
means by which we place ourselves where he can bless us.
God can work the miracle of enabling the character of Christ to flow into and
through the preacher’s life and ministry. “He invites us to become channels
through which He can work.”
However, this does not happen unless the preacher places himself “into the
ground” of the spiritual disciplines with consistency and authenticity.
have engaged in a
variety of spiritual disciplines for nearly two thousand years. Most of them
can, however, fit into three major categories of disciplines. This three-legged
Scripture, prayer and fellowship. Eugene Peterson’s Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity is basically
structured in the form of the three-legged stool of spiritual disciplines that my model incorporates. The only difference
is that Peterson incorporates fellowship as spiritual direction, and my model integrates fellowship in the context of
prayer and discussion groups. All of the spiritual disciplines listed by Dallas
Willard, in The Spirit of the Disciplines,
and Richard Foster, in Celebration of
Discipline, fit nicely in
the rubric of Scripture, prayer, or fellowship. What is more, the disciplines Jesus practiced
in the Gospels fit within this rubric.
contention, though one that is shared with others, is that when the preacher is
intimately connected on a regular basis to the three loves most important to
the homiletic process, namely God
through prayer, the Bible through study,and
people through fellowship, the preacher will be in the best possible spiritual shape
to preach. “As preachers we ought to take care not to discard the grace that
God offers us through the practice of spiritual disciplines. By practicing
these disciplines we grow in godliness. By growing in godliness our preaching
grows in power.”
Therefore, a model that infuses the development
and delivery of sermons with the spiritual disciplines
that incorporate Scripture, prayer, and fellowship is a dire necessity for
preaching today. Without these disciplines in the life of the pastor “the best
of talents and best of intentions cannot prevent a thinning out into a life
that becomes mostly impersonation.”
Theincarnational model for preaching
as a spiritual discipline does not at all ignore the importance
of sound exegetical, hermeneutical, and rhetorical
methods, but it views these practices through a spiritual lens that invites
God’s Spirit to have the first and the last word in the homiletic enterprise.
Skill development for preaching is important but it must neithereradicatenor overshadow
the vital need for the preacher to be developed
spiritually. Skill development without the
spiritual development of the preacher will, in the long run, damage the
preacher and the Church. “We must be
traffickers in the Holy Spirit more than traffickers in biblical knowledge and
the skills of oratorical suasion.”
Simply put, “The spiritual life is the foundation for preaching.”
Homiletics professors have a weighty role to play in the
liberation of pastors from the wretched realities described in the NY Times
article above. Students need space in the curriculum to explore the possibility
and practice of preaching as a spiritual discipline. This curricular focus is
typically delegated to the spiritual formation professors who are tasked with
teaching students a full orbed life-approach to devotional engagement.
Formation professors focus on the devotional life while homiletics professors
concentrate on the preaching life. The disintegration of these two disciplines,
formation and homiletics, assumes that students will somehow, someday make the
connection between the devotional life and the preaching life, so that the “two
become one.” Some students, down the ministry road, connect the dots but too
many do not. The homiletics classroom is a well-suited environment for the
immediate integration of the devotional life with the preaching life. There are
several practical ways to facilitate this integration of disciplines which
have, for too long, been “torn asunder.”
Consider the inclusion of a course textbook or two that not
only emphasizes the importance of preaching as a spiritual discipline but
provides practical ideas for its undertaking. Books such as Deep Preaching by Edwards, Preaching in the Spirit by Kinlaw, and Spirit-Led Preaching by Heisler are
excellent resources for helping students integrate homiletics and formation.
Of course, reading a text like one of these should be
followed by class discussion and written reflection. Perhaps as much as 25% of
the lectures, readings, discussions, and writing assignments could focus on the
spiritual development of the preacher and practices for preaching as a
spiritual discipline. As I reflect on the homiletics courses I have taken at
the bachelor, master, and doctoral levels, 25% would warrant a significant
The sermon feedback arena in the homiletics course can also
provide a context for the exploration of preaching as a spiritual discipline.
Using the “Sermon Feedback Form” below (see Appendix B) as a guide, I often ask
students how their devotional interaction with God impacted the logos, pathos,
and ethos, or content, connection, and character of the sermon’s development
and delivery. The following questions
are raised frequently during sermon evaluation and feedback: How did God
illumine that particular interpretation of the biblical text? What did you pray
would happen in and through listeners as a result of hearing your sermon? How
did you rely upon God as you prepared for the delivery of the sermon? While
student responses to these sorts of questions are as varied and unpredictable
as their preaching styles, simply inquiring holds pedagogical potential for raising
the awareness of the crucial intersection between homiletics and spirituality.
