Integrative preaching is a method of preaching developed by Kenton C. Anderson. In the following four presentations and four videos, Kent presents the method in summary form. Perhaps they can be helpful to you as you think about ways to improve your own preaching.
As a seminary president, I do a lot of guest preaching. I consider it a tremendous privilege to be able to experience the working of God in a variety of settings and congregations. It is nice to receive a glowing introduction, though it also offers a fair bit of pressure – especially when you are introduced as someone who writes books about preaching! The truth is that all the real advantages are with the local preacher who is there every week, who knows the people and who has built up a reservoir of trust.
Still, most of us have opportunity to serve as guest preachers from time to time. A recent blogpost by Pete Wilson over at Sermon Central describe some of the things we will want to pay special attention to when we take the platform as a guest
1. Don’t go over your allotted time.
2. Don’t make controversial statements the church staff are going to have to clean up later.
3. Respect the methodology of the church you are speaking in.
4. Take a moment to give honour and respect to the pastor and staff.
I agree heartily with all of these – especially the latter one. One of my favourite things to do when visiting a church is to make kind comments about the pastor, who could probably use the encouragement – especially given the fact that you’re about to preach what might be one of your best, most polished sermons.
To Wilson’s encouragements, I might add another…
5. Learn whatever you can from the experience. We get so embedded in our own churches that it can be difficult to have perspective about what is going on. Preaching in another church help us both appreciate what we have in our own church, but also give us insight into things that we might be able to adapt for the benefit of our home congregation.
Whether at home or on the road, preaching is our privilege. We want always to practice our calling respectfully.
I just received a copy of James Emery White’s, new book What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary. Now as a seminary President, I suppose I could have taken some offence by the title. Having read the book, however, I find myself more willing to commend than criticize. Of course, I was particularly interested in what White had to say about preaching.
Provocatively, White titles one of his chapters, “Don’t Preach.” “Whatever you, do,” he writes, “don’t preach. I know, you’ve studied homiletics. You know how to say the word God with three syllables. You’ve practiced the deeper voice that kicks in when you step behind the pulpit. Lose it. Lose it all. Don’t preach. Instead communicate (p.141).”
Nothing controversial there, except for the fact that in fifteen years of teaching homiletics, I have never been tempted to teach people how to say the name of God to such a protracted extent. The unnecessary caricature aside, White does have plenty of useful things to say. Among them…
“A good communicator must be biblical. People don’t want a self-help pep talk that is merely one person’s opinion. People want to know what the Bible has to say (142).”
“Being relevant has nothing to do with watering down the gospel (142).”
“Another mark of messages that truly communicate is that they embrace a sense of dialogue. it’s not necessarily literal dialogue, but a sense that you know there is an audience out there listening that is thinking about what you are saying and might just have a question or two (147).”
One of the more valuable things he offers has to do with nature of credibility in preaching. “You have to be believed to be heard. So how do you gain credibility (144)?”
Credibility, White says, has to do with accuracy, which includes pronouncing things correctly. It involves fact-checking so we don’t misrepresent the things we are talking about. Most importantly, it depends upon the personal integrity of the preacher. “No speaker can effectively model the entire body of Christian truth with perfection, but if the gulf is too wide between word and deed, then credibility is at risk (145-46).”
This is pretty good advice for preachers, and for seminary classrooms. It may be, as White says, that there is a limit to what can be taught in a classroom. If so, we will need the help of wise practitioners like White.
White, James Emory. What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary: 25 Lessons for Successful Ministry in Your Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2011.
One of my favoring TED Talks featured James Geary, author of The Secret Life of Metaphors. Geary’s presentation, titled Metaphorically Speaking is required viewing for preachers, as far as I’m concerned.
For Geary, metaphor is ubiquitous in life, claiming that we utter six of them every minute. “A way of thought, more than a way with words,” Geary sees metaphor as a way by which we shake people’s ingrained patterns of thought so as to stimulate deeper and more effective thinking. When we say, for example, that “some jobs are jails,” we are speaking truthfully, even if we are not speaking with strict accuracy. When we think of a job as a jail, we might be moved to consider alterations.
Of course, preachers are among the most practiced users of metaphor. Yet, I sometimes wonder how much we understand our utilization of this tool. I vividly remember a popular preacher many years ago speak of “a horse of a different wheelbase.” His dual juxtaposition stuck with me, even though I can’t recall exactly what his point may have been.
Of course, that’s part of the danger. We don’t want to be so cute with our words that people lose the sense of what we’re saying. Of course, that’s just another way of claiming that we need to be more careful and intentional with the use of metaphor. “Claiming” by the way is a metaphor. See how common this form of speaking, really is.
