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Writing to be spoken

How do you improve your sermons and address six problems church members say they have with sermons?

1) too many complex ideas,

2) too much analysis and too little answer,

3) too formal and too impersonal,

4) too much theological jargon,

5) too propositional with not enough illustrations, and

6) too many dead-ends and give no guidance to commitment and action. (Reuel Howe’s points noted by Clyde Fant in Preaching for Today.)

Last summer I picked up nine tips that should improve written sermons to be delivered orally. These were inspired by Ohio pastor Dave McClellan’s book, Preaching by Ear:

1. Imprecise: Avoid reporting and go for discovery by telling your points rather than reading them.

2. Formulaic: Use phrases and words people expect. Some liturgical expressions are welcomed.

3. Redundant: Tell them what you’ll tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them. Speech class 101 was right!

4. Tradition-driven: Inspire more than provide an information-dump.

5. Close to everyday life: Keep it local rather than what happened in, say, 1436 in Germany.

6. Familiar with suffering: People are vulnerable and need some empathy.

7. Participatory: Individualism is cold, while community builds upon a common experience.

8. United in purpose: What’s your church’s cause/purpose/one-best-thing? Avoid generalities.

9. Comfortable with stories: Stories let you walk around a truth and see how it applies to you.

Next week, try using your sermons not to write a book, but help people encounter God!

--Mark Snowden serves as the AMS for the Cincinnati Area Baptist Association

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