Preaching is rhetoric, but it is more than that; it is
sacred rhetoric. Why should preachers become starving bakers,
so busy baking spiritual goodies for others that they never allow themselves to
enjoy the baked goods? The homiletics course is the perfect context for the
obliteration of the starving baker syndrome. If we can teach preachers how to
infuse the homiletic process with spiritual disciplines that drive them deeper
into Christ, his love and joy, then possibly by 2020 the NY Times will publish a
very different and more hopeful article related to the health of clergy.
Questions to Consider
-How do you avoid homiletic Docetism and homiletic Donatism
in your preaching? How can we practice preaching as a spiritual discipline that
embraces both the power of God and the person of the preacher?
-In your pedagogical practice, what Docetic or Donastic
challenges surface most among your students? How can we teach preaching in a
manner that leads students out of homiletic heresy and toward an incarnational
model for preaching as a spiritual discipline?
AN INCARNATIONAL MODEL
PREACHING AS A
·While the model does not describe the
spiritual formation of the preacher outside of the homiletic process, it is
assumed. The preacher’s accumulated thoughts, habits, influences, and
experiences will shape the preacher in profound ways, in ways that move beyond the
weekly routine of preaching.
·A good commentary or two should be
consulted, but only later in the process to check the exegetical credibility of
what you sense God is saying to you through the text.
·Enjoy the homiletic process and try your
best to see it as a devotional journey into the God who called you to preach
1: What is God saying to the original
audience through the text? (Scripture)
Pray a small portion of Psalm 119 slowly and reflectively. Ask God for
revelatory insight into His word. Quiet your soul by sitting before the Lord
and allowing him to remind you of his love for you and the important calling he
has placed upon your life to preach Christ. Ask God to purify your preaching
motives and to spiritually form you through the homiletic process so that you
become the “fragrance of Christ.”
Prayerfully select the biblical text to be preached. Be careful not to assume
that you already know what God is saying through this text, even if you have
preached it before. If you assume the meaning of the text and sermon focus at
the outset, it will stifle the process of allowing God to speak and will remove
the element of delightful surprise from the homiletic process.
Read the preaching text several times, praying for God’s guidance, and record
your reflections on the following questions:
·What do you observe about the text as
you read it through several times?
·What questions surface regarding the
meaning of the text?
·Who is the author and what do you know
·Who is being addressed and what do you
know about them?
·What is the historical context (time and
place) of the text?
·What light does the literary context
(immediate, book, and canonical) shed on the text?
·What important words or phrases appear
in the text? What do they mean and how are they used (feel free to consult
dictionaries at this point)?
Fast a meal and pray 30-60 minutes for imaginative insight into the text. Read
the text slowly verse by verse trying to imagine yourself as an observer of the
original scene. Try to see, hear, smell, touch and taste the original scene. In
other words, try to prayerfully and playfully sense your way into the original
context of the passage from the perspectives of the various characters in the
Reflect theologically upon the text. How does this text intersect with the theological
foundation of your Christian tradition? How does the text relate to important
theological doctrines such as the Trinity, Incarnation, Christology,
Pneumatology, Ecclesiology, Creation, etc.? How might events, people, and
writings from Church History inform your reading of this text?
In no more than one paragraph, record what God is saying through the text to
the people who originally received it. This is not the sermon focus, which
would take into account the intersection between the biblical text and your
preaching context. This is simply an attempt at summarizing the passage’s
primary meaning in its original setting. The text claim might begin as follows:
“Paul is telling the Galatians that it is foolish to look to legalism for what
only faith can provide.”
Read 2-4 reputable commentaries on your passage. How do these commentaries
confirm or challenge your reflections? What do they add to what you already observed
in the text? Revise your text claim paragraph if warranted by your reading of
H.Internalize the Word:
Prayerfully memorize the preaching text, or at least a main portion of it.
2:What is God saying to me through the
Read the text utilizing lectio divina.
As you do, consider the personal implications of the text for your own life.
Consider what God is saying to you through the text. How does the text apply to
your relationships with Christ and others? How does it confirm, challenge, or
comfort you? What does it reveal about God, you, and the world?
Read the text slowly several times inviting God to impress upon you the word,
phrase, or sentence from the text that he most wants to speak to you. Record
Reflect on this word or phrase from the text and consider its intersection with
your life and with other passages of Scripture. What do you sense God saying to
you through this text? Give God some time to speak this word of truth into your
life. Be still and let the words from Scripture fill your heart and mind.
Write a prayer of response to God in light of what He has spoken to you.This prayer can be one of thanksgiving,
confession, or intercession, to name a few. Note any changes or commitments you
will make to God as a result of being confronted, convicted, comforted, challenged
or confirmed by this biblical text.