The power of the metaphor needs to be utilized judiciously. Geary describes how things work in the financial sector. When prices increase, the financial news tends to use “agent metaphors” (describing the deliberate action of a living thing), saying things like “the NASDAQclimbed 300 points today.” Obviously, a stock index has no physical ability to climb. But climbing is a noble and positive activity. Declines, on the other hand, tend to be described in terms of “object metaphors,” through words like “the Dow fell like a brick in trading this morning.” A brick falling is as vivid as it is ominous. In either case, the metaphor loads the language with persuasive meaning, for good or for ill.
Geary also describes a study whereby people were told of a small country in crisis and asked whether or not the United States should intervene. Some were informed through use of World War II metaphors. Others with Viet Nam metaphors. Others still with neutral metaphors. Not surprisingly, those who were encouraged to view the crises from the perspective of Viet Nam were far less likely to advocate for intervention.
Preachers tend to understand these things intuitively, but given the power of these things, perhaps it would be well for us to be more intentional about our use of them. Jesus taught us to consider lillies and to conserve our pearls in the face of swine. Clearly, he wasn’t above using such a powerful tool. But like our master, we want to be sure that we use metaphor appropriately, without manipulative intent, but with a heart to offer blessing by “shaking” people’s ingrained assumptions to see the gospel in a more compelling light.
I’ve recently noticed a new resource being used on church webpages as a way of offering sermons to a wider public. Sermon Cloud offers churches the opportunity to “syndicate” their Sunday sermons for downloading, podcasting and a wider distribution than is normally possible through a normal church website.
The service is free to both churches and individuals. One of the benefits is that listeners can access a church’s sermons through the general Sermon Cloud website and not just through the church’s site. For example, one can click on “faith” on the Sermon Cloud site and be lead to all the recent and relevant sermons that deal with the matter of faith, including your own. Listeners can search, listen, comment, and even “say amen.”
The idea of “cloud” is not to suggest any kind of foggy preaching. It refers, rather, to the “word cloud” approach to searching. In this case, key sermon words are highlighted in a “cloud” that features the most used words in bolder and larger type. This offers listeners a quick and easy way to get to the themes that they are looking for.
If you’re looking for a great way to get your preaching to a wider audience, try Sermon Cloud.
I just spent some time working through Haddon Robinson’s excellent article, The Heresy of Application with a group of students. Robinson contends that there is more heresy preached in application than through exegesis. It is when we try to concretize the listener’s response to God’s Word that we often get in trouble. In our attempt to help people with practical aspects of their life experience, we sometimes credit God with things he never actually said.
Does the Bible promise that if we raise our children as Christians, that they will always life faithfully for Christ? Does the Word of God promise that husbands and wives who submit to each other will never experience disharmony in their marriages? Well, no, despite the fact that these things are often preached that way.
There are several kinds of implications that can arise from the texts we preach, Robinson says. “For example, a necessary implication of “You shall not commit adultery” is you cannot have a sexual relationship with a person who is not your spouse. A probable implication is you ought to be very careful of strong bonding friendships with a person who is not your spouse. A possible implication is you ought not travel regularly to conventions or other places with a person who is not your spouse. An improbable conclusion is you should not at any time have lunch with someone who is not your spouse. An impossible implication is you ought not have dinner with another couple because you are at the same table with a person who is not your spouse. Too often preachers give to a possible implication all the authority of a necessary implication, which is at the level of obedience. Only with necessary implications can you preach, ‘Thus saith the Lord.’”
Those of us who care about honoring God by getting the text right, will also want to make sure that we get the application right as well.
I appreciated what Lucy Lind Hogan had to say about “pastoral wisdom” in her book, Graceful Speech: An Invitation to Preaching. The following comment embodies her overall theme, that preaching ought to amount to the offer of grace in both form and content.
“How are we able to develop the virtues of trustworthiness, respect, awe, and courage? How are we to avoid being noisy gongs or clanging cymbals who make a great deal of noise but say nothing? How does someone grow into being a virtuous preacher? Is there an overarching virtue that draws together the character of the person, the skills learned, and the will to do the right thing? I would like to suggest that an important, perhaps overarching virtue for preachers is pastoral wisdom. I would define pastoral wisdom as the knowledge that all we are all we do are grounded in the grace and love of God working through us, and development of practical wisdom. We are to do our best, study, work hard, write careful, engaging, energizing sermons. But whose who have developed a sense of pastoral wisdom will always know the source of their accomplishments, the God who called them to preach, to minister, to serve the people of God. It is through grace, love, and practical wisdom that we are able to develop the necessary pastoral wisdom to be faithful preachers.”
