Preach the Word – March/April 2012

Volume 15, Number 4

Key Issue #9: Growing in Sermon Delivery That Honors the Gospel

Working towards an ever more fluent and free delivery that displays an understanding of the dynamics of good communication.

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As a companion to the March/April 2012 issue of Preach the Word, we offer the following resources for further study by individuals, study groups, or circuits:

Study Aids

Once again Pastor Daron Lindemann and the author have partnered up to put together a set of application and discussion questions to accompany this issue of Preach the Word. We hope this added resource can help both individual pastors, as well as study groups or circuits, to gain even more from each edition of the newsletter.

Book Reviews

  • Book Review – Preaching Without Notes – Webb – If you struggle with the possibility of making your pulpit a “note (or manuscript)-free zone,” Preaching Without Notes could be exactly what you’re looking for. Joseph Webb gives the preacher many practical reasons to aim for paperless delivery and several tips on how to incorporate this process into your sermon work from exegesis through delivery. Purchase Preaching Without Notes here.
  • Book Review – Hearing the Sermon – Allen – What makes for an engaging sermon? According to Ronald Allen’s analysis in Hearing the Sermon: Relationship, Content, Feeling it all depends on what you’re listening for. Evidence seems to suggest that each hearer’s personal listening preference is a unique combination of three variables—logos, ethos, and pathos. Without giving in to what itching ears want to hear, the preacher’s task is to see that these preferences are consciously included in sermon delivery. Purchase Hearing the Sermon here.

Examples of Sermon Delivery

For this key issue, these sermons are not being presented for the purpose of a discussion on content (not that these sermons have any “explaining” to do for their content). The links to these sermon videos are being provided because they offer good examples of sermon delivery that is natural (fitting to both the text and the personality of the preacher) and free of reliance on printed notes.

Pastor Matthew Schwartz
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Downers Grove, IL
Advent 2 – 12/4/11
Sermon Text: 2 Peter 3:8–14
“Patience Is His Virtue” (Sorry, this link is currently broken.)

Here are specific delivery items to notice in Pastor Schwartz’s sermon:

  • He is very free of his notes. While from the angle of the camera there may be a brief hint or two that some paper is present, Pastor Schwartz gives us an excellent example of the middle ground between reading the invisible (or not so invisible) teleprompter on the one hand and a rambling searching for words on the other.
  • Notice the rich variety in the sermon’s delivery. The viewer will notice a wide range of volume and pace – including not being afraid of silence as he pauses.
  • A wide range of emotion congruent to both text and preacher is evident. While this may be easier to gage for those who know Pastor Schwartz personally, he appears comfortable in the pulpit expressing a wide range of emotion. This range is not just heard in the words but is seen in gesture and facial expression. Specifically, he is not afraid to smile where the gospel of the text has brought him joy.

Pastor Earle Treptow
Zion Lutheran Church, Denver, CO
Advent 3 – 12/11/11
Sermon Text: Malachi 4:1-6
“Wait for the Lord’s Coming”

Here are specific delivery items to notice in Pastor Treptow’s sermon:

  • There is no evident use of notes. If Pastor Treptow has any notes available in the pulpit other than his sermon text, they are not evident. Other than pausing to read verses of his text, the unbroken eye to eye communication between him and his congregation is striking. He clearly has a command of his sermon.
  • The emotional level of the sermon is congruent to text and preacher. The law and gospel of the sermon are not only delivered with different vocables, but the tone, pace and facial expressions are noticeably different as well. The range appeared to fit well the content of the text as well as the personality of the speaker. Incongruencies in either direction prove distracting.
  • Both greeting and votum were fitting for the season and the text. This may seem like a small point of delivery, but it can have a deadening impact on hearers if that which leads in or out of the sermon seems to be a mindless mantra used without change Sunday after Sunday. We are doing much more with our votum, for instance, than giving congregants time to find the offertory. Everything about the sermon deserves to be treated as “Proper,” not “Ordinary.” The formulaic repetitions at the beginning and end of preaching can all too easily send an unintentional “Here we go again…” message to hearers at some critical moments in preaching (first and last things heard). A few moments of thought each week could lead to developing a rich range of suitable scriptural greetings and votums that vary according to the theme of the sermon/service or the season of the church year. Click here for some greeting and votum ideas.

Growing in Sermon Delivery That Honors the Gospel Proclaim Grace! Key Issue #9

A recent survey of WELS pastors found that ALL those surveyed considered themselves average or above average in the area of sermon delivery. This statistic suggests that we may be unaware of or unwilling to admit our sermonic shortcomings. There is a very real danger that pastors invest so much energy focusing on sermon content that we do not give adequate attention to how to communicate it in a way that honors the gospel by maximizing our God-given abilities. Just as surely as pulpit showmanship detracts from the gospel by drawing attention to the speaker, careless or lifeless delivery draws attention to itself and away from Christ-crucified.

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AUTHENTICITY 101 Do Lutherans Appreciate Emotion in the Pulpit?

Emotion is a powerful thing. It invigorates us and enlivens our conversations. Emotions also contribute to the perception of the pastor (and his message) as being authentic or not. Although we reject Pietism’s strict emotional appeal that denied the power of the Word, there is nothing wrong with letting genuine law and gospel emotion flavor our speech and frequent our faces in the pulpit.

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AUTHENTICITY 102 Pardon Me, But Your Manuscript—Or Lack of It— Is Showing

There are many benefits to composing a sermon manuscript: it helps ensure a clearly developed progression of thought and encourages the use of specific law/gospel language found in the text. At the same time sermon manuscripts (either in the pulpit or being “read” from the preacher’s mind) can also straightjacket his emotion because the preacher is so focused on getting his exact words, instead of his ideas, across to his listeners. Rightly or wrongly the perception of most people is that such a sermon is speaking from the pastor’s paper and not his heart, which puts up mental roadblocks for the gospel.

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A Potpourri of Paths for Producing Paperless Pulpit Pulchritude

Preaching without a manuscript or pulpit notes comes as a result of careful planning and conscious effort. This article gives practical advice for how to move towards free delivery as well as tips for how to improve your delivery skills.

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