This final step takes one beyond words and into intimacy with God that allows
the person to actually experience the grace of the Scripture reality being
studied. Don’t focus on words or even the sermon, but simply enjoy intimacy
with God, resting in His presence as you reflect and worship in images and not
words. What do you picture? What images does God allow to surface?
Take a prayer walk around the church campus, your neighborhood, or in a nearby
park or woods looking and praying for God’s glory and for His kingdom to come
“on earth as it is in heaven” through the sermon. Also, keep an eye out for
physical illustrations that highlight the main thrust of the biblical text.
Pray for the receptivity of listeners to the word of God through the sermon.
Prayerfully and honestly reflect upon why and how you chose this text to
preach. What is behind your choosing of it? Are your motives for choosing this
text pure? Is there some past, present or future concern that preconditions you
to choose this text and skews or enhances your reading of this text? What part
did God play in your choosing of this passage? In what ways did the meaning of
the text surprise you?
3:What is God saying to the congregation
through the text? (Fellowship)
Spend 30-60 minutes praying through the church directory and any special
congregational prayer requests, incorporating the preaching text into the
prayer time as often as possible. Reflect on how the text might address the
joys, sorrows, hopes, hurts, sins, and dreams of people in your congregation, community,
nation, and world, and pray accordingly. Prayerfully consider how God wants to
guide, comfort, or confront the church through this text. What changes might
God want to initiate in your church through this text? Be careful to let God’s
desires for the church, and not your own desires and ambitions, determine the
application of the text to the congregation you serve. Don’t force the text to
say more or less than it really says. List the possible sermon applications
that result from this intercessory prayer time.
Initiate contact, by phone call or visit, with 2-3 people whose life situations
are profoundly addressed by the biblical text and sermon. Offer care in the
form of prayer and counsel. Depending on the circumstances, you may not want
them to know that the coming sermon applies to them. This, however, does not
prevent you from offering spiritual care.
In the staff meeting, read the main preaching text and ask staff members to
reflect upon how the text might intersect with their lives. Ask them to express
how the text challenges, comforts, convicts, corrects, etc.(If you don’t have a staff, you can do this
with your church board, other pastors, family, or friends). Record their
reflections, but ensure anonymity. If you want to share one of their
reflections in the sermon, be sure to get their permission first.
You have already written out the claim of the biblical text, answering the
question “What did God say to them
(the original recipients).” You also reflected on the question “What is God saying to me.” Now,
prayerfully consider and write out, in one declarative sentence, the main focus
of the sermon that will connect the meaning of the text with the context of
your congregation. Reflect on the question “What
is God saying to us (the congregation).” This is the big idea or main point
of the sermon. This is a crucial step in the homiletic process that will hold
all the parts together as one whole. Here is an example of a sermon focus
statement: “Jesus shows us that the best way to respond to an imperfect Church
is to love her despite her.”
While the sermon focus answers the question, what does God want to say through the sermon to the
congregation, the sermon function responds to the question, what does God want
to do through the sermon to the
congregation? What is the primary purpose, or function of the sermon? Will it
be designed to inspire, inform, convict, comfort, correct, motivate, equip,
etc.? Here is an example of a function statement that goes with the sample
focus statement above: “This sermon will inspire
listeners to love the Church despite all of the reasons not to love her.”
Inspiration, then, will be the main purpose, or function of the sermon. The
tone and form of the sermon should be developed to reinforce the function.
What stories, images, analogies, people, current events, songs, movies, TV
shows, statistics, sports, jobs, animals, etc. might illuminate the sermon
focus? Have fun brainstorming and listing everything that comes to your mind,
even if it seems a bit odd at first. Some of the best illustrations come from
our past experiences or from the stories of people in our lives. Make sure the
story does not detract from but works to illumine the Word of God and sermon
4:How can the sermon be formed to say
and do what God wants to say and do?
A.The Big Picture:
Prayerfully put the sermon together by going back through your notes and
listing the most significant reflections that answer the following questions: What
is the main sermon focus around which everything else will revolve?What are the most critical exegetical insights
that highlight the sermon focus? What other significant theological or personal
reflections have surfaced? What illustrations illumine the meaning of the text?
What applications accurately flow out of the text and challenge the
congregation to embody the reality of the text in their lives and
Spend 15-30 minutes prayerfully asking God to guide you in ordering the parts
of the sermon so that it will most glorify Him, clearly communicate the sermon
focus, and spiritually form believers. This is where preachers tend to rush. At
this point in the homiletic process, we have all the parts we want to throw into
the sermon. We must, however, remain prayerful as we consider whether or not
all the parts really fit and how they should be ordered into a seamless flow. The
form of the sermon should contribute to the sermon function. Think of the parts
of the sermon as a recipe in which some ingredients must come first to prepare
the way for later ingredients. Pray for guidance and wisdom on this often
overlooked element in the homiletic process.