“Paul taught the centrality of grace in all that we do. We are, Paul believed, able to prophesy, teach, heal, and love only because of the grace of God that has filled us and saved us. “I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them – though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Cor. 15:9-10). Pastoral wisdom is grounded in the knowledge that all we are and all we do comes in and through the grace of God.” …
“Pastoral wisdom is grounded in love: the love of God, the love of neighbor, and the love of stranger. If we do not love the people to whom we are preaching (and we must not confuse like with love), our preaching will be, as Paul reminds us, percussive – noisy speech and clanging cymbals. It is difficult, if not impossible, for us to connect with our listeners if we do not love them; that is, care about them, have their best interest at the hear of all that we say, respect them as children of God, and know that ultimately their salvation is in the hands not of the preacher but of God.”
Effective preachers require effective tools. As far as I am concerned, there is no more effective tool than Accordance Bible software. Biblical preaching derives from the text of Scripture and there is no more efficient means of studying the text of Scripture than by utilizing a comprehensive Bible software package. You simply cannot find a better product for the purpose than Accordance.
Accordance was first developed in 1994, a time when computer technology was still new to many of us. Accordance was a leader then and it continues to lead the field today. This was the first program to offer features such as graphical searching, statistical analysis of search results, diagramming, and instant parsing. Accordance was the first to offer grammatically tagged versions of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Mishna, the Aramaic Targums, and the Pseudepigrapha. Granted, most preachers don’t have cause to parse the Dead Sea Scrolls as part of their daily work, but such things show something of the scope and quality of the product. It’s nice to know you have that kind of horsepower under the hood for those rare times you need it.
Accordance is designed for the Mac and available for PC by means of emulation software. As a product which originated with Mac, it brings the intuitive, user-friendly features that Mac is known for and that Mac users are accustomed to. With Accordance, what you see is what you get. The page prints the way it looks upon the screen. Navigation is sensible so that controls and features are available where you expect to find them. It just works. Accordance was designed to encourage economy of effort and ease of use. You won’t waste a lot of time trying to figure out how to use the product.
With Accordance the Bible is central, which is a great thing from the perspective of a preacher. When you launch the software, the first thing you see is a window that features the entire text of the Bible. Consequently, the Bible serves as the hub around which one’s study will revolve. It is that focus on the Bible that makes the product so productive for a preacher’s work.
How might a preacher actually utilize Accordance? I start by opening my chosen texts in various versions, including the original Greek or Hebrew. Each text is opened in a parallel window so that I can easily compare all versions at once. Significant words are instantly parsed in a separate window. I might choose, further, to select a particular part of the text and open the parsing window or the syntax window in order to see the grammatical structure of the text. I may even choose to create a graphic sentence diagram of the section utilizing the program’s intuitive diagramming tools.
Having read the text, I may choose to select particular words or passages to investigate further. An array of dictionaries, lexicons, and commentaries are just a click away. Place name encyclopedias are available with photography, maps, and timelines. Maps in Accordance are three dimensional which means that the student can easily appreciate the terrain, which can be particularly helpful when trying to understand some of those Old Testament historical books.
Of course all of these things are available in print to some degree, but storing and searching your treasured books in print is very time-consuming, and not always entirely satisfying in terms of the actual results. Of course, storing up books in print is also very expensive. A software program like Accordance will set you back a few dollars, but one has to compare that expense with the costs involved in purchasing, storing, and inevitably moving a comparable stack of books. This is to say nothing of the monetary value of one’s time spent in searching.
A “starter” copy of Accordance which includes a few basic English Bible study tools sells for $49. “Premier” levels featuring an extensive package of scholarly tools sell for $319. Most preachers will find a package that suits their needs somewhere in between those two figures. If that sounds expensive, I note that a copy of Keil and Delitzsch’s Commentary on the Old Testament is currently listed on Amazon for more than $800 not counting shipping costs. Of course K&D looks more impressive on your shelf, but a copy of Accordance featuring numerous such commentaries and tools comes at a fraction of the price.
We preachers love the Bible. Accordance will feed your affection for the Scriptures, resulting in a deeper understanding of the Word and a more powerful preaching of it.
Accordance is produced by Oak Tree Software. An extensive and helpful website can be found at accordancebible.com. Go there to read expert reviews, to view the video tutorial, and to download a free trial of the software.
Dave McClellan, a preacher, homiletician, and friend, has just launched Preach By Ear, a website and DVD designed to help preachers more effectively preach without notes. McLellan offers several short videos on the website that introduce the preacher to his techniques. The full DVD system is available on the website for purchase.
I believe in the power of extemporaneous preaching. Preaching without notes is not about memorizing a manuscript, or about preaching unprepared. It is, rather, taking care to develop the sermon orally and to assimilate it thoroughly for presentation. I have had a lot to say about the subject in my own books. I’m pleased to see that now there is a resource to help preachers more deliberately with the task.
McClellan is an expert on the subject of rhetoric (see his preaching.org feature article on “Dead Pagans”. Preach by Ear offers lessons learned from the ancients and applied to the practice of contemporary preaching. I highly recommend it.