Now, form the parts of the sermon (i.e., exegetical insights, illustrations, applications,
personal and theological reflections) into a thoughtful structural flow. Develop
a one sentence idea for both your introduction and conclusion. Try to maintain
conversation with God and stay attentive to the intersection of the biblical
text with its original audience, your life and your congregants’ lives.
D.Title: While the title
should have attention-grabbing appeal, it is more imperative for the title to
be a memorable reminder of the main thrust of the sermon, its focus. You don’t
want the title to give too much away by revealing the main point of the sermon
before the sermon. Rather, you want the title to remind listeners of the main
point after they hear the sermon.
Fill in the structural frame with a well-worded manuscript, allowing your
language to paint a compelling picture of what it would look like for the
Church to embrace the values of God’s Kingdom. Write the manuscript as if every
word choice is a devotional act of worship that comes from a heart of deep love
for God and for people. Don’t throw away your structural outline, since you
will likely want to deliver the sermon from the outline not the manuscript.
5:How can the preaching event foster the
presence and power of God?
Prayerfully meditate on and practice the sermon, not for sake of eloquence but embodiment.
Speak the sermon aloud several times, as if you were preaching it to yourself
(since the sermon must impact you before it impacts anyone else). As you hear
the words of the sermon consider how your voice and body can reinforce the content
during delivery. Imagine the faces of the people to whom you will preach. Pray for
them even as you practice.
On the day of the preaching event, pray for personal purity, love, humility,
and the ability to incarnate and communicate the sermon through your own life.
Do a prayer walk around the sanctuary, praying for peoples’ receptivity to
God’s Word and spiritual formation through it. Try to do this within
twenty-four hours of the preaching event.
D.Develop Prayer Teams:
Maybe you can delegate the recruiting of these prayer times to someone in your
church who is passionate about prayer. The following teams of people should be
recruited and empowered to pray:
Prayer Team: to pray with the preacher before the
Event Prayer Team: to pray during the sermon
Prayer Team: to pray for the impact of the sermon
after the sermon
Sermon Feedback Form
(Logos- What did the sermon say about God and the Gospel?)
·Theology: What did the sermon say about God-
Father, Son, or Holy Spirit?
·Gospel: Describe whether or not the sermon
captured the essence of the Gospel by dealing with both the problem of human
sin and the resolution of God’s grace?
·Expository: Could you see how the sermon flowed
from the biblical text? Explain.
·Structure: Explain whether or not the structure
of the sermon had purposeful flow.
·Clarity: In one complete sentence, write the
focus of the sermon:
a scale of 1(low) to 10 (high) rate the logos of the sermon:_______
(Pathos- How well did the sermon connect with the context?)
·Images: Did any illustrations, stories, or
metaphors from the sermon connect with you at an impactful level? If so, which
ones appealed to you and why?
·Relevance: Did the sermon connect with the
situations of your life in a relevant manner? If so, how?
·Application: Did you come away from the sermon
with a clear sense of why and how to live into the Gospel reality it
·Passion: Do you think the preacher spoke with
passionate conviction that connected with you? If so, why?
a scale of 1(low) to 10 (high) rate the pathos of the sermon:_______
(Ethos- Was the preacher congruent with the Gospel?)
·Competence: Do you think the preacher was
spiritually and mentally prepared for the preaching event? Why or why not?
·Authenticity: Did the preacher communicate in a
manner that was genuinely congruent with her/his personality? Explain.
·Delivery: Did the preacher’s eyes, body, and
voice help or hinder your receptivity to the sermon? Explain.
·Love: How did the preacher, through the sermon, evidence love
for God and for people?
a scale of 1(low) to 10 (high) rate the ethos of the sermon:_______
 C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (San Francisco:
Harper, 1946), 38.
foundations are challenged throughout 1 John, which the large majority of
scholars agree was written in the late first century.
 Thomas G. Long
and Leonora Tubbs Tisdale, eds., Teaching
Preaching as a Christian Practice (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1989),
 Fred B.
Craddock, Preaching (Nashville:
Abingdon, 1985), 30.
Pasquarello, Christian Preaching
(Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006), 166.
 John Wesley
used the term “practical atheist” in his sermon titled On Living without God to describe the person whose Christian
beliefs seem incongruent with that person’s behaviors. Wesley’s term may be too
strong and extreme to use here, since most preachers at least pray before they
jump into the homiletic process. “Practical deist,” then, is more accurate than