I’ve just discovered a cool new resource called Wordle, and it’s absolutely free. Wordle is a web-based tool for the creation of “word cloud” images. The website allows a user to upload text (very large passages or very small ones). The tool then creates a visual image of the text by assigning font sizes based on word count, then arranging the words artistically on a page. Once you have created the image, just take a screenshot and edit the image for your purposes in your image editing software. It is extremely simple. I’ve shown you here an example I created from John 1:1-14. The whole thing took about five minutes.
I have found this to be a delightful way of integrating word and image. Creative preachers will find many uses for this fantastic tool.
You can find the tool at wordle.net.
Today is a good day to highlight Preaching Today’s excellent free email newsletter, given that they have featured my own work, Choosing to Preach. Preaching Today editor, Brian Larson writes…
“Preachers tend to be curious about how other preachers write their sermons. One of my valued collections is a file where I have recorded models, questions, and checklists I have gathered over the years based on how other preachers prepare their sermons. For example, author Kent Anderson, in Choosing to Preach (Zondervan, 2006), recommends that sermons cover four areas: story, idea, problem, solution. Of course, I don’t use all the models in my file, but understanding the different ways and emphases we can follow in a sermon does contribute to my own method and gives me greater ability to adapt my message to the text I am preaching and the emphases God is putting on my heart.
To help you do the same—and to satisfy your curiosity, PreachingToday.com runs articles on the sermon preparation methods of others. Our current article peeks into the study of the Bishop of Durham: How Sermons Happen for N. T. Wright.”
Each week the newsletter features commentary, links to books, articles, videos, sermons, and illustrations. Click here to subscribe to this free resource: Preaching Connection Newsletter or here for the Preaching Today Sermons Newsletter.
There probably isn’t anyone left out there who doesn’t know about sermonspice.com anymore, but in case there are a few of you out there that are unfamiliar with its wonders, let me suggest you have a look.
Sermon Spice is a source for sermon illustration videos, sermon related powerpoint slides and backgrounds, and service countdown videos. They are now have close to 10,000 such items available for download. Prices are reasonable when you consider what it costs in terms of time, money, and technology to produce these things yourself. Quality is generally very high. The technology works simply. The site has been around long enough now to have worked out most of the kinks.
A greater question, however, has to do with the use of such things. I’ve spoken before about how technology like powerpoint and video can actually get in the way of the sermon if it is improperly used. I will say, however, that a video that is truly on-point can be a great way of kicking into a sermon. I’m not as happy about interrupting a sermon mid-stream to show a video as that can be jarring and disrupting. I’ve found it hard for preachers to get things back on course. A video can also be an effective way to close a sermon, as long as the preacher understands that the video can overwhelm much of what he or she has said if the preacher is not careful.
A big concern for me, as I have said, is that the video matches the sermon effectively. This is the same issue I have with low-tech illustrations. Sometimes the story or the imagery can be so powerful that it takes listeners in unintended directions. When searching a site like Sermon Spice it can be tempting to shoe-horn in a video that is close, but not quite, on point. In such cases I would never show the video. If it doesn’t fit, don’t force it. It is hard enough to keep people with you. You don’t want to be creating your own distractions.
Video is both memorable and forgettable. In the moment, it is powerful, but ask me about it a day or two later, and I might have a harder time. We are so accustomed to seeing video on our televisions. Some of us carry YouTube on our telephones these days. It’s become such a big part of life that it shouldn’t cause us fear. At the same time, we ought not think of it is as anything especially cutting edge or innovative. For young people especially, there can be a yawn factor. I still believe that the most powerful thing of all is that a real person stands and delivers in the presence of other real people.
Yesterday’s ‘Preaching Now’ email from Preaching magazine mentioned a new trend toward advertising from the pulpit:
“The newest advertising trend is aimed at your church. As a recent article in the Knowledge@Wharton (from the Wharton School of Business) notes, ‘Advertising has begun to seep into churches, and the phenomenon shows no signs of slowing down.’”
“Examples include a contest last year that gave pastors ‘a chance to win a free trip to London and $1,000 cash — if they mentioned Disney’s film The Chronicles of Narnia in their sermons. Chrysler, hoping to target affluent African Americans with its new luxury SUV, is currently sponsoring a Patti LaBelle gospel music tour through African-American megachurches nationwide.’”
“The article observes that this trend has even produced a new term: ‘The Narnia sermon sweepstakes, first reported last December by the Philadelphia Inquirer, gave rise to the new term ’sermo-mercial’ — along with concerns expressed by blogging Christians that the pulpit was now open for product placement.’”
It seems that some preachers need to read 2 Corinthians 2:17. We do not peddle the gospel. We preach it.
I have found this an excellent way of keeping in touch with the shape and nature of evangelical preaching as well as being able to hear the preaching of some significant leaders among us.
Check out the PT sermon transcript